New study reveals how the carrot got its distinctive orange color.
The genetic secrets of the carrot have been revealed. Researchers from University of Wisconsin-Madison have recently sequenced the genome of the top crop and figured out why the vegetable is abundant in Vitamin A and also discovered the gene responsible for its characteristic bright red or orange color. The genome sequencing of the vegetable may also help find the ways to improve its production and how to make it more resistant to pests and diseases.
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“The carrot has a good reputation as a crop and we know it’s a significant source of nutrition – Vitamin A, in particular,” said lead researcher and horticulture professor Phil Simon. “Now, we have the chance to dig deeper and it’s a nice addition to the toolbox for improving the crop.”
Carrots have been first cultivated more than 1,000 years ago in Asia and to the surprise of many those were not orange as we are accustomed to see today but were purple and yellow in color. Researchers analyzed the genomes of 35 different specimen and subspecies to find how they got their iconic color.
The carrot genome contains about 32,000 genes, which are more than human genome. The genome carries the message about a carrot’s color, pest and disease resistance and much more. Researchers found that orange carrots are most nutritious carrot and they contain a high concentration of carotenoid, a natural chemical that can be transformed into vitamin A.
“The accumulation of orange pigments is an accumulation that normally wouldn’t happen,” says Simon. “Now, we know what the genes are and what they do.”
Study also confirms that a gene called Y is responsible for the difference in colors between various carrot types.
Carrots are the richest source of Vitamin A, which is an important nutrition for vision as well as the proper functioning of immune system.
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Globally, we hand out Vitamin A capsules, but why not have people grow their own?” says Simon. “In one square meter you can grow a single crop of carrots per year to feed up to a half dozen adults. You can grow half now and half in six months to give you a sustainable source of vitamin A and a valuable crop in the marketplace.”