First full reference genome for rye published

University of Maryland co-publishes the first full reference genome on rye

Rye Credit: Markus Spiske, public domain

As one of the founding members of the International Rye Genome Sequencing Group (IRGSG), the University of Maryland (UMD) co-published the first full reference genome sequence for rye in Nature Genetics. UMD and international collaborators saw the need for a reference genome of this robust small grain to allow the tracing of its useful genes and fulfill its potential for crop improvement through all major varieties of small grains, including wheat, barley, triticale (cross between wheat and rye, which are gaining popularity), and rye. Following the model of international cooperation used when UMD helped to follow the wheat genome, UMD co-developed the idea of ​​producing a reference genome, organized the effort and contributed to achieve the collective goal. The result is a valuable resource that can help improve grain yield, disease resistance, and temperature tolerance to increase climatic resistance in grain crops.

“This reference genome is an amazing resource, and it opens up a lot of new doors for us,” says Vijay Tiwari, assistant professor of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture (PSLA) at UMD and leader of the Maryland Small Grain and Genetics program. “The knowledge that rye offers us to fight against physical and disease stressors will help us produce better crops that can tolerate disease and climate change much better. We can do genomic analysis to see where useful traits come from, and for that , we need a reference genome to provide a framework. “

Nidhi Rawat, an assistant professor of PSLA and a plant pathologist specializing in diseases such as Fusarium Head Blight, which destroys small grains, adds, “The more we examine, the more we marvel at how much useful diversity we see in rye. It has huge potential for improvement. of crops through wheat, rye, triticale and barley. “

Authored by more than 60 scientists from 14 countries including 4 research institutions in the United States, this collaboration represents a truly collaborative science. Based on the example of the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium (IWGSC), Nils Stein of the Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK) in Germany took the lead in coordinating with the global collaborators to ensure all necessary pieces came. together to produce the full rye genome. UMD is proud of the work they have done to realize this idea.

“Before this, there was a major effort to sequence the dry genome, but the fragmentary set was not enough,” says Tiwari. “But in this case, scientists all came together without centralized support, because we all decided it was a good idea to spread this knowledge to the community. At UMD specifically, we helped develop the consortium, co-developed the idea and provided resources. the sequencing and completing the map work. It was really an absolute team work. “

The excitement for this new rye reference genome is felt especially in scientific and agricultural communities, laying the groundwork for many avenues of future research and crop improvement. According to Tiwari and Rawat, rye has a very diverse gene that allows it to grow in all kinds of soils and surroundings, which makes it very stress tolerant and diseased. It is also a cross-pollinated crop as opposed to self-pollinating wheat and barley, making it ideal for producing more robust hybrid grain varieties.

“Ancient wheat, barley and rye all evolved around the same time,” explains Tiwari. “But rye has taken a different path and has some unique advantages over the others. For example, finding ways to make wheat and barley pollination crops makes it easier to produce hybrid wheat or barley and is a huge incentive to increase yield. Rye has that ability already.”

Rawat and Tiwari also emphasize that rye and triticale (developed by crossing wheat and rye) are important cover crops for this region due to their efficient use of nutrients and need for little fertilizer, which improves them for the Chesapeake gulf. “Besides being good for bread and beer, rye is a popular cover crop because it has a very good portfolio for efficient use of nitrogen and phosphorus, which are specifically very important for keeping excess nutrients out of the Gulf,” says Rawat. “Recently we have examined hundreds of wheat lines for diseases and found a useful genetic diversity that seems to come from rye. With the availability of the reference genome of rye, it will be very easy to map the genes under these useful traits and transmit them to wheat and others. small grains. “

Rawat and Tiwari are excited about the breeding and research opportunities that this work can open up across the whole spectrum of small grains, allowing the development of varieties that can meet the diverse needs of farmers worldwide.

“It’s really great to see that in the last three years we’ve had two reference genomes lined up for small grains [wheat and rye], and UMD was one of the leaders in both, “says Tiwari.” It is a useful contribution to the AGNR initiative to increase global food security. “

“I’m particularly excited because it not only shows our research excellence at a national and international level, but the real satisfaction comes from the fact that the work we do in the lab actually benefits farmers on the ground,” Rawat emphasizes. “That’s very fulfilling – that’s a valuable reward.”

New wheat and barley genomes will help feed the world

Additional information:
Rabanus-Wallace, MT, Hackauf, B., Mascher, M. et al. A chromosome-scale genome assembly provides insights into rye biology, development, and agronomic potential. Nat Genet (2021).

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Quote: First full reference genome for rye published (2021, March 18) downloaded on March 18, 2021 from

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