Mapping Jatropha Genetic Markers To Increase Biofuel Yields

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hybrid Jatropha curcas x integerrima
Hybrid Jatropha curcas x integerrima.
(cc) Ton Rulkens

SG Biofuels, a bioenergy crop company using breeding and biotechnology to develop elite hybrid seeds of Jatropha, has applied more than 1.6 million genetic markers for Jatropha curcas toward the development of marker assisted selection methods to produce elite, high-performing cultivars of the energy crop. The company made the announcement during its presentation at the Biowise 2011 conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The application marks a significant milestone in the company’s biotechnology platform, led from its San Diego laboratory in conjunction with Life Technologies Inc., a strategic partner and investor. The work accelerates the identification and development of specific genetic traits in Jatropha that improve yield and reduce input costs.

“Our biotechnology assets, including genetic markers linked to key traits and the Jatropha genome sequence, combined with our expansive collection of germplasm and segregated breeding populations, provide a powerful platform from which to develop more productive and profitable cultivars of Jatropha,” said Eric Mathur, Vice President and Chief Technologist for SG Biofuels.

The company also announced that it has expanded its library of genetic material to now include more than 12,000 unique genotypes of Jatropha, the largest and most diverse library of Jatropha germplasm in the world.

SNPs, or single nucleotide polymorphisms, are specific genetic variations in DNA sequence that can be associated with key traits within the Jatropha curcas species, including fruit and oil yield, synchronous flowering and disease resistance. Through Jatropha re-sequencing efforts, millions of individual SNPs are discovered, which SG Biofuels uses to rapidly identify, track and capture the traits most responsible for increased yield and profitability.

SNP technology has advanced to the point where tens of thousands of markers can be analyzed from a large number of plants within a short period of time. The resulting dense genetic maps have led to many breakthroughs in identifying DNA sequences responsible for specific physical plant characteristics. Moreover, the discovery of SNPs using high-throughput and low-cost sequencing methods enable the rapid and economical establishment of high-density genetic maps in plant species like Jatropha that have previously seen few genetic studies or efforts devoted to marker isolation.

Read Biofuels and Bioenergy: Processes and Technologies from Amazon.

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