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Brassica : Harvesting the Genome, Diversity and Products

Executive Summary

Brassica species play an important role in global agriculture and horticulture, as well as being the closest crop relatives to Arabidopsis. The species are characterised by a wide range of adaptations that have been domesticated into crops including oilseed rape/Canola and swede (B. napus); cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprout (B. oleracea); chinese cabbage,  pak choi, turnip and oil (B. rapa) and mustards (B. nigra, B. juncea, B. carinata). Brassica crops contribute both to the economies and health of populations around the world. Crop improvement is a key route to ensuring continued benefits arise from these foods and plant products. A wide range of genetic and genomic resources are available from Brassica, as well as the easy access to information derived from Arabidopsis. Although considerable progress has been made in the genetic analysis of agronomic and related plant traits in Brassica, there are currently limitations in identifying and characterising the behaviour of the underlying genes, genomic regulatory networks and associated metabolism. A range of major challenges focus on harnessing genetic diversity through an information-led approach to crop improvement. There are a wide range of valuable traits for which genetic variation exists but where understanding is required. These include improving harvest index and yields in the context of changing climate and need to reduce inputs, optimising quality fit for purpose, and identifying scope for added value through nutritional, prophylactic health or non-food use. Given the unique position of brassicas with their diverse crop types and metabolites, the vision for maximising the benefits from recent advances in genomics can be summed up in terms of “global information, local implementation”.  Genomic information is the key to exploiting knowledge gained at the level of gene expression, biochemistry, metabolism and physiology. In particular, the Brassica research communities need to be able to locate genes in their relevant genomic context, in order to understand regulation and pressures on evolution. For effective crop-based studies it is also essential to be able to navigate between trait and gene, and thus integrate information from agronomy, breeding, genetics and genomics. This will provide a functional understanding of relevant systems to underpin future crop and product development within a sustainable framework.


Overviews and Challenges


The Role of Brassica Genomes in Agriculture and the Economy


Scientific Status and Unique Features of Brassica species


Brassica Biodiversity and Crop Improvement


Status and Aims of Brassica Genome Research


A Unique Opportunity from Model to Crops: Harnessing Arabidopsis


Setting Priortities: Multinational Brassica Genome Project Goals and Objectives


Status of Brassica Research Programmes around the World




Technical paper on Sequencing the B. rapa Genome

Draft White Paper for Multinational Brassica Genome Project (MBGP);   12/01/2006

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