WESLACO – Dr. Qingyi Yu, Texas AgriLife Research plant molecular biologist in Weslaco, will be part of a $3.1 million National Science Foundation grant to study the sex chromosomes of papaya.
The study, led by Dr. Ray Ming, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign plant biologist, aims to determine the sex of a papaya plant prior to its flowering. That would enable breeders to help develop better producing varieties for the fruit that is grown on about 1 million acres worldwide.
Papayas are unique because they contain three sex forms: male, female and hermaphrodite. Researchers believe that condition occurred perhaps 73,000 years ago.
The researchers will use the grant funds over a four-year period to identify the sex-determination gene in the Male Specific Y chromosome and then create a hermaphrodite cultivar capable of breeding without the Y chromosome. That would enable plant breeders around the world to adapt varieties that grow best in local conditions.
Yu said this would eliminate the need to plant multiple trees together in order to assure reproduction, which in turn would reduce plant stress caused by competition of the roots and leaf canopy of multiple trees. The researcher said that would result in better production of the fruit.
Others on the grant include Drs. Paul H. Moore with the Hawaii Agriculture Research Center and Richard C. Moore at Miami University.
For more information, see http://www.life.illinois.edu/plantbio/People/Faculty/Ming.htm. -30-