New Zealand researchers uncover genetics behind onion development

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New Zealand researchers uncover genetics behind onion development

Research from New Zealand's Plant & Food Research and the University of Otago promises to promote onion breeding tailored for specific growing conditions.onions_ffp

The study, published in Nature Communications, identified the gene that controls bulb development. It is considered the first step in uncovering genetic markers to guide conventional breeding programs for new onion varieties.

Associate professor Richard Macknight described the research as an excellent example of how genome technologies can promote major breeding discoveries.

"By understanding how these plants control development of the bulb, we can support the breeding of new cultivars that have the right genetic profile to respond to specific growing conditions, ensuring each plant produces a bulb for sale on the market," he said in a media statement.

John McCallum of Plant & Food Research explained that commercial onion production depends on varieties tailored to fit the temperature and day length of each environment.

"Around 90 million tonnes of onions are produced globally each year, but genetic studies of onions have been limited. Our research is now beginning to link genetics and physiology of onions, allowing industry to tap into more diverse genetic resources and breed products adapted to different and changing environments," McCallum said.

Onions are the second largest vegetable crop in New Zealand with 586,000 MT produced each year and an export value of NZ$62 million (US$50.8 million).


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