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Director of IGBB Contributes to Significant Cotton Genomics Study Published in Nature Genetics

April 20, 2020

Daniel Peterson Director, IGBB Photo by Logan Kirkland
A new study from a Mississippi State University faculty member and colleagues from around the world shares new insights into the genomic similarities between wild and domesticated cotton, information that can help improve resistance to adverse conditions in the crop.

The study was published Monday [April 20] in Nature Genetics. Among the authors is Daniel Peterson, director of MSU’s Institute for Genomics, Biocomputing and Biotechnology (IGBB) and a professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences. In the study, Peterson and other authors describe the genetic sequencing and comparison of all five AD polypoid cotton species, which includes the two main species of commercial cotton grown worldwide and three wild cotton species that do not produce the long white seed fibers that are of significant economic value.

The team found that genomic differences in the five species are subtle, making the genetic sequencing of non-commercial cotton important to understanding ways to improve resistance in commercial cotton species. With the agricultural commodity supporting 100 million families around the world and producing an annual economic impact estimated at $500 billion, Peterson said the advancement in genomic sequencing for both the commercial and non-commercial species will benefit growers as they adapt to potential environmental changes.

“Having high-quality genome sequences for the AD polyploids will be of special importance when it comes to utilizing non-commercial polyploid sequence data to improve upland and Pima cottons, which account for 95 percent of the world’s commercial cotton production,” Peterson said. “Such improvements include producing commercial cotton lines with resistance to bacterial, viral, and fungal diseases. Also, it is critical that we develop productive cotton lines with resistance to conditions expected to accompany climate change such as drought, flooding and temperature extremes.”

Peterson has played a key role in advancing understanding of cotton genomes, having co-authored the publication describing the first reference-quality cotton genome sequence in 2012. In 2015, Peterson was co-author on the paper describing the sequence of upland cotton.

The Nature Genetics study is the result of collaboration between researchers from the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, University of Texas at Austin, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service, Nanjing Agricultural and Zhejiang A&F universities in China, and Alcorn State, Clemson, Texas A&M and Iowa State universities. The work was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation and U.S. Department of Agriculture and Cotton Incorporated.

“The results described in this Nature Genetics publication will facilitate deeper understanding of cotton biology and lead to higher yield and improved fiber while reducing input costs,” said Don Jones, director of agricultural research at Cotton Incorporated. “Growers, the textile industry and consumers will derive benefit from this high impact science for years to come.”

MSU’s Institute for Genomics, Biotechnology and Biocomputing leads multi-disciplinary projects focused on understanding the biomolecular interactions underlying the diversity, value and sustainability of species of agricultural, medical, bioenergy, and ecological importance. For more, visit

The MSU Department of Plant and Soil Sciences is part of the university’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. For more, visit

MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at

Story by James Carskadon