AUSTRALIA: Genome sequencing of a popular Chinese fruit could help develop drought and salt tolerance in crops

By Bridget Fitzgerald, ABC Rural


Researchers say the genetic traits of a Chinese fruit could help develop resilient crop varieties in Australia.


A team of scientists from the University of Western Australia worked with colleagues in China to sequence the jujube fruit genome for the first time.


The jujube, which is also known as Chinese date, has been grown and widely consumed in China for more than 3,000 years and is used as a traditional Chinese medicine.


Jujubes are medium-sized trees that have a high tolerance for drought and saline soils.


Associate Professor Guijun Yan, from the University of Western Australia School of Plant Biology, says the fruit tree’s tolerance to drought and salt inspired the research.


He’s described the jujube’s tolerance to a hot, dry environment as ‘outstanding’.


He says sequencing these traits will help to create improved varieties of other plant species, such as grain varieties.


“If we clone those specific genes […] and transfer them in the future to other species, that will help to improve other crops.”


Jujube export opportunities

Jujubes are also known for their high sugar content, high levels of Vitamin C and self shoot-pruning.


The sequencing study also identified that the jujube’s process of biosynthesis and Vitamin C recycling is superior to other fruits rich in Vitamin C, like oranges and kiwifruit.


The jujube is an emerging horticultural industry in Australia and researchers from the Department of Agriculture and Food of WA (DAFWA) have stated that its ‘future is bright’.


The jujube is the third most widely grown fruit in China. Associate Professor Yan says that Australian growers would be well placed to take advantage of the opportunities for export.


Source: ABC Rural

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