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Kerala: Rubber farming at crossroads as researchers decode genome sequence of rubber tree

The genome decoding is expected to give a breakthrough in researches related to the development of new rubber clones

Published: 02nd July 2021 10:01 AM  |   Last Updated: 02nd July 2021 10:01 AM   |  A+A-

Rubber Board executive director Dr. K N Raghavan releasing the whole genome sequence of Indian hybrid rubber clone RRII 105 by receiving the first copy from RII director Dr. James Jacob in Kottayam

Rubber Board executive director Dr. K N Raghavan releasing the whole genome sequence of Indian hybrid rubber clone by receiving the first copy from RII director Dr. James Jacob in Kottayam | EPS

By Express News Service

KOTTAYAM: In a major achievement for the rubber growing sector, the Rubber Research Institute of India (RRII) under the Rubber Board has decoded the entire genome of the most popular Indian hybrid rubber clone, RRII 105.

Addressing a press conference at the RRII, rubber executive director Dr. K N Raghavan and RRII director Dr. James Jacob said this will have a profound impact on research aimed at improving the genetic potential of rubber trees to produce more rubber and timber. "This will also aid in evolving clones that can tolerate pests and diseases and adverse climatic conditions in a better manner," they said.

The genome decoding is expected to give a breakthrough in researches related to the development of new rubber clones, as with the help of the whole genome information the breeding cycle in rubber (the time taken to develop, test and release a new clone), which is almost 23-25 years, is reduced to a half.

According to Raghavan, the assembled genome information available with RRII will be used to extract meaningful biological information like the genes responsible for high yield, disease tolerance, climate resilience and TPD tolerance.

"The tools (molecular markers) for the selection of potential high yielding varieties at the juvenile stage itself will be developed in the research labs of RRII so that farmers can get better performing clones more frequently from Rubber Board. The information generated will also be used for the designing of better performing GM rubber plants with enhanced yield, allergen-free latex and climate resilience," he said.

It is anticipated that the completion of this project will enable the country to be at the forefront of rubber cultivation and productivity in the coming years. Research on such aspects is already in progress at the RRII.

RRII achieved a draft assembly of the genome sequence of RRII 105 with a size of 1.47 gigabases (1.47 billion bases) with 94% completeness which is an excellent outcome for a de novo assembled tree genome. The genome assembly was accomplished by using genome sequence data obtained from deep sequencing using NGS platforms like Illumina, Pacbio and Roche 454. The sequence data generated was of good quality and sufficient enough to cover more than 200 folds of the genome of rubber. The completed genome assembly is one of the biggest tree genome sequences from India. Other countries that have done rubber genome sequencing are China, Malaysia, Thailand and Japan.

The project was led by Dr. James Jacob and the team included, Dr. R G Kala, Dr. Thakurdas Saha, Dr. A Thulaseedharan, Anantharamanan R, Dr. Thomas K U, Dr. Bindu Roy, Dr. M B Mohammed Sathik, Dr. Molly Thomas, Dr. Shaji Philip and Minimol Ravindran



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