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What do sheep, goats, and cowpeas have in common?

Linda Seaton
| Apr 15, 2014

The Illumina 2014 Greater Good Award winners are conducting research that is benefiting people living in the Middle East, West Africa, and elsewhere around the globe. Max Rothschild, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Animal Science at Iowa State University is studying sheep and goats, while Timothy Close, Ph.D. Professor of Genetics in the Department of Botany and Plant Sciences at University of California, Riverside is studying the cowpea. While the organisms couldn’t be more different, their research shares a common focus—identifying what makes these organisms more drought-tolerant.

Using Illumina BeadChips, Dr. Rothschild and his team are identifying the genetic selection signatures of Middle Eastern sheep and goat breeds. Identifying unique gene regions linked with climate resilience will enable the natural selection of livestock that could be further adapted to hot, dry weather. The task takes on greater importance as global climate change continues to raise temperatures in already arid regions of the world and turns more temperate regions into dust bowls.

Dr. Close is using genomics to identify climate-resilient cowpeas, with a goal of developing even hardier varieties with improved nutritional value. His team is developing an iSelect custom 60K BeadChip to annotate the cowpea genome at a higher resolution than has ever been possible. Delivering more accuracy in cowpea breeding programs will be a win:win situation for breeders and farmers in West Africa where the cowpea is an important protein source.