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Low cost DNA identification of crop varieties


Wheat is the world's most widely grown commercial crop in terms of land area and yield and supplies 19% of all calories consumed. Global annual production is around 0.7 billion tonnes with a total export value of $46 billion. In the UK, wheat is the most important crop by yield at 15 million tonnes. Compared to other cereals, wheat lacks the genetic diversity required for resilience and yield increases in line with global demands. Unless germplasm diversity is managed with great care and coordination, selective breeding inevitably reduce diversity further over time. Efforts to direct elite variety crosses within the breeding industry and progress these rapidly to market are undermined by a complete lack of standardised varietal identification system, not just globally but even within the UK academic and breeding communities, leading to misidentifications within germplasm collections and a lack of interoperability between and among breeders, academics and regulators, all of whom use different genetic markers or none at all. In this proposal we will engage the international wheat community through the coordination umbrella of the Wheat Initiative, the UK breeding sector - via our partners at RAGT, and DSV and the regulatory framework of the British Society of Plant breeders to test and deploy an optimal set of genetic markers capable of discriminating wheat and other crop varieties at low cost. BBSRC funding over the past 20 years has brought us to the point where we have been able to screen thousands of hexaploid wheat lines with over 35,000 genetic markers. We have developed an algorithm that was able to select just 29 markers from these data that were able to discriminate all 2040 lines. In this project we will convert these markers to low cost KASP assays for use in industry and academia. The inclusion of the national and globally significant seed repository for wheat - the GRU at the John Innes Centre in addition to the majority of European breeding companies ensures that we can set the benchmark for genetic markers for wheat and lead by example globally. Our website, which has been a key international repository for wheat genotyping data since 2004 will be used to disseminate the marker data and host a web tool for identifying varieties genotyped with our panel. The marker system will be made freely available and we anticipate primary impact through its widespread adoption as a standard system run in-house by breeders and academics. We will also offer this as a service at a total cost of £10 per sample (including DNA extraction) through our well-established Bristol Genomics Facility on a non-profit full economic cost basis.

Dr Gary Barker
University of Bristol
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