Sub-clover DNA decoded

Countryman
Scientists have cracked the genome sequence of sub-clover, which opens new doors, according to DAFWA’s Dr Phil Nichols and UWA’s Dr Parwinder Kaur and Professor William Erskine.
Camera IconScientists have cracked the genome sequence of sub-clover, which opens new doors, according to DAFWA’s Dr Phil Nichols and UWA’s Dr Parwinder Kaur and Professor William Erskine. Credit: DAFWA

West Australian and Japanese scientists have together cracked the genome sequence of subterranean clover.

The project, led by the University of WA in collaboration with Department of Agriculture and Food WA, Murdoch University and the Kazusa DNA Research Institute, will revolutionise the development of new and improved forage legumes, which underpin the State’s $1.8 billion livestock industry.

Clovers are widely grown around the world as forage legumes for livestock and add nitrogen to the soil, which assists crop production.

Sub-clover is the most important annual pasture legume in Australia, sown across an estimated 29 million hectares of agricultural land.

UWA molecular biologist Dr Parwinder Kaur said the challenge was to determine the sub- clover DNA sequence and functionally understand the genes.

“The changes provide a breakthrough for breeding of future sub-clovers, which will increase agriculture production by increasing the health of the soil,” he said.

“This is the first genome sequence published for an annual clover and describes 85.4 per cent of the sub clover genome and contains 42,706 genes.”

Department senior pasture breeder and UWA Adjunct Associate Professor Phil Nichols said the discovery had important benefits for the agriculture industry.

“This work will allow the development of DNA markers that are closely associated with genes controlling traits of interest, which can be used in breeding programs to markedly improve selection efficiency,” he said.

“Such traits include resistance to redlegged earth mites and important diseases, hardseededness, tolerance to false breaks, early season growth under cool temperatures, phosphorus use efficiency, phtyo-oestrogen content, methanogenic potential in the rumen, flowering time and other traits related to biomass production.”

The work was funded through the Science and Innovation Award by Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, Meat and Livestock Australia and the Australian Research Council.

UWA Centre for Plant Genetics and Breeding director Professor William Erskine said the genome understanding would aid the breeding of of other important pasture legumes with more complex genomes, such as white and red clovers, annual medics and lucerne.

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