NCCC204: The Interface of Molecular and Quantitative Genetics in Plant and Animal Breeding
Statement of Issues and JustificationQuantitative genetics focuses on understanding and modeling the inheritance of so-called complex or quantitative traits, which are phenotypes that affected by multiple genes and the environment Quantitative genetics has had remarkable success in both plant and animal breeding by directing strategies for genetic selection of agronomic traits. Those advancements, however, have been limited by the relatively simplistic assumptions of the model for inheritance of quantitative traits and the tools available for estimating genetic worth. With the advent of molecular genetics, those limitations no longer need apply. We now have the means to uncover the true modes of inheritance of quantitative traits by unlocking the mysteries of the genetic code. Although structural genomics has revealed the DNA sequence of the human genome and of several plant and animal species, less than 1% of the human genetic code can be deciphered into functional genes. The DNA sequence is like the Egyptian hieroglyphics on the Rosetta stone: we have the cipher but do not yet know what it all means. Functional genomics is the painstaking process of extracting meaning from the code. Functional genomics will reveal gene function and regulation, knowledge that we can apply in advanced breeding programs. Several obstacles, however, remain before such a goal can be realized. Those are detailed below.
Need: More than ever before, the need for proper statistical methodology and bioinformatics is critical to the advancement of molecular genetics and for the application of those advancements to improvement of agriculturally relevant plant and animal species. The latter is been termed "translational genomics" whereby information gleamed from molecular genetics is transformed into applications in the field. Failure to empower translational genomics through bioinformatics techniques would relegate the finding of genomics to academic interest and not realize the promise of biotechnology.
Stakeholders: The primary stakeholders are those who can most directly utilize this information: plant and animal breeders, vector biologists, medical entomologists, agricultural entomologists and conservation biologists. Ultimately the stakeholders are all those who will benefit from plant and animal agriculture by enhanced productivity, increased exports, decreased production costs, and increased safety and healthfulness of food for human consumption.
Feasibility and need for multi-state project: The technical feasibility of the research is excellent. Rapid advancements in statistical methodology are possible when driven by small groups of interacting scientists. These issues and questions are therefore best addressed by scientists working in diverse fields of genetics, from gene mapping to bioinformatics and with a diverse range of species, both plant and animal. However, few scientists have in depth knowledge of all. By bringing together a diverse group of scientists in these areas to exchange information on methods of gene mapping, bioinformatics, such issues can be more efficiently and widely addressed. By including scientists from plant and animal breeding companies, relevance of the proposed work will be ensured.
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