Brassica fructiculosa - heavy on the salt

Photo by Silvia Busoms

Lead researchers: Professor Levi Yant and Dr Silvia Busoms

This project identified a wild relative of the brassica family called Brassica fruticulosa as having great potential to reveal the genetic basis of salinity tolerance. Originating in the coastal regions of southern Europe and northern Africa, certain populations of B. fruticulosa exhibit unusually high tolerance to salt. Salt tolerance is an increasingly desirable trait in plants because intensive land use and mismanagement, plus rain decrease due to climate change, have resulted in higher salinity in soils.

To investigate the genomic and physiological factors underlying this exceptional salinity tolerance, we sequenced the B. fruticulosa genome. Using Oxford Nanopore long reads, we generated a high quality genome assembly. We next resequenced the genomes of dozens of B. fruticulosa: half that are salinity tolerant and half that are not. By comparing the genomes of the salinity tolerant plants to those that are not, we are in the process of better understanding the genomic basis of rapid, within-species salinity adaptation.

Once identified, we will be able to use these naturally-evolved gene variants for use in crops in order to enhance resilience. This knowledge therefore has the potential to translate into the more widely eaten brassica crops, including canola, cabbage, and broccoli.

Dr. Silvia Busoms and Dra. Charlotte Poschenrieder of The Autonomous University of Barcelona are carrying this work further in a new project by performing ever more in-depth physiological and population genomic analyses on B. fruticulosa. The results of their work will further benefit farmers living in areas of high salinity and those who rely on their crops.

This overall project was initiated by the Levi Yant and Silvia Busoms, with funding from The John Innes Centre and the Future Food Beacon.


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