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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Genomics and the Physiologist: Bridging the Gap Between Genes & Crop Response

Authors
item Edmeades, Greg - PIONEER HI-BRED INTL INC
item McMaster, Gregory
item White, Jeffrey
item Campos, Hugo - PIONEER HI-BRED INTL INC

Submitted to: Field Crops Research
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: May 18, 2004
Publication Date: October 1, 2004
Citation: Edmeades, G.O., Mcmaster, G.S., White, J.W., Campos, H. 2004. Genomics and the physiologist: bridging the gap between genes & crop response. Field Crops Research. Oct. 2004. Vol. 90, pp. 5-18.

Interpretive Summary: Plant physiologists study the relationship between crop performance and the environment. Global change, including increased atmospheric CO2 and global warming, is expected to present multiple challenges and opportunities to crop production in coming decades. These changes will have widespread implications for farmers, agroindustry, and consumers, both in the US and abroad. Physiological studies seek to understand how farming can best adapt to global change, whether by changing crop management or creating new cultivars. In order to increase our ability to predict how crops may respond to global change, new tools are needed to more effectively relate observed field performance to the genetic differences that underlie cultivars. The revolution in genomics offers many exciting tools for identifying and examining genes and may provide a unique opportunity to increase and stabilize global crop production. Genomics has developed from the confluence of genetics, automated laboratory tools for generating DNA- and RNA-based data, and methods of information management. Functional genomics concentrates on how genes function, alone and in networks, while structural genomics focuses on physical and structural aspects of the genome. The traditional strengths of physiology lie in interpreting whole plant response to environmental signals, dissecting traits into component processes, and predicting the correlated responses when genes and related biochemical pathways are activated (up-regulated). Combining physiological and genetic information can provide a more complete model of how genetic differences lead to different genotypes and how these react to climate, management and other factors. There is potential for a productive, complementary relationship between physiology and genomics that will speed progress towards stable and adequate crop production, in the context of global climate change. This paper outlines challenges and opportunities relating to this proposed collaboration.

Technical Abstract: Plant physiologists have traditionally studied the relationship between crop performance (the phenotype) and the environment. Global change processes present multiple challenges to crop performance that can be met effectively by changing the crop environment through management, and by modifying the crop genome (the genotype) through plant breeding and molecular biology. In order to increase the reliability of crop performance prediction based upon genetic information, new tools are needed to more effectively relate observed phenotypes to genotypes. The emerging discipline of genomics offers promise of providing such tools, and may provide a unique opportunity to enhance genetic gains and stabilize global crop production. Genomics has developed from the confluence of genetics, automated laboratory tools for generating DNA- and RNA-based data, and methods of information management. Functional genomics concentrates on how genes function, alone and in networks, while structural genomics focuses on physical and structural aspects of the genome. The traditional strengths of physiology lie in interpreting whole plant response to environmental signals, dissecting traits into component processes, and predicting correlated responses when genes and pathways are perturbed. These complement information on the genetic control of signal transduction, gene expression, gene networks and candidate genes. Combining physiological and genetic information can provide a more complete model of gene-to-phenotype relationships and genotype-by-environment interactions. Phenotypic screening procedures that more accurately identify underlying genetic variation, and crop models that incorporate Mendelian genetic controls of key processes provide two tangible examples of fruitful collaboration between physiologists and geneticists. These point to a productive complementary relationship between disciplines that will speed progress towards stable and adequate food production, despite challenges posed by global climate change.

Last Modified: 10/25/2014
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