SGB confirms genetic diversity of jatropha is comparable to corn

By SG Biofuels | March 20, 2013

Energy crop company SGB Inc. (SG Biofuels) has identified more than 2 million individual genetic markers (SNPs) in its Jatropha curcas germplasm collection, confirming the nonfood energy crop has a genetic density comparable to corn and other domesticated crops, and validating the ability to drive significant yield and performance gains through molecular breeding.

Through the use of new genetic technologies, SGB’s scientists have revealed that the company’s germplasm collection can be divided into a number of distinct heterotic clades, or genetically related groupings of plants. In contrast to previous studies, these findings confirm significant genetic diversity in jatropha while enabling SGB breeders to maximize hybrid vigor by identifying the most genetically diverse parental lines to use for the creation of elite hybrid seeds. Hybrid vigor, also known as heterosis, results in higher yields, improved plant health and increased stress tolerance. SGB’s first-generation hybrids have outperformed commercial jatropha planting materials at 13 hybrid trial sites located across Brazil, India and Central America.

“Once thought to lack genetic diversity, our molecular studies have confirmed that Jatropha curcas is genetically diverse and well-suited for significant yield improvements,” said Eric Mathur, chief technologist at SGB. “Based on these results, the performance of our first-generation hybrids merely scratches the surface of the underlying genetic potential of jatropha; not only in terms of continued yield improvements, but also through reduction of input costs and improvement of the harvest index.”

SGB’s molecular and genetic technologies have advanced to the point where millions of markers can be analyzed from a large number of plants within a short period of time. SGB has established a next-generation DNA sequencing pipeline and is embarking on a large-scale jatropha resequencing program designed to associate valuable agronomic traits and plant attributes with genome wide markers. The resulting dense genetic maps will dramatically accelerate the rate of improvement of SGB’s elite hybrid cultivars.

In another technological achievement, SGB scientists have developed a state-of-the-art, high throughput genotyping pipeline for digital allelic confirmation.  This genotyping platform enables rapid and precise DNA barcoding of parental and hybrid lines with digital unique identifiers. These technologies, combined with advanced genomic selection studies and tissue culture serve as the foundation for SGB’s aggressive molecular breeding program.  

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