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Crop research partnership maps two lentil genomes

November 08, 2017

A partnership between University of Saskatchewan (U of S) crop scientists and genomic big data company NRGene of Israel has successfully sequenced two wild lentil genomes—the largest legume genomes ever assembled.

In a Nov. 8 news release, the U of S said the research was part of the $7.9-million Genome Canada-funded “Application of Genomics to Innovation in the Lentil Economy,” led by U of S scientists Kirstin Bett and Bert Vandenberg. Now with the help of NRGene’s genomic technology, their research will be aimed at enhancing lentil yield and quality.

“NRGene’s technology has dramatically accelerated our research, which aims to shed light on lentil domestication and adaptation,” said Bett.  “Through identifying beneficial traits from wild relatives and integrating them into the genome of the domesticated lentil, we can now develop lentil varieties with much improved vigor, resilience and productivity. Maintaining sustainable lentil production will play an important role in addressing the world’s need for an ecologically sound protein source that is also highly nutritious.”

Bett’s group leads the international lentil genome sequencing initiative which has resulted in the release of a complete genome sequence for a Canadian-cultivated lentil variety. Now with additional genomic information from wild lentil species, the researchers have a much broader view of genes and pathways that enable lentils to thrive in volatile climatic conditions.

She noted that to date, breeders have only been able to access a small fraction of the total germplasm diversity in existence, which hinders Canadian producers’ ability to meet growing global demand. With its focus on wild lentil genomes, the project is aimed at introducing genetic diversity with great precision and speeding up the breeding cycle to provide breeders with faster access to better lentil varieties.

The U of S Crop Development Centre, which has developed 400 commercial crop varieties, is working with NRGene to sequence several of the world’s major crops.

A huge step forward in crop genomic research was the release this year of the wild Emmer wheat genome sequence, generated using NRGene technology and involving U of S scientists. Emmer wheat is the wild form of all the domesticated wheat in the world.