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Friday, February 11, 2011

Strawberry Genes and Bees

Gene codes cracked for strawberries

LONDON: Teams of scientists have cracked the genetic codes of the wild strawberry and a certain type of cacao used to make fine chocolate, work that should help breeders develop better varieties of more mainstream crops. The wild strawberry is closely related to important food crops such as apples, peaches, pears and raspberries, as well as cultivated strawberries, so its gene map will help breeders of these plants to produce new varieties, the researchers said. "Because farmers have been cross-breeding and hybridizing food crops for
centuries to improve traits, they tend to have large complicated genomes but the wild strawberry's is relatively small so we can get access to all of these useful genes comparatively easily," said Dan Sargent of Britain's Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) Crop Science Initiative, who worked on the project. In a study published in the journal Nature Genetics on Sunday, Sargent and an international team of researchers found that the wild strawberry genome has around 35,000 genes, about one and a half times the number that humans have, and most of these will also be in cultivated varieties, they said.

Flower sharing may be unsafe for bees

Wild pollinators are catching honeybee viruses, possibly from pollen Text Size Groping around for pollen in a flower could expose a wild bumblebee such as Bombus ternarius, shown here, to infection by honeybee viruses. Eleven species of wild pollinators in the United States have turned up carrying some of the viruses known to menace domestic honeybees, possibly picked up via flower pollen. Most of these native pollinators haven’t been recorded with honeybee viruses before, according to Diana Cox-Foster of Penn State University in University Park. The new analysis raises the specter of diseases swapping around readily among domestic and wild pollinators, Cox-Foster and her colleagues report in PLoS ONE. Gone are any hopes that viral diseases in honeybees will stay in honeybees, she says. “Movement of any managed pollinator may introduce viruses.” A pattern showed up in the survey that fits that unpleasant scenario. Researchers tested for five viruses in pollinating insects and in their pollen hauls near apiaries in Pennsylvania, New York and Illinois.

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