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Lessons from 20 years of plant genome sequencing: an unprecedented resource in need of more diverse representation

By Rose A Marks, Scott Hotaling, Paul B. Frandsen, Robert VanBuren

Posted 31 May 2021
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.05.31.446451

The field of plant genomics has grown rapidly in the past 20 years, leading to dramatic increases in both the quantity and quality of publicly available genomic resources. With this ever-expanding wealth of genomic data from an increasingly diverse set of taxa, unprecedented potential exists to better understand the genome biology and evolution of plants. Here, we provide a contemporary view of plant genomics, including analyses on the quality of existing plant genome assemblies, the taxonomic distribution of sequenced species, and how national participation has influenced the fields development. We show that genome quality has increased dramatically in recent years, that substantial taxonomic gaps exist, and that the field has been dominated by affluent nations in the Global North and China, despite a wide geographic distribution of sequenced species. We identify multiple disconnects between the native range of focal species and the national affiliation of the researchers studying the plants, which we argue are rooted in colonialism--both past and present. However, falling sequencing costs paired with widening availability of analytical tools and an increasingly connected scientific community provide key opportunities to improve existing assemblies, fill sampling gaps, and, most importantly, empower a more global plant genomics community.

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