A Genomic Approach To Breeding Better Buckwheat

Researchers have sequenced the entire buckwheat genome, opening up possibilities for developing tastier, chewier and non-allergenic breads and noodles.

AsianScientist (Apr. 6, 2016) – Gluten-free noodles and other buckwheat-based foods might one day be tastier, prettier and non-allergenic, with hints of new genomics research. Assistant Professor Yasuo Yasui of Kyoto University and colleagues have sequenced the full buckwheat genome for the first time, identifying genes which could be modified for improved cultivation capabilities and taste appeal. Their findings were published in DNA Research.

Buckwheat is a central ingredient in soba noodles—a traditional Japanese favorite—and is also used to make other noodles from China and Korea. In Europe, buckwheat is used in Italian pizzoccheri, French gallettes, and Slovenian struklji, and in other regions of the world it appears in pancakes and other foods.

Yasui explains that buckwheat has major faults as a crop despite a long history of cultivation. Buckwheat plants are not naturally self-fertilized, and the grain contains allergens that elicit strong reactions in some people.

“Genome data is essential to make crops better suited for our needs, but until now data on the knotweed family of plants, including buckwheat, were not available,” said Yasui.

“In our study we sequenced the entire genome and created a Buckwheat Genome DataBase, which is now available publicly from the Kazusa DNA Research Institute.”

In the study, the team found genes related to ‘mochi-ness,’ which refer to the soft, chewy texture of foods like marshmallows or fresh bagels.

“Scientists have so far succeeded in getting the distinctive ‘mochi’ texture out of wheat, but that hadn’t been accomplished yet with buckwheat,” said Yasui.

“Since we’ve found the genes that could give buckwheat this texture, I think we can hope to see foods—including soba noodles and doughy European foods—with radical new sensations appearing on the market in the near future.”

The team also identified genes that synthesize proanthocyanidins, which make buckwheat turn darker in color when oxidized. Modifying these genes could prevent buckwheat from producing this compound, making the flour more visually appealing. Better yet, according to Yasui, the results of the genome sequencing might bring happy outcomes not only to buckwheat-food lovers but also to those who are allergic to them.

“Buckwheat flour can replace wheat flour in a gluten-free diet. One of our next goals is to make buckwheat less allergenic so that buckwheat-based foods become an option for more people,” said Yasui.

The article can be found at: Yasui et al. (2016) Assembly of the Draft Genome of Buckwheat and its Applications in Identifying Agronomically Useful Genes.


Source: Kyoto University; Photo: Ervins Strauhmanis/Flickr/CC.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

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