Biotechnology for the improvement of sugar cane


In Colombia, as in all sugarcane genetic improvement programs around the world, this process is carried out in a conventional or classical way, through the selection of phenotypic characters of agronomic interest for the crop. While it is true that this strategy has produced invaluable results for Colombia's sugar cane industry—more than 90% of the area cultivated for sugar and alcohol production in the Cauca River valley is planted with Cenicaña Colombia, CC varieties—the crop production cycle (13 months) means that this improvement process can take between 10 and 12 years. Additionally, problems such as poor flowering in the environmental conditions of the Cauca River valley make it difficult to carry out crossings. In this sense, with the objective of speeding up the process of genetic improvement of sugarcane and expanding the range of selected favorable characteristics, Cenicaña, like its peers in other countries, has incorporated biotechnology into the improvement scheme and selection of CC varieties.

Among the key biotechnological tools to achieve greater efficiency in the classical genetic improvement process, the use of molecular markers for germplasm genotyping and genetic transformation stands out. Molecular markers are regions of the genome (DNA sequences) that are often used to track the inheritance (segregation) of a particular position. To date, there is sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the use of these markers helps accelerate genetic improvement processes (Foiada et al., 2015; Jiang et al., 2012; Steele et al., 2006). In the case of sugarcane, whose genome is highly complex, recent advances in DNA sequencing technologies (second and third generation sequencing), which favor the identification of SNP (Single Nucleotide Polymorphism) markers, nucleotide), which are abundant in the sugarcane genome (Davey et al., 2011), suggest high probabilities of success. Additionally, the development of efficient genetic transformation methodologies makes it possible to introduce individual characters with the capacity to positively impact the agronomic development of the crop, which also makes it possible to overcome the obstacle represented by the poor flowering of improved sugarcane varieties.

About the authors

Trujillo Montenegro, JH

Systems and Computer Engineer, doctorate in Engineering with an emphasis in Computer Science, graduated in 2009 from the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, Cali branch, and in 2021 from the Universidad del Valle, Cali branch. In 2016 he began as a doctoral student at the Colombian Sugarcane Research Center, where he carried out his thesis titled: “Construction of a genome and a molecular fingerprint of sugarcane using high-throughput sequencing.” ”. He has more than seven years of experience in the area of ​​bioinformatics applied to the genetic improvement of sugarcane, carrying out projects related to the genetic characterization of sugarcane individuals, assembly of complex genomes, management of sequencing data of new generation, genomic selection, genotype-phenotype association studies and algorithm design and programming.

Martínez Villa, MC

Biologist with a master's degree in Computational Biology from the Universidad de los Andes. During 2018 and 2019 she contributed to Cenicaña's biotechnology team. Her work included applying linear mixed models using advanced query, visualization and analysis tools connected in one workflow.

Riascos Arcos, JJ

He was born in Cali, in 1978. He is a biologist from the Universidad del Valle and obtained his doctorate from the Faculty of Agronomy at North Carolina State University (NCSU). He has been part of various research groups at institutions such as CIAT, NCSU, Duke University and Cenicaña. In this last institution he worked as a young researcher from 2001 to 2003 and continued uninterruptedly from November 2009 to date. His research interests have been focused on the development of biotechnological tools for the benefit of crops, especially for genetic improvement processes. At Cenicaña he has served as a researcher and leader of the biotechnology group, and in the last three years as director of the Variety Program.

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