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Roses to Smell Better, Last Longer as Scientists Crack Genetic Code

Roses have had their genome sequenced by scientists who say it could help to develop genetically improved versions of the popular ornamental flower. Within the 36,377 genes identified, the team found DNA coding for various desirable characteristics. They said their work could allow the creation of new varieties of rose.

There are many important traits in the rose — the scent, its capacity to flower multiple times, the flower architecture and so on — and there is huge variety especially in colour and scent in roses, Mohammed Bendahmane told ‘The Independent’. 

The biologist at The Ecole normale superieure (ENS) Lyon, added, “For centuries researchers have been trying to breed the flowers for these traits, but they had some difficulty understanding why they are getting one colour instead of another, or why they couldn’t combine some traits — like some scent with a particular colour.”
Researchers said that by developing the blueprint — the first high-quality genome of the flower — they could engineer roses to be more fragrant, more colourful and long-lasting.

Roses are some of the most ubiquitous ornamental plants worldwide, and they have been cultivated for centuries by societies from the Mediterranean to China.

Modern roses have descended from a handful of the roughly 150 species that exist in the wild. From these, breeders have created thousands of varieties with a range of characteristics.

For their study, published in the journal ‘Nature Genetics’, Bendahmane and his colleagues began with Rosa chinensis, a species colloquially known as ‘Old Blush’. After spending nearly a decade fine-tuning their technique, the team’s end result was one of the most complete plant genome sequences ever produced.

They compared these results with those obtained from La France — the first rose variety produced by crossing Chinese and European strains — as well as 13 other varieties. By sequencing all of these varieties, the scientists were able to build a comprehensive picture of rose domestication.

In addition, by identifying genes involved in flowering, colour, water use efficiency and scent, the scientists say their paper lays the groundwork for a new era of rose cultivation.

Instead of selecting desired characteristics over the course of many years, Bendahmane now sees a future in which breeders use genetic techniques to pick the individuals they want. THE INDEPENDENT & AGENCIES
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