Biotech Updates

Plant Breeders to Use Genomic Selection to Improve Crops in Developing Countries

June 3, 2011

At Cornell University's plant breeding and genetics department, researchers Mark Sorrells and Jean-Luc Jannink of USDA-ARS developed a system to increase productivity of crop varieties that smallholder farmers grow. Through the use of genomic selection, the researchers plan to boost the rate of variety improvements in maize and wheat up to three-fold.

In partnership with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), genomic selection will be used to test varieties under development in the maize and wheat breeding programs considering the four efficiencies that may contribute to better yields. These include among other factors an increase in sample size of available data to examine complex, environment-dependent traits more accurately and will also allow an accelerated breeding cycle. Using genomic selection, plant breeders can help manage diversity so that the genetic gains will not be at the expense of traits needed in the future.

If successful, the model which received a US$3 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will be used to improve other important crops as well.

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