Principal investigator: Michael Purugganan
Genomic studies on various crop species, including rice, maize and soybean, have not only allowed us to trace the origin and spread of these important crop species, but also allowed us to develop new ways to identify agriculturally important genes. The major domesticated crop species that evolved in the Arabian peninsula is the date palm, Phoenix dactylifera, which was cultivated as early as ~6,000 years ago and today is the major agricultural crop in the region. The date palm spread from its original center in the Middle East and is now extensively cultivated all the way to North Africa. The species has a high level of phenotypic diversity, with major differences among cultivars primarily for fruit shape, size, and sugar content. The species is also adapted to the dry climate of the region and is ideally suited for low water regime agriculture.
There is very little known about the genetics of date palms, preventing concerted efforts at breeding and also leaving unanswered several questions on the origin and spread of the species. Moreover, breeding efforts in date palms are hampered by their relatively long generation times and large sizes, which make it difficult to perform conventional genetic crosses. A draft whole genome sequence has been published, and SNPs have been identified among three date palm varieties. In this project, we propose to re-sequence 100 date palm varieties (including 30 from the UAE and the rest from the Middle East and North Africa), to 25X coverage using Illumina HiSeq, use the re-sequencing data to develop a whole-genome haplotype map for use in genome-wide association studies in date palms, develop a SNP mapping chip for deeper genotyping of a larger pool of date palm germplasm, and use the SNP data to examine the origin and spread of date palms.
Researchers and Staff:
Khaled Hazzouri: Senior Research Associate
Jonathan Flowers: Senior Research Scientist (NYUNY and NYUAD)
Sylvie Ferrand: Research Assistant