Improvements to germplasm have historically been made through traditional breeding methods. To seek faster and greater gains in productivity in both biotech and non-biotech crops, GrassRoots will apply its strengths in quantitative genetics, computational biology, and root biology to the latest breeding enabling technologies such as genomic selection (GS) and genome-wide association studies (GWAS). The integration of our expertise with these new approaches will allow GrassRoots to develop more efficient breeding methods.
Genomic selection (GS) is an emerging technology that integrates phenotypic and genotypic datasets to create predictive models that can replace phenotypic selection in breeding cycles. Thus, genomic selection can be applied to plants grown in off season nurseries or greenhouses to accelerate the breeding process. Extensive phenotypic and genotypic data sets are required for GS, but the rapidly decreasing cost of genotyping makes this approach cost effective. In addition, GrassRoots’ RootXpose platform will allow us to incorporate root trait information into the phenotypic data set resulting in a more comprehensive predictive model. GS has been used in cattle breeding with much success and is expected to be a critical new technology for increasing agricultural productivity.
GWAS is used to identify genetic variants (e.g. single nucleotide polymorphisms) within a population that correlate with specific traits. GWAS studies can lead to the cloning of genes underlying quantitative trait loci (QTLs) or to the identification of tightly linked markers that can be used for marker assisted selection (MAS) in breeding programs.