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ABOUT SUGARCANE
Sugarcane is an industrial crop with acreage of about 4 million hectares and production to the tune of 300 million tonnes in India. It provides employment to over a million people directly or indirectly besides contributing significantly to the national exchequer. In commercial agriculture, cane is subjected to various weather conditions and stresses. In the Indian subtropics erratic availability of moisture and frequent occurrence of red rot disease severely impair the productivity of cane. In addition to this, acute water scarcity in many areas would need the development of drought tolerant / water use efficient cane genotypes to sustain the cane industry .

The commercial sugarcane is no longer pure Saccharum officinarum but a species hybrid, complex polyploid with a large number of chromosomes. This does not offer a clean system for genetic manipulation through conventional means. As a result, inheritance of most of the characters of interest for varietal breeding is not thoroughly worked out, so much so that neither the number of genes nor the nature of gene action governing the expression of these traits is fully known. Thus sugarcane has remained geneticists' nightmare.

With the advancement of molecular biology, newer techniques have become available to unravel the sugarcane genome. Monitoring of differential tissue-specific gene expression in genotypes of contrasting genetic potential for traits under study by expressed sequence tagging may be used as a technique to get an access to the complexity of gene function in sugarcane. Development of ESTs in sugarcane is already in progress in some cane growing countries (in fact in a big way in Brazil) It is expected that the proposed work would reinforce this international endeavour and provide specific benefits to Indian sugarcane cultivation.

Identification of genes in sugarcane against various stresses may help better understanding of the underlying physiological mechanisms of resistance/tolerance and facilitate genetic manipulation to tailor the sugarcane plant to cope with these stresses. Sugarcane, owing to its vegetative propagation and genetic complexity, is easily amenable to biotechnological applications like the production of transgencis and the DNA analysis of segregating population to effect early selection for the trait of interest (marker assisted selection). The proposed EST approach shall identify and make available genes for stress endurance and allow their incorporation in the reigning sugarcane varieties through genetic transformation.