The research, in steps

What is the common denominator between a pine tree and a cactus from the himalayas? That both can stand the cold. This is the basis of our research, and it builds on a new field called Comparative Genomics. This is a field of biological research in which the genomic features of different organisms are compared. In our research, we look for a strand which allows crops to stand the cold. This strand, once found, will be inserted into sugarcane, making it cold-resistant and thus able to grow in Europe and other places, finally providing the continent with a huge number of products and services. Below we explain how we plan to do that.

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1 - Initial genome sequencing

The project starts with an entire sequence of the EUnergyCane variety. This in fact means that it would be the first time in history when the entire genome of a sugarcane variety is sequenced. This because the sugarcane genome is extremely large and complicated, with over 12 Gb, 8 repetitions, etc. However, this is critical to ensure that in the next steps we are not looking for sequences which are already there. Also, the scientific implications of this step are outstanding, as it means we would have sequenced the genome of the world's best photosynthetizer, opening a world of opportunities

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2 - Finding promising strands

From the genomes of crops known to be cold resistant, we will look for common patterns which could be the "philosopher's stone" of cold resistance. This is a daunting challenge, but genomics tools such as BLAST, GLASS, MUMmer, VISTA, etc and Big Data tools such as Hadoop, Spark, Flink, Tachyon, etc allow for thousands of comparisons per second, thus maximizing throughput. In the picture for example we have a comparison between the genome of a cat and of a tiger.

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3 - Inserting the strands into the crop

We will insert the strands we found into the DNA of thousands of cells, generating thus millions of possiblities that one holds the characteristics we want. To this, we will employ leading techniques such as CRISPR-CAS9, avoiding thus the usual techniques such as plasmids, GMO's, etc

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4 - Growing the test crops

We will perform grow the new plantlets in controlled conditions which simulate the environment the plants would have to be able to stand to. This will naturally eliminate those which do not have the traits we are looking for, as they will just freeze.

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5 - Repeating the process

The above process will be repeated up to 4 times, filtering out the varieties which do not sustain the new traits, and thus ensuring we have a stable variety. Here, our method is quite an improvement from the usual ones, which involve up to 13 iterations of 1 year each, meaning that with the usual techniques it takes up to 13 years for a new variety to arise, whereas with our method it takes less than 1/3 of that.

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6 - Registering the variety

After 4 generations, we will feel quite safe the crop is indeed a new and stable variety, and thus it will be registered and introduced to farmers in the lower regions of Europe.