Fruit fans rejoice, pears could be getting bigger, tastier and more resistant to drought and disease! Now that researchers from the Chinese-American "International Pear Genome Cooperation Group" have finished the world's first pear genome sequence, we can expect new high-yield, high quality, low-input varieties of pears to land on store shelves someday soon.
Seven different agencies and institutions including Beijing Genomics Institute Shenzhen (left) and the University of Illinois contributed members and resources to the Pear Genome Project, which was launched in April of 2010. According to Zhang Shaoling, a professor at Nanjing Agricultural University who headed the research group, “the genome sequencing will help to study the pear's resistance to pests and environmental stress as well as the regular pattern of pear trees' growth.”
China has spurred the effort to sequence the pear genome for reasons both historical and practical. Pears originated in China approximately 55 to 65 million years ago and have since spread around the globe, propagating to 22 species and over 4,000 cultivars.
Today China is the global leader in pear production growing about 60 percent of the world's pears. As the United States ranks second, just behind China, it's only natural that these two “pear powerhouses” join hands to sequence the pear's genome.
By gaining a real understanding of pear biology at the genetic level, agricultural experts and farmers in the field will be able to promote the growth of pear trees in a sustainable manner. Strategies for fighting pests, reducing environmental stress, and mining important but previously unknown functional genes can help lay the basis for better fruit and a healthier pear industry moving forward. (via Xinhuanet and Beijing Genomics Institute)