Genomic tools can help researchers develop crops quickly

Feb 22, 2011 By Krishna Ramanujan
Edward Buckler reported at the annual AAAS meeting that powerful genome sequencing tools can now help researchers exploit the genetic diversity of crops to improve productivity, sustainability and nutrition.

(PhysOrg.com) -- Using powerful genome sequencing tools created for human genetics, researchers can now exploit the genetic diversity of crops to improve productivity, sustainability and nutrition, a Cornell researcher reported Feb. 19 at the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Washington, D.C.

Researchers now have the tools to dissect maize genes, for example, and predict the likelihood of any trait with up to 90 percent accuracy, said Edward Buckler, a U.S. Department of Agriculture--Agricultural Research Service research geneticist in Cornell's Institute for Genomic Diversity, in his presentation, "Dissecting the Genetics of Complex Agronomic Traits for Crop Improvement."

"There are some simple traits, like improving vitamin A content in maize, that work with five or 10 genes, but we can also understand complex traits, like , that work with over 50 genes, and we can still make very accurate predictions," said Buckler, a Cornell adjunct associate professor of plant breeding and genetics. The researchers have discovered that with such complex traits, individual alleles (or gene variants) each have very small effects, but together they can create a large effect.

Maize has more in its genes than humans and apes combined, Buckler said. To understand variation, researchers focus on single (SNPs), points in the where there is a mutation within a single base pair. While many of these SNPs have no effect, Buckler estimated that corn may still have hundreds of thousands of SNPs with functional effects. By growing out special populations of plants -- something not possible with human genetics -- and then measuring millions of individuals, researchers can explain most of the variation, Buckler said.

With the ability to explain variation and accurately predict which traits exist in a plant, breeders can now cross two plants and predict which offspring will have the traits they desire, without having to grow out tens of thousands of plants. Using genetic markers is much cheaper and cuts the time to advance new varieties to four months for annual species like maize; traditional methods can take five years.

In the coming decades, breeders hope to use genomic tools to create crops that produce twice the yield with the same amount of fertilizer and water; that grow perennially; are drought resistant and utilize nutrients more efficiently; and are biofortified to improve nutrition in the developing world, Buckler said.

"Now is the time to apply these tools to important traits to improve society and sustainability," he said.

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LariAnn
1 / 5 (2) Feb 22, 2011
To translate this article, replace "improve" with "make more profitable" because even though the talk of helping developing countries or feeding the poor is included in articles such as this one, the real goal is to make more money with less expense. Of course the more profitable GMO crops are going to be touted as "better" for people, but the truth is that they are only better for the bottom line of the seed producers. Poor people don't make money for corporations - it is the big industrialized countries that pay out the cash - just to keep things straight.
Djincss
1 / 5 (1) Feb 22, 2011
@ LariAnn

Really typical for GM hater like you to talk nonsense, where did you read that this method include GM?

"With the ability to explain variation and accurately predict which traits exist in a plant, breeders can now cross two plants and predict which offspring will have the traits they desire, without having to grow out tens of thousands of plants. Using genetic markers is much cheaper and cuts the time to advance new varieties to four months for annual species like maize; traditional methods can take five years."

If this info is correct then there is no gm going on here, they will just use genetic markers, try to find what this is before puring your shits, isn't this the right think to do?