The cotton genome sequence will be invaluable both on the farm and in the biotechnology laboratory, Paterson said.

On the farm, the identification of key cotton genes and their importance will provide data crucial to increasing cotton production, quality and sustainability.

In the lab, the comparison of an elite cotton cultivar to its wild ancestors provides new insights into how a polyploidy — a hybrid of more than one type of cotton—becomes more than the sum of its ancestors. All flowering plants have experienced polyploidy, a process by which the entire hereditary blueprint of an organism is doubled.

New cotton knowledge will help scienctists understand other flowering plants

“This study represents the first time that a polyploid plant was compared to its progenitors over the entire genome,” Paterson said.

“This study reveals evolutionary processes salient to all plants and provides a strategy to better understand the genome of many other crops, such as canola, wheat and peanut.”

This cotton sequence is among the highest-quality flowering plant sequences yet produced. And it revealed G. raimondii to be among the most complex of flowering plant genomes, experiencing at least a 30-fold multiplication of its genetic complement since its origin from an ancestral flowering plant.

Paterson’s colleagues built their understanding of this complexity based on information accumulated over more than 20 years of research funded by the NSF, the USDA, Cotton Inc., the Consortium for Plant Biotechnology Research, Bayer Crop Science and other public and private agencies.

Investment in cotton should yield dividends for U.S. economy

Cotton production contributes heavily to many economies. The value of cotton fiber grown in the U.S. is typically about $6 billion per year.

Cottonseed oil and meal by-products add nearly $1 billion more value.

More than 430,000 domestic jobs are related to cotton production and processing, with a combined influence of about $120 billion on the annual U.S. gross domestic product and an estimated annual $500 billion worldwide.

Don Jones, director of Agricultural Research responsible for biotechnology research at Cotton Incorporated, said this G. raimondii gold standard sequence will be the foundation for further sequencing of commercially important upland cotton know as G. hirsutum.

“This sequencing effort demonstrates that wise investment of grower-supplied Cotton Inc. funding produces cutting-edge research, which benefits the greater cotton community,” Jones said.

“This sequence is a cornerstone that will help advance our knowledge so we more thoroughly understand the biology that leads to enhanced yield, improved fiber quality and better stress tolerance — all improvements that will benefit growers in the not-too-distant future.”

Among the collaborators on the genome project were the DOE Joint Genome Institute, USDA, Cotton Inc., Iowa State University, Mississippi State University, the Consortium for Plant Biotechnology Research and the National Science Foundation.

The journal article is available at www.nature.com/nature/journal/v492/n7429/full/nature11798.html.