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Setaria is now being established as a model grass system


The 1st International Setaria Genetics Conference (ISGC 2014) supported by Institute of Crop Sciences (ICS), Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) was held at the Beijing International Convention Center in Beijing, on March 10 — 12. The main topic of this initial conference is “Promoting Setaria as a model for grass functional genomics”. Over 200 conventioneers coming from China, America, Britain, Australia, Japan and other five countries attended this meeting.

Co-chair of ISGC2014, the Vice Minister of Ministry of Agriculture, President of Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sceicnes, Dr. Li Jiayang addressed welcome speech. He said that model organisms play a significant role in enabling new scientific discovery and the development of new technologies. Discoveries in early genetic models such as, Pea (Pisum sativum L.), fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) and maize (Zea mays), laid the foundations for modern genetics. Research with these species was responsible for the discovery of everything of the basic laws of genetics and heritability such as transposable elements, and pioneered the wholly new field of cytogenetics. The biological nature of two species of Setaria, domesticated foxtail millet (S. italica Beauv.) and its wild ancestor green foxtail (S. viridis Beauv.), make them ideal models for functional genomics studies in the Panicoid grasses. Both species are diploid and have tractably small genomes (490 Megabases, about one fifth the size of the maize genome), short generation times (50-90 days), small morphological stature and prolific per plant seed production, which make Setaria suitable as a model for deciphering abiotic stress tolerance and C4 photosynthesis mechanisms in crop species. Realizing its ideal nature as a model system, many leading labs in the world have begun to work with Setaria. Extensive progress has been made in characterizing different aspects of Setaria genetics. The International Setaria Genetics Conference (ISGC) will create a platform for the exchange of data and experience among researchers working on this system, so as to promote maturation of Setaria as a model system.

President Li Jiayang also laid stress on the present challenges and future work of Setaria genetics, including establishing a stable and efficient transformation protocol, constructing a well-organized online database devoted to Setaria genetic and genomic information, screening a core set of varieties and populations that will be studied by individual laboratories and assembling a Setaria handbook describing genetic and genomic techniques in this species.

In addition to serving as a genetic model for the Panicoid crops and C4 photosynthesis, Setaria promises that it will be an excellent model genetic systems for understanding the processes of domestication and variety improvement, the evolution of abiotic stress tolerance, comparative mapping approaches that span multiple species, the evolution of the grasses, and traits essential for biomass production by novel biofuel crops.


This meeting promotes the establishment of efficient transformation methods, helps kick-start the construction of a well-organized Setaria website, and most importantly, helpes establish an international Setaria community. International collaboration between experts around the world, many of them gathered together at this meeting, ensures a prominent and successful future for Setaria as a model system and enables groundbreaking scientific discoveries from basic questions of plant development to applied crop breeding and crop improvement.