Postgraduate Profiles

Clementine Merce

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Thesis: Brassica napus DNA methylation study: heritability and effects on plant phenotype

Since the beginning of domestication, plants have been selected for their characteristics through selective breeding, for the sake of meeting the needs of humankind. Today, the agricultural field has to face a double challenge: feeding a growing population, in an environment modified by global warming. Crop improvement seems to be the most efficient and effective means of responding to this challenge.

Thanks to modern technologies and knowledge of genomics, we can now access more genetic diversity leading to improved varieties. In the domain of crop improvement, DNA methylation studies on plants aim to identify genes which are normally silenced, and which could improve the phenotype and increase the genome diversity. Indeed, epigenomic signatures are known to contribute to domestication traits, such as photoperiod sensitivity, pathogen resistance, flowering and other environmental adaptations.

The progress of sequencing technologies associated with a cost decrease over the past years, opens new possibilities in the field of crop improvement and genetic selection.

Why my research is important

Canola (Brassica napus) is an important crop plant, developed in Canada and used for the consumption of its oil and seeds as well as a source of biodiesel. Today, canola oil is one of the most consumed oils world wide, and canola production in Western Australia in 2016/17 is estimated at 2.15 million tonnes ( $ 1.2 billion). Australia canola exports accounts for around 14 percent of world trade.

The comprehension of mechanisms altering gene expression is a considerable benefit in the field of crop improvement, as it could reveal hidden characteristics, silenced by genes methylation.

canola flowers