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Genome size and ploidy surveys

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.

Genome size and ploidy surveys
Photomicrograph of chromosomes in Acer rubrum (red maple) root tip cells at 1000. Root squashes of mitotic cells are used to calibrate genome size to ploidy when conducting surveys. Chromosomes viewed using Zeiss Axio Imager A1 microscope at Oregon Stat


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 in order 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 have one set of chromosomes from our mother and one from our father.  Plants, however, can have two or more sets of chromosomes.  Surveying plant groups for genome size and ploidy provides an applicable tool 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.  Since this has become such a valuable tool for breeders and generates datasets relatively rapidly, a number of breeding programs in the country have included flow cytometers in their labs.  These include the New Plant Development Program of The Morton Arboretum, 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 Chicago Botanic Garden.

One of the research objectives of the New Plant Development Program is to generate surveys of plant material found in the arboretum collections.

Funding sources

The Morton Arboretum, Haerther Charitable Trust

Project status