The collaborative project between Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University and the National Orchid Conservation Centre of China set out to produced the world's first orchid genetic map. Its findings have provided insight that is expected to fuel further research and development into vanilla.
A genome is the full complement of an organism's DNA, formed by complex molecules that direct the formation and function of all living organisms. The size of an organism's genome is measured by the number of bases it contains, with base pairs being the building blocks of DNA.
"The research has helped us understand the evolutionary history of the orchid, and it's of great importance to the conservation and breeding of the species," said Lan Siren, head of Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University.
Liu Zhongjian, chief scientist with the National Orchid Conservation Centre of China, said the genome sequencing would make it possible to alter orchid properties through transgenic technology, indicating the possibility that a synthetic version of vanilla may be produced in the future.
Vanilla is the world's second most expensive spice after saffron. It is widely used in food, cosmetics, tobacco and pharmaceutical products.