|Contreras, Ryan -|
Submitted to: Digger
Publication Type: Trade Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: July 1, 2012
Publication Date: August 1, 2012
Citation: Contreras, R., Rinehart, T.A. 2012. An express route to perfection: Ornamental plant breeders have the tools at their disposal to expedite breeding for specific traits. Digger. 8:47-50. 2012. Technical Abstract: Plants inherit traits the same way Gregor Mendel observed in his famous experiments with peas in the 1800s. Breeders select parents with one or more desirable traits and then look for superior combinations of these traits in their offspring. Seedlings must be rigorously evaluated for the desirable traits and screened for negative traits that will also segregate among the progeny. As the number of traits to evaluate increases, combinations of traits becomes increasingly rare and large numbers of seedlings must be screened. This is labor-intensive and time-consuming, especially if the traits are only expressed in adulthood such as flower color in ornamental trees. Some traits are masked by other, dominant genetic effects, and other traits can be destructive to observe, such as drought tolerance or disease resistance. Biotechnology offers the potential to associate important traits with bits of DNA, called markers. Breeders can indirectly select for traits by screening seedlings for the markers that are positively associated with the traits they desire. Seedlings lacking the appropriate markers or containing markers associated with negative traits can be discarded immediately. Breeders using this strategy, called marker assisted selection (MAS), can make more crosses with the same resources and only keep progeny that are most likely to have desirable combinations of traits. These same markers can be used to DNA fingerprint cultivars, identify parents and hybrids, and unambiguously resolve breeding and plant patent issues.