Molecular plant identification is an important aspect of modern plant systematics. Molecular identification can be applied in both natural and cultivated environments, however, the usefulness and challenges have not yet been fully explored. Neither do we have all the basic molecular information needed to construct fully functioning databases for identification. DNA barcoding is a universally applicable method for identification of living organism from a small quantity of tissue. The concept was proposed in 2003, and popularized since then by several large projects. The key to successful DNA barcoding is the choice of DNA region that is analyzed. For animals a gene was readily chosen but the progress for plants has not been as fast, particularly due to dispute over the best region of the plant genome to sequence for DNA barcoding. We chose the genus Trifolium (clovers, Fabaceae) for testing DNA barcoding with the two plastid DNA genes matK and rbcL. Several Trifolium species, including white- and red clover, are of considerable agricultural and economic importance. These are grown worldwide for mammal and bee forage and nitrogen fixation. Trifolium is one of the largest genera in Fabaceae, comprising some 255 species. Since Trifolium species have characteristic trifoliate leaves, identification to the genus level is relatively straightforward even when plants are not flowering. However, for the non-expert, identification to the species level can be challenging. Therefore, DNA barcoding could prove valuable as an additional identification tool for the clover species.
If you are looking for an MSc project in biology, biotechnology, agriculture or similar and if you wish to work within the areas of botany, bioinformatics, and molecular biology I invite you to join my research on clovers and molecules. Projects may be designed to fit your specific interests and skills. Please contact associate professor Conny Bruun Asmussen Lange for more information.