Malatya Haber Breakthroughs made in genomic selection, precision phenotyping
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Breakthroughs made in genomic selection, precision phenotyping

To accelerate the continual development of new and improved wheat varieties, novel approaches are needed to extend conventional selection methods, according to Jesse Poland, assistant professor of Agronomy at Kansas State University and director of the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Applied Wheat Genomics.

Poland will be provide insights into “Genomic Selection and Precision Phenotyping” at the upcoming Borlaug Summit on Wheat for Food Security, Ciudad Obregón, Mexico on March 25 to 28. The Borlaug Summit is organized by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative and the Patronato for Research and Agricultural Experimentation of the State of Sonora.

“Revolutions in genomics-assisted breeding, complemented by advancements in precision, high-throughput phenotyping will enable 21st century plant breeding on the scale needed to increase crop production and global food security despite less favorable climates and land degradation,” Poland wrote in his presentation abstract.

“With advancements in DNA sequencing technology, it has become less expensive to determine the genotype of new breeding lines than to evaluate those same lines in yield trials,” Poland continued. In this context, whole-genome prediction models (i.e., genomic selection) can be applied to more efficiently utilize resources while shortening the breeding cycle. At the same time, Poland explains that genomic selection cannot completely replace phenotypic assessment of new breeding lines. “To match the phenomenal advancements in genomics, novel approaches for precision, high-throughput phenotyping are needed.”

During his presentation at the Borlaug Summit, Poland will explain how working at the intersection of genetics, breeding, engineering, physiology, and computer science will lead to development of novel phenotyping platforms and the implementation of these platforms in plant breeding programs will match and expand the transformative effect of genomics-assisted breeding.

The Borlaug Summit on Wheat for Food Security honors the 100th anniversary of the birth and the legacy of Norman Borlaug, a legendary CIMMYT scientist who developed high-yielding, semi-dwarf wheat, which is credited with saving more than 1 billion people from starvation. The Summit will look back at Borlaug’s legacy as the father of the Green Revolution, which sparked key advances in food production. Borlaug was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 in recognition of his contributions to world peace through an increased food supply. Borlaug’s wheat varieties were grown in Mexico, Turkey, India and Pakistan, boosting harvests in those countries sparking widespread adoption of improved crop varieties and farming practices and avoiding famine in South Asia.

Poland will be one of a number of experts speaking at the Borlaug Summit, which will focus on wheat’s critical role in global food security. Other speakers include:

Howard Buffett, chairman and CEO of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation;

M.S. Swaminathan, “Father” of the Green Revolution in India and chair of the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation;

Sir Gordon Conway, Imperial College London;

Ronnie Coffman, vice-chair of the BGRI and director of International Programs, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University;

Per Pinstrup-Andersen, 2001 World Food Prize Laureate;

Steve Jennings, head of Programme Policy at Oxfam;

Hélène Lucas, international scientific coordinator of the Wheat Initiative; and

Robert T. Fraley, executive vice president/chief technology officer at Monsanto and 2013 World Food Prize Laureate.

In addition, the president of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, has been invited to speak.

Research in Poland’s group is focused on wheat genetics and germplasm improvement. The group is currently developing new marker technologies for use in breeding, diversity studies and association genetics. In collaboration with public breeding programs, Poland is exploring the use of genomic selection methods in wheat breeding.

In germplasm development, Poland’s group is focused on developing new breeding lines with resistance to the major wheat pests including stem rust, strip rust, leaf rust and Hessian Fly. To compliment advances in genomics, Poland’s lab is developing high-throughput phenotyping approaches for field-based evaluation of breeding lines. The primary focus of this work is the genetic characterization of heat and drought tolerance and the development of improved germplasm.

Poland currently supervises six graduate students, two post-doctoral scholars and sits on the graduate committees of five other students at Kansas State University and Colorado State University, where he holds affiliate faculty status.

For more information on the Borlaug Summit on Wheat for Food Security, visit

Additional information on Poland’s work can be found at

Date: 3/10/2014


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