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Research Project: Genetic Resource and Information Management and Genetic Improvement of Germplasm for Tropical and Subtropical Fruits, Sugarcane, and Related Grasses

Location: Subtropical Horticulture Research

Project Number: 6038-21000-026-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Mar 6, 2023
End Date: Mar 5, 2028

1. Conduct research to develop genetic resource maintenance, evaluation, or characterization methods and, in alignment with the overall NPGS Plan, apply them to priority tropical and subtropical fruit crops, sugarcane, and related grass genetic resources to avoid backlogs in plant genetic resource and information management. 1.A. Conduct research to develop in vitro maintenance and biotechnology-based germplasm management methods for (sub)tropical fruit crops and sugarcanes. 1.B. Evaluate and characterize germplasm using high-throughput genotyping, phenotyping, and genome-wide association studies. 2. Acquire, distribute, and safely maintain the genetic integrity, health, and viability of priority tropical and subtropical fruit crop, sugarcane, and related grass genetic resources and associated descriptive information. 2.A. Acquire and distribute germplasm and their associated descriptive information for (sub)tropical, sugarcane and related grasses. 2.B. Safely maintain the genetic integrity, health, and viability of priority tropical/subtropical fruits and sugarcanes ex situ in the field. 3. Conduct research to develop genetically-enhanced germplasm that broadens the diversity available for improving avocado and mango by incorporating superior traits from cultivars, landraces, and wild relatives into adapted genetic backgrounds and genepools, and by creating novel breeding populations. 3.A. Develop open-pollinated and targeted pre-breeding populations of avocado and mango. 3.B. Evaluate and characterize novel pre-breeding populations of avocado and mango at the phenotypic and genotypic levels.

The lead scientist/curator will plan, schedule and direct establishment of tissue culture infrastructure and protocols for maintaining germplasm in vitro. In coordination with collaborators, research will also be conducted to develop in vitro regeneration methods for developing cryopreservation methods for germplasm. Effective schedule for maintenance, propagation and regeneration of germplasm will be developed and implemented to better utilize field space at the Subtropical Horticulture Research Station (SHRS). Backing up of germplasm at alternate locations will be coordinated with collaborators. Germplasm and associated data will be distributed to researchers through Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN), GRIN-Global. Based on genetics and reproductive biology, germplasm will be planted to maximize outcrossing among genetically diverse germplasm, which will allow closing genetic gaps and facilitate generating open-pollinated populations. Germplasm will be genotyped using latest genotyping methods, which will enable denser molecular markers covering entire genomes. These analyses will also be extended to crop wild relatives of sugarcanes, mangoes and avocadoes when they are acquired. Concurrently, germplasm will be evaluated for agronomic and horticulturally important traits using traditional descriptors as well as new digital evaluation methods such as Normalized Digital Vegetation Index and Normalized Pigments Chlorophyll Ratio Index. Novel molecular phenotyping methods will be developed and implemented for collecting data on lipids, sugars, vitamins, minerals and secondary metabolites, which are expected to enhance value of germplasm for breeding nutrient-enriched and flavorful fruit crop varieties. Genotypic and phenotypic data will be used in genome-wide association studies for linking molecular markers with agronomically and horticulturally important traits. To improve genetic diversity in the germplasm and to provide genetic material for developing varieties, open-pollinated and controlled-pollinated populations of avocadoes and mango accessions will be generated, evaluated and genotyped. In coordination with collaborators and stakeholders, these populations as well as populations developed by stakeholders and collaborators and their associated genetic and phenotypic data will be utilized for developing molecular genetic markers for agronomically and horticulturally important traits for facilitating development of sugarcane, avocado and mango varieties.