Plant Genetics and Genomics

 

The challenge

Some of the challenges and opportunities for plant breeding are similar to those described for animals. However, for many plant species progress is hampered by the absence of a reference genome sequence for the species. The rate of annual increase in yield per hectare through selection is slowing for some species, especially for important UK crops such as wheat.

 

The opportunities

For some species such as potatoes, soft fruits and grass varieties there are strong public sector plant breeding programmes in the UK.

Opportunities exist for the development of hybridisation technologies for those species where they do not exist (with very significant improvements in yield resulting), and for GM transfer of traits, e.g. major goals of perennialisation or nitrogen fixation in species that do not current have these traits. 

 

Future priorities

As European regulatory control of crop protection chemicals becomes more cautious, control of pests, diseases and weeds will become more challenging. Exploiting genetic variation in innate disease resistance of crops, as part of an integrated agronomy strategy, will become a higher priority for plant breeders.  

Case studies

Integrating ‘genotyping-by-sequencing', association mapping and high throughput sequencing to accelerate the generation of novel UK potato varieties.

Developing new legume varieties with higher yields and better agronomic characteristics.