Submitted to: Field Crops Research
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/18/2004
Publication Date: 8/15/2004
Citation: White, J.W., Mcmaster, G.S., Edmeades, G. 2004. Genomics and crop response to global change: what have we learned?. Field Crops Research. 90:165-169.
Interpretive Summary: This paper summarizes themes covered in papers from a special issue of the journal Field Crops Research that examined how better integration of research on crop physiology and on plant genomics can strengthen our understanding of how global change will affect crop production. The papers provide solid examples of how genomics is clarifying the genetic and physiological control or processes such as flowering and photosynthesis. New techniques and advances in sequencing of crop species show special promise. Physiological research complements genomics by bringing an understanding of the response of the whole plant or crop to changes at the genome level. An appreciation of how the organism responds to the environment adds biological meaning to crop responses that researchers can detect with sophisticated statistical analyses but that have proven hard to interpret in terms of plant characteristics. Furthermore, physiologists have traditionally measured phenotypes in careful detail and can add precision to research relating effects of genes to what might happen in a farmer's field. Research on crop response to global change has much to gain from strengthened collaboration between genomics and field-level crop physiology. Such collaboration may prove fundamental to the ability of US agriculture to adapt to forces of global change such as increased atmospheric CO2 and increased temperatures and frequency of extreme weather events.
Technical Abstract: Global change poses major challenges for research in fields ranging from crop improvement to water and fertilizer management. Plant genomics is often promoted as a likely source of breakthroughs in understanding plant response to temperature and water stress. This special issue presented a spectrum of papers, ranging from gene-to-phenotype associations to system scale, examining successes and problems with linking physiology and genomics for global change research. Key themes that were covered included 'How genomics can contribute to global change research,' 'Genomics and basic understanding of crop responses to the environment,' and 'What can field-level physiology bring to genomics research?' Extrapolation from the model species Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana (L.) Heynh.) has proven more problematic than anticipated, but new techniques and advances in sequencing of crop species helps compensate for such difficulties. Physiological research complements genomics by bringing an understanding of the response of the whole plant or crop. An appreciation of how macro-scale processes such as photosynthesis and partitioning adds biological meaning to many genotype-by-environment interactions that are significant statistically but otherwise remain as statistics. Furthermore, physiologists have traditionally measured phenotypes in careful detail, and they have a clear role in adding precision to research on gene-to-phenotype associations. Research on crop response to global change has much to gain from strengthened collaboration between genomics and field-level crop physiology.