New breeding methods to increase genetic gain

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

4 – 5.30 p.m.

On Zoom


New breeding methods to increase genetic gain



Wheat is the most widely grown crop in the world, providing over 20% of the calories and protein consumed globally. To meet food security in the coming decades is it estimated that we must increase production of staple food crops by over 60%. This is a formable task for plant breeding as current estimates of genetic gain are less than 1% per year, relative to the estimated 2% gain per year needed to meet projected demand. The genetic gain in breeding, measured as the average performance of the breeding population over time, is a function of the breeding population size, the genetic diversity, and the selection accuracy and intensity. Parallel to this, the length of the breeding cycle also has an immense impact on genetic gain. With the introduction of low-cost next generation sequencing, availability of whole-genome profiling of breeding populations has enabled development of whole-genome models for prediction of complex traits. These genomic selection models enable predicting traits that are expensive and difficult to measure, such as grain yield or grain quality. The power of genomic prediction, therefore, is found in both increasing selection intensity and decreasing the breeding cycle time, leading to acceleration of the breeding program and expected increase in genetic gain. In wheat breeding programs, we have focused on applying whole-genome prediction and genomic selection for disease and pest resistance, grain yield and end-use traits including milling and baking quality. Combined with the decreased cost and higher throughput of genotyping relative to phenotypic evaluation, we can genotype from two to ten times more individuals than can be evaluated in field trials and quality lab. From the observed prediction accuracy and evaluated population size, we estimate ability to increase genetic gain 2- to 3-fold over current breeding pipeline. Genomic selection, therefore, has great potential for various breeding programs to increase genetic gain through decreasing cycle time and increasing population sizes. However, integration into current breeding pipelines has logistical challenges that are important to address when shifting to new technologies and selection strategies. When integrated into breeding, the recent advancements in genomics have great potential to accelerate variety development and meet the target rate of gain needed in the coming decades.

About the speaker

Dr. Jesse Poland is an Associate Professor at Kansas State University in the Department of Plant Pathology. He is appointed to the graduate faculty in Genetics, Plant Pathology and Agronomy where he serves as major professor and committee member for students in plant breeding and genetics. Dr. Poland is the Director of the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Applied Wheat Genomics with focus on applying genomics tools to accelerate wheat breeding and develop climate resilient wheat varieties throughout the world. As Director of the Wheat Genetics Resource Center, Dr. Poland also leads research to characterize wild wheat germplasm and leveraging valuable genetic diversity for wheat improvement for increased resilience to biotic and abiotic stresses.

The overall focus of the Poland Lab is on quantitative genetics, genomics and high-throughput phenotyping to accelerate plant breeding. The group has active research in genetic diversity studies, and association genetics with the overall goal of understanding the wheat genome and increasing genetic gain in wheat breeding. In collaboration with public breeding programs, Dr. Poland is implementing the use of genomic selection methods to accelerate wheat breeding. In the area of germplasm development, Dr. Poland’s group is focused on developing new breeding lines with resistance to the major pests of wheat including stem rust, stripe rust, leaf rust, Barley Yellow Dwarf virus and Hessian Fly while increasing the understanding of the genetic basis of these traits. To compliment advances in genomics, Dr. Poland’s lab is actively developing and applying high-throughput phenotyping approaches for field-based evaluation of breeding lines with the primary focus being genetic characterization of heat and drought tolerance and development of improved germplasm.

Dr. Poland currently supervises four graduate students as major professor and is mentor to seven post-doctoral scholars. He teaches graduate courses in plant genetics and serves as advisor for the plant breeding and genetics graduate student club.

Event Quick Information

11 Nov, 2020
16:00 PM – 17:30 PM