Genetic Secrets in Pineapples Could Hold the Key for Global Food Productio

Scientists hope the genetics of the pineapple can lead to increased food production worldwide.

Scientists are learning more about the particular type of photosynthesis that a pineapple uses to prosper in arid climates due to sequencing the genome of the popular fruit and unlocking secrets they hope will lead to developing new varieties of crops, says a report on Reuters.

Plant biologist Ray Ming of the University of Illinois said Monday the genome is providing a starting point for developing new products that have not only a longer shelf life, but are a better quality, more productive and less likely to be stricken by disease and insects.

The domestication of pineapples began some 6,000 years ago in the area we know as Brazil and Paraguay, but the industrial production of the delicious fruit in Hawaii around 100 years ago turned pineapple harvesting into a big business, leading to the fruit being grown in tropical and sub-tropical regions across the globe.

Today, the pineapple is second only to the banana as the most important tropical fruit, and an $8 billion industry, grown in over 80 countries.

Pineapples use a type of photosynthesis identified as crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM), one of the three major types plants use to convert sunlight into energy.  Scientists believe this type of photosynthesis evolved over eons to allow plants to make efficient use of limited water resources in arid locations.

Plants using CAM photosynthesis use anywhere from 20 to 80 percent less water that plants using C3 photosynthesis, the type used by most crop plants.  This makes CAM plants suitable for planting on land that is considered marginal for food crops.

The researchers are hopeful the genome sequence will lead to opportunities to engineer the CAM characteristics into other food crops and increasing the amount of land that can be used to grow food for an ever-increasing population and fight world hunger.

 

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