By Rodolfo C.Estimo jr.
Riyadh: Researchers at the Weill Medical College in Qatar (WCMC-Q) have published the first genetic map of the date palm, according to a report.
The genetic map shows the order in which the date palm’s chromosomes are placed and also which chromosome is responsible for reproduction.
“In theory, the information could one day allow growers to manipulate the development of seeds, creating more female fruit-bearing plants than male plants that do not produce dates, an important food source for much of the Middle East,” the report said. Scientists from Saudi Arabia and China completed mapping the genome of the date-palm tree late last year.
Scientists from Riyadh’s King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) and China’s Shenzhen-based BGI had been working on the project since 2008.
The map has been produced by the genomics group under the direction of Joel Malek, assistant professor of Genetic Medicine at WCMC-Q, in collaboration with Karsten Suhre, professor of physiology and biophysics at WCMC-Q, and with the help of colleagues at the Ministry of Environment’s Biotechnology Center and the Department of Agricultural Affairs.
The program, entitled “Establishing World Leadership in Date Palm Research in Qatar,” was funded by the National Priorities Research Program (NPRP) at the Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF), which provided $4.5 million to the research. Malek and his team produced a draft version of the date palm genome three years ago. It was this that paved the way for the more accurate map, contributing towards Qatar’s knowledge-based economy vision.