Submitted to: Applied Biotechnology, Food Science and Policy
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/9/2004
Publication Date: 5/4/2004
Citation: McGrath, J.M. 2004. Plant breeding and the promise of genomics. Applied Biotechnology, Food Science and Policy 2003. 1(4):207-211.
Interpretive Summary: Plant breeding results in increased production of food and fiber for human use, but is a relative slow, laborious, and at times uncertain process. Breeding efficiency could be improved with specific knowledge of the biochemistry and physiology underlying expression of high agronomic performance. New tools of genomics, to deduce structure and function of the genetic material in plants, can be applied to crop enhancement. This article outlines the major activities needed to realize this promise, such as complete genome sequencing of crops, evaluation of molecular diversity specifically at genes involved in crop performance, and expanding methods of analysis to include gene expression in addition to inheritance. These activities will have a profound influence on the practice of breeding, and thus increase efficiency of breeding.
Technical Abstract: This article examines the theme of plant breeding and selection and considers how genomics may impact plant breeding. The basic premise is that plant breeding operates at the level of the organism, yet genomics operates at the level of the gene. This wide disparity of scale has important implications for gene discovery and for gene deployment, such as the necessity to conduct genomic investigations in most crop species simultaneously. Use of ontogenetic gene discovery approaches will allow full advantage of existing diversity partitioned in breeding populations and varieties. Molecular genetic diversity in crop species germplasm needs to be focused on genes involved in trait expression, and then systematically incorporated into elite breeding populations for evaluation. Emerging genomic technologies will discover specific biochemical targets for plant breeding and increase precision during breeding and selection cycles.