The oilseed species Thlaspi arvense (pennycress)—a weed that was only recently removed from the wild—has the potential to provide new sources of food and bioproducts when grown as a winter cover crop. Domestication of wild species has historically taken hundreds to thousands of years, but by making use of large-scale high-throughput comparative gene and phenotype analyses, along with recently developed technological tools, it has been possible to greatly accelerate this process. By taking advantage of extensive gene and phenotype knowledge in the related plant Arabidopsis, mutations for early maturity, reduced pod shatter, reduced seed glucosinolates and improved fatty acid composition were identified. Progress has been made to rapidly stack these traits in order to domesticate the plant, allowing it to fit within current crop cycles and to have improved seed harvestability and nutritional content. Pennycress, domesticated as a winter cover crop, may provide new sources of food, animal feed and bioproducts—and solutions to food security.
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All sequence information described in this study is contained within the Supplementary Information. All plant materials described in this report are available upon completion of material transfer agreements.
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We acknowledge the hard work of many undergraduates and others who contributed to this study, including K. Nord, C. Branch, L. Sullivan, L. Aldrich, G. Rockstad and many others. We thank M. Cook and T. Nazarenus for help with tissue embedding, sectioning, microscopy and seed oil analyses, respectively. This material is based on work that is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, US Department of Agriculture, under award numbers 2014-67009-22305 and 2018-67009-27374 to M.D.M., J.C.S. and W.B.P. Funding for research conducted in the laboratory of E.B.C. was provided by the US Department of Energy, Office of Science, OBER (DOE-BER SC0012459) and NSF Plant Genome Program (13-39385). Additional funds were provided by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and University of Minnesota Forever Green Initiative to J.A.A. and B.I., and by the Walton Family Foundation, PepsiCo, University of Minnesota Grand Challenges Fund and General Mills to D.L.W.
The authors declare potential competing interests as intellectual property applications have been submitted on portions of the reported research (patent application no. US 2019/0225977 A1 to T.U., J.C.S., M.D.M., M.M., R.C.; US 2019/0053458 A1 to M.D.M., J.C.S., R.C., M.E.; US 2019/0053457 A1 to M.D.M; WO 2018/140782 A1 to M.D.M., J.C.S., K.M.D., D.L.W.; WO 2019/157504 A1 to M.D.M., R.C., N.F., J.C.S., D.L.W.).
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Chopra, R., Johnson, E.B., Emenecker, R. et al. Identification and stacking of crucial traits required for the domestication of pennycress. Nat Food 1, 84–91 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s43016-019-0007-z
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