The Biology of Plants The genome of thale cress Preface by François Gros
Michel Delseny, a specialist in plant genomics, is emeritus head of research at the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) in France and a member of the French Academy of Sciences.
Although plants are absolutely indispensable to our survival, our knowledge of them has for a long time remained empirical. The identification of the approximately 400,000 existing species began three centuries ago, followed by plant physiology, then genomics, a few decades ago. It is that latest period which Michel Delseny experienced: a fascinating scientific adventure that unfolded in the labs of Europe, Asia, and America, and ended in 2000 with the first complete sequencing of a plant, the thale cress (Arabidopsis thaliana), a lovely little white flower that has the advantage of reproducing very rapidly through self-pollination.
Many other, a priori more “useful,” plants such as rice, corn, but also strawberry or the poplar, have been sequenced since then, providing a rich harvest of data to specialists in nutrition and pharmacology. Beyond that, the genomes of plants lift the veil on the mystery of origins, and the way in which the most ancient plants – an alga, moss, then a fern – resulted in the mighty baobab and sequoia.