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Brassica : Harvesting the Genome, Diversity and Products

They are characterised by a highly developed secondary metabolism, and mutlilayered regulatory networks, reflected in complex and diverse genome organisation. Crop domestication, selection and targeted breeding has enabled human civilisation to develop. This continues into the modern age, with increasingly sophisticated technologies available for the interchange and selection of genetic material meeting the needs of different markets and growing environments. Crop improvement is based both on understanding which genes are involved in a phenotype, as well as the degree of environmental variation. Thus the ability to understand the genetic basis and heritability of traits (phenotype) selected in breeding programmes provides the opportunity to deploy novel allelic combinations.


Understanding and Exploring Diversity

Brassica species are characterised by extensive morphological diversity and the ability to adapt to a wide range of habitats and growing environments. There appear to be several primary and secondary centres of diversity, with crop domestication involving further selection of adaptations from northern temperate (sub-arctic?) to tropical regions.  Understanding the basis of particular crop morphotypes in the context of the wider range of genetic, biochemical and metabolic variation present within the species will make it possible for breeders of a given crop to utilise beneficial alleles found in other crop types or wild germplasm in an informaed and efficient manner.


Benefits from International Co-operation

Brassica is a unique genus with global impact and diversity in terms of crop types. There is considerable scope to benefit and add value to national programmes from sharing public-domain pre-competitive knowledge.


A Key Role for Genomic Information

Interpretation of genomic information in the context of trait characterisation is an essential component of future targeted crop improvement. It is expected that increasing use will be able to be made of knowledge gained from an understanding of gene function, allelic variation and interaction between genes and the environment.  Genomic information is the key to exploiting knowledge gained at the level of gene expression, biochemistry, metabolism and physiology.   

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

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