In 2006, one of us estimated that, given ongoing technological advances, 200 domesticated plants would be sequenced within 14 years1. Genomics has already outstripped this prediction, with most major crop plants, domesticated animals and model organisms having now been sequenced. Nonetheless, the genomes of many organisms that are valuable to local communities and have potentially high salience to a world challenged by issues of food security remain to be tackled. One example of such an organism is the Andean crop quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa). In a paper online in Nature, Jarvis et al.2 report a high-quality genome sequence for this species.
Archaeological evidence3 indicates that quinoa was domesticated some 7,000 years ago in the high plateau around Lake Titicaca in the Andes (Fig. 1), becoming a major food crop for Andean civilizations that preceded the Inca3, 4. Quinoa was prized for its nutritional qualities and adaptability to diverse environments, growing at an exceptional range of altitudes (from sea level to 4 kilometres above it), temperatures (from −8 °C to 38 °C), humidities and soil conditions5. By the mid-twentieth century, quinoa had fallen out of fashion, being cultivated mainly by isolated native communities in the Andean highlands. It wasn't until the 1970s that the plant's nutritional and commercial potential began to be more widely appreciated6, but increased scientific input into breeding programmes will be needed if the full potential of this crop is to be realized.
|Scooped by Francis Martin|