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Pumpkin Genomes Sequenced, Reveals Uncommon Evolutionary History

For some, pumpkins conjure carved Halloween decorations, but for many people around the world, these gourds provide nutrition. Scientists at the Cornell-affiliated Boyce Thompson Institute and the National Engineering Research Center for Vegetables in Beijing have sequenced the genomes of two important pumpkin species. Once deciphered, the genome sequences are an important resource for further scientific research and breeding of Cucurbita crops. By analyzing the genomes, researchers will identify many genes associated with the pumpkin’s desirable traits.

Cucurbitas have large genomes with 20 pairs of chromosomes, compared to watermelon’s 11 or cucumber’s seven. This was the first clue that the pumpkin’s genome had expanded a long time ago. The genome sequence analysis revealed that between 3 million to 20 million years ago.

The next time you carve a pumpkin, take a moment to think about the curious evolutionary path it took to get here, and how breeders, now armed with the genome sequence, will be better able to improve the pumpkin to help feed millions around the world.

The finished genomes appear in the October issue of Molecular Plant.

NIFA supports this research through the Specialty Crop Research Initiative.

Read the full story at the Cornell Chronicle.

Want to read about more impacts like this? Check out Fresh from the Field, a weekly bulletin showcasing transformative impacts made by grantees funded by NIFA.

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Plant health, production, and products;
Agriculture systems and technology;
Bioenergy, natural resources, and environment;
Food Safety, Nutrition, and Health
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