A visit to global plant breeding company KWS by the Young Innovators’ Forum was very successful, with loads of questions being asked.
One of the core aims of Agri-Tech East is to help connect the innovation communities with the end users – the farmers, growers and processors – and understanding each other’s needs, drivers and challenges is key to effective collaborations. So what better place to start than by bringing together early career farmers and scientists – those who will be both developing and using the new innovations of the agri-tech future?
Breeding wheat is difficult as its genome is massive – over five times larger than that of humans – so it hasn’t yet been fully sequenced. However in January this year there was a major advance when The International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium (IWGSC) reported that the whole genome assembly of bread wheat, the most widely grown cereal globally, had been completed.
Chris Tapsell, Technical Director of KWS, explains that in crops where sequencing data is available it is possible to more easily determine the genes that control a desired trait.
“We don’t yet have all this information for wheat but what we do know is that some areas of DNA, called quantitative trait loci (QTL) are correlated to certain desirable features or phenotypes.
“The QTLs can be identified in the DNA sequence using molecular markers. If the markers are found in a particular plant this generally confirms that the desired trait is present.”
These molecular markers are being used to give individual breeding lines a predicted ‘Breeding Value’, which is then used by the breeder for selection purposes.
YIF were given a rare insight into this rapidly developing area of breeding technology. The event was organised by the CambPlants Hub and Agri-Tech East and sponsored by the Morley Agricultural Foundation.