Cannabis has been on this planet for roughly 12,000 years, but how much do we really know about it? A team of scientists from one of America’s top agricultural universities will begin mapping the cannabis DNA in an attempt to discover more about the herb.
The project will be led by Dario Cantu, a viticulturist and enologist at the University of California at Davis. Colorado-based Front Range Biosciences will be a partner in the study.
“We have successfully applied cutting-edge DNA sequencing technologies and computational approaches to study challenging genomes of diverse crops and associated microorganisms. We are now excited to have the opportunity to study the genome of hemp,” Cantu said in a statement. “Decoding its genome will allow us to gain new insight into the genetic bases of complex pathways of secondary metabolism in plants.”
The study will focus on the hemp plant, not psychoactive cannabis. The goal of the project, aside from the scientific desire to better understand the plant, is to help figure out its potential as an industrial and commercial product.
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Previously, researchers at UC Davis successfully mapped the genomes of the cabernet sauvignon grape and the arabica coffee bean.
“UC Davis is renowned as the leading agriculture university in the world and we are excited to work with Dr. Cantu’s team to improve this crop to reduce pesticide residues and excessive application of fertilizers, in preparation for production targeting medically beneficial compounds,” said Dr. Jonathan Vaught, CEO of Front Range Biosciences.
Because the project is being conducted at a public university, results of the project will be made available to the public. The hope is that geneticists and agricultural breeders will benefit from the findings. “That information will be available for breeders to be able to emphasize certain aspects, so I think that’s a big step forward and consistent with our public mission,” said Dan Flynn, a spokesperson from UC Davis.