Production of staple grains like rice and sorghum must double in the next 50 years to keep pace with global population growth, rising incomes, and climate change. It currently takes 10 years to release a new rice variety. We must make use of new computational/quantitative genomics tools to increase breeding efficiency.
Traditional breeding is based on how a plant looks (phenotype) rather than the combination of genes a plant carries (genotype). In Genomics-assisted breeding, we aim to build statistical models that can predict the best combination of genes for meeting important breeding goals.
In the last ten years, our power to collect vast quantities of DNA sequence data has outpaced our ability to collect equally high-quality phenotype data. Collecting trait data from crop fields using special drones is one solution to this problem.
Tapping New Diversity
Millions of diverse rice accessions are kept in global gene banks such as the one at the International Rice Research Institute. DNA Sequencing and genomic analysis of these diverse varieties would allow the full breadth of natural variation in rice to be utilized for breeding.