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World’s first complete genome of sweet basil

Pesto. Marinara sauce. Caprese salad. The key common, tasty ingredient – basil.

Prof. Nativ Dudai, a world-known basil researcher and breeder and head of the unit of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants at Newe-Ya’ar Research Center of the Agricultural Research Organization (Israel), sought to sequence the genome of sweet basil to create advanced genetic tools that will accelerate various breeding efforts. He has joined forces with NRGene to create the world’s first complete genome of sweet Basil (Ocimum basilicum L.), using the “Perrie” variety, the main type grown in Israel for fresh-cut, year-round production.

The results revealed quite a number of previously unknown facts about basil. “The ploidy level of sweet basil was not clear,” said Prof. Dudai. “Now we have ascertained that it is actually a tetraploid organism. The genome size found was significantly larger than some other basil species. Ocimum basilicum is more than 2GB in genome size, while the Holy basil (Ocimum sanctum L.) genome is only one third this size. Now, we will be able to employ the information in our breeding programs effectively and precisely to deliver improved products to farmers and consumers.”

Basil, one of the world’s most important culinary spices, is grown in almost every region around the globe. It’s generally used as a fresh or dried herb and for essential oil production. 

NRGene’s DeNovoMAGIC 3.0 quickly delivered the complete basil genome within a few weeks of receiving the raw data. With third-generation sequencing technology, DeNovoMAGIC 3.0 provides ground-breaking advances in phasing of very complex (i.e. large, repetitive, polyploid and heterozygous) genomes. The results provide for the first time the basic infrastructure for improving the productivity of this important herb, using genetic research, trait discovery, association studies, genomic selection, and genome editing.

“Usually, our genomic projects are aiming to impact the volume of the world food supply,” says Dr. Gil Ronen, CEO of NRGene. “Of course, we’re not adverse to providing ways to make our food both tastier and more nutritious. Better fresh leaf varieties will enrich our food with key vitamins, minerals, fibers, and antioxidants.”

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