Scientists unlock genetic secrets of pineapple

Scientists have finally unraveled the genetic secrets of pineapple, a fruit enjoyed by people around the globe in juice, chunks, slices, jam, ice cream, tarts, upside-down cakes, Hawaiian pizza and a range of other delicious food items.

According to plant biologist Ray Ming of the University of Illinois, the genome will allow production of cultivated pineapple varieties that have better yield, quality insect and disease-fighting capabilities, and a much-prolonged shelf life.

Pineapples were first domesticated around 6,000 years back in a place where we now have eastern Paraguay and southwest Brazil. These days, the fruit is grown in subtropical and tropical regions worldwide and is part of a big and flourishing industry. Pineapples are grown in over 80 countries and ranked second in the list of most important tropical fruit crops (the topper in that list is banana). At present, the annual value of the industry is as high as $8 billion.

Ming informed that pineapple’s industrial production in Hawaii around a century back made the fruit popular globally. This was possible due to the fruit’s amazing aroma and flavor.

Pineapple is the most economically significant fruit to use a form of photosynthesis known as crassulacean acid metabolism or CAM (it’s one of the three forms of photosynthesis identified to date). This method provides the plant with high water-use efficiency.

CAM is extremely rare in crop plants. The majority of the crop plants use a different photosynthesis type called C3. Plants that use CAM photosynthesis use 20-80% less water compared to plants using the other methods. This gives those plants the ability to grow in lands that are marginally unsuitable for most other crops.

According to the researchers, considering the forecasts regarding global climate change it can be said that comprehending the pineapple genome might assist in engineering drought tolerance into crops including the ones using C3 photosynthesis (for instance, wheat, rice, etc.) so that they can use CAM photosynthesis.

That’s not all; Qingyi Yu, a plant molecular biologist from the Texas A&M AgriLife Research Center, Dallas, said that CAM photosynthesis applications might also hold a lot of significance for the food industry as a whole.

The entire study has been published recently in the journal Nature Genetics.


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