Scientists Have Decoded the Olive Tree Genome

Posted on July 11, 2016

Olive Tree

Scientists have decoded the genome of the olive tree (Olea europaea). The olive tree is one of the earliest to be domesticated by man. It remains of vital importance to the economies of Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal today. Spain is the top producer of olive oil worldwide.

Scientists say the olive tree genome generated 1.3 billion letters and over 1,000 GBytes of data. Over 56,000 genes were detected which is twice that of the human genome.

Researchers from the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG) in Barcelona, the Real Jardin Botánico (CSIC-RJB) and the Centro Nacional de Análisis Genómico (CNAG-CRG) conducted the research. Toni Gabaldón, ICREA research professor and head of the comparative genomics laboratory at the CRG, is the lead author of the research.

Gabaldon says in a statement, "Without a doubt, it is an emblematic tree, and it is very difficult to improve plant breeding, as you have to wait at least 12 years to see what morphological characteristics it will have, and whether it is advisable to cross-breed. Knowing the genetic information of the olive tree will let us contribute to the improvement of oil and olive production, of major relevance to the Spanish economy."

Researchers also compared the DNA with wild olive varieties. The say the next step will be to decode the evolutionary history of the olive tree. A research paper on the study was published here in the journal, BioMed Central.

Photo: Manuel Sánchez, RJB-CSIC