Molecular markers: towards greater precision of varietal improvement

Using biotechnology tools, Cenicaña is advancing in a project that proposes to know in detail the genotype and phenotype of 220 varieties and associate them with 85 productivity characteristics.

In order to make the sugarcane genetic improvement process more efficient in the selection and development of new varieties, Cenicaña began a research project that uses state-of-the-art technologies such as Marker Assisted Selection (SAM), studies of association and genomic selection.

The project consists of making a genotypic characterization of a group of 220 representative varieties from the Cenicaña Germplasm Bank, to associate 85 productivity characters to identifiable DNA segments on a chromosome and whose genetic inheritance can be traced.

In parallel, high precision phenotyping of the same group of varieties is carried out in the three selection environments (semi-dry, humid and piedmont) for which it is also supported by remote sensing tools, images and agricultural practices. precision.

The 85 characters evaluated include everything from the use of crop water to the chemistry of juices in the sugar manufacturing process. For this reason, the project articulates different areas of research in Cenicaña.

Genotyping and phenotyping will be the basis for the Research Center to develop the molecular marker platform that will assist the conventional genetic improvement program. In this way it is expected that the process of selection and development of new varieties will be more efficient and therefore take less time. Currently selecting and developing a new variety takes about ten years.


The genetic variability in sugarcane for traits of interest to the industry such as sugar, biomass and plant health, among others, is represented in 1463 varieties that make up the Cenicaña Germplasm Bank.

Project progress

To begin the project, a morphoagronomic characterization carried out by Cenicaña in 2005 at the Riopaila Castilla sugar mill was taken as a basis, where the 220 varieties were randomly selected.

Between 2013 and 2015, the Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI) was contracted to obtain the sequence of nitrogenous bases that make up the DNA of the 220 varieties and to initiate the association studies of characters of interest with some molecular markers (genotyping). During this same period, the Research Center increased the seed of the selected varieties and planted an experiment in an agroecological zone representative of the semi-dry environment (Balsora del Ingenio Mayagüez farm) to begin the field evaluation or phenotyping.

Currently this phenotyping stage is being fulfilled, for which the areas of genetic improvement, entomology and phytopathology, of the Variety Program are working in an articulated manner; physiology, geomatics, soils and waters, from the Agronomy Program; and chemistry and juice analysis laboratory, from the Factory Process Program.

Finally, the Cenicaña biotechnology area will carry out the sequencing analysis to have the molecular marker platform for the selection of varieties.

Information letter
4 Year / 2 Number / July of 2016

Full text in version:
PDF | Animated