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Last updated at 17:25 BST, Friday, 15 July 2011

Scientists map potato genome

Summary

15 July 2011

For the first time, scientists have decoded the full DNA sequence of the potato plant. Details of the achievement are published in the journal, Nature. The discovery could help to boost food production.

Reporter:
Jon Ironmonger

Potatoes

Genes control how the organism grows

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The humble potato is in fact the world's fourth largest food crop, with a global annual yield of around 330 million tonnes.

In an international project lasting several years, researchers have successfully recorded its complete chemical blueprint, deciphering and organising hundreds of millions of pieces of genetic coding.

By mapping the plant's genome scientists can locate the genes that control various traits, like colour, starchiness and flavour, leading to the creation of improved varieties at a much quicker pace.

Professor Iain Gordon from the James Hutton Institute in Dundee, which headed the British team, said the genome sequence would allow breeders to develop new types that are more nutritious, resistant to pests and diseases and easier to cultivate.

He said the breakthrough could help to meet the challenge of feeding the world's soaring population.

Jon Ironmonger, BBC News

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Vocabulary

humble

ordinary

food crop

collection of plants grown in large amounts cultivated for eating

a global annual yield

total world production in a year

chemical blueprint

biological instructions

deciphering

discovering the meaning (of something)

traits

characteristics, features

starchiness

carbohydrate content

breeders

people who keep plants or animals for reproduction

breakthrough

major achievement or success that permits further progress

soaring

rapidly increasing

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