Plant Breeding and Horticulture Research

Genome Size and Ploidy Surveys

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Genome size and ploidy surveys contribute to the growing body of scientific knowledge related to the plant kingdom and can be used by plant breeders to develop breeding objectives. A flow cytometer is used to measure the genome size of cells from plants in the collections of The Morton Arboretum and to determine ploidy—the number of sets of chromosomes each plant has.  

Genome size and ploidy surveys are conducted using a flow cytometer. The flow cytometer is a tool that measures the genome size of plant cells using fluorescent technology. Surveys are conducted to gain a greater understanding of plant genomes.

Ploidy is the number of sets of chromosomes that an organism has in each of its cells. Humans are diploids—we each have two sets of chromosomes, one from our mothers and one from our fathers. Plants, however, can have more than two sets of chromosomes. Surveying plant groups for genome size and ploidy provides useful data for plant breeders. Understanding genome size and ploidy in a group of related plants can help breeders develop breeding objectives that include interspecific hybridization and interploid hybridization.

One of the research objectives of the Daniel P. Haerther Charitable Trust New Plant Development Program of The Morton Arboretum is to generate surveys of plant material found in the Arboretum’s collections. 

Since the flow cytometer has become such a valuable tool for breeders and generates datasets relatively rapidly, a number of breeding programs in the country have included the tool in their labs. In addition to the Arboretum, these include the Mountain Crop Improvement Lab of North Carolina State University, the Ornamental Plant Breeding Program of Oregon State University, and the Ornamental Plant Breeding Program of the Chicago Botanic Garden.


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