Plant DNA barcoding project bears fruit

Plants get own ID cards as researchers use barcodes to identify species.

Tree with barcode as its roots

Boffins have completed a four-year initiative to create a standard barcode that can be used to identify plants through their DNA.

The mammoth research effort involved 52 researchers spread across 10 countries has been published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Despite amassing a 60,000-strong library of animal-related barcodes, botanical barcoding has not been as easy historically largely due to there not being a common standard, according to the researchers.

"Identification is important - it is the link between a given plant and the accumulated information available for that species. It is not

possible to know if a plant is common or rare, poisonous or edible, being traded legally or illegally etc., unless it can be identified," said one of the researchers, Dr Peter Hollingsworth, head of genetics and conservation at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, in a statement.

Dr David Schindel, executive secretary of the Consortium for the Barcode of Life (CBOL), which championed the research, added: "The

selection of standard barcode regions has been a slow and difficult process because of the complex nature of plant genetics."

He added: "Having an agreed upon barcode region will enable plant barcoding to accelerate rapidly. There are researchers around the world and diverse users of plant identification who are eager to get started."

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