Login

GPC Members Login
If you have any problems or have forgotten your login please contact [email protected]


Combining genomics with farmers' traditional knowledge to improve wheat production

The key to produce better crops to meet the needs of the growing world's population may lie in combining the traditional knowledge of subsistence farmers of the Ethiopian highlands with plant genomics. Researchers in Italy and Ethiopia conducted research that demonstrates that the indigenous knowledge of traditional farmers, passed on from one generation to the next since hundreds of years, can be measured in a quantitative way and used with advanced genomic and statistical methods to identify genes responsible for farmers' preference of wheat.

The livelihood of hundreds of millions of people living in smallholder farming systems depends on the products they obtain from marginal fields. Smallholder farmers are very knowledgeable in what they grow, because they must be efficient in selecting the crop varieties that will ensure the subsistence of their household. With an innovative approach overturning the classical scheme of modern plant breeding, the authors of this research developed a method to extract the traditional knowledge from smallholder farmers' and to use it to inform modern, genomic-driven breeding.

The result of this original research, conducted by scientists from the Institute of Life Sciences of Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna in Pisa and from Bioversity International, and participated by the University of Bologna, the Amhara Agricultural Research Center, and the Mekelle Univeristy in Ethiopia, was published in Frontiers in Plant Science. Researches worked with 60 farmers from two smallholder farming communities in the Ethiopian highlands. For two straight weeks, farmers evaluated 400 wheat varieties for traits of their interest side by side with geneticists measuring agronomic traits on the same plots. The evaluation provided more than 200 thousands data points, that the researchers related to 30 million molecular data deriving from the genomic characterization of the wheat varieties. This approach allowed to identify for the first time genomic regions responding to smallholder farmers' traditional knowledge, demonstrating that farmers may identify genomic regions relevant for breeding that exceeds those identified by classic metric measurements of traits alone.

"This study is a milestone in modern crop breeding" says Matteo Dell'Acqua, geneticist at the Scuola Sant'Anna and coordinator of the research "as it is the first in demonstrating that the traditional knowledge of smallholder farmers has a genetic basis that can be extracted with methods already available to the scientific community. These farmers can teach us how to produce crop varieties adapted to local agriculture, fighting food insecurity in farming systems most exposed to climate change"

Read the paper: Genome Wide Association Study to Identify the Genetic Base of Smallholder Farmer Preferences of Durum Wheat Traits.

Article source: Frontiers.

News

Pesticides: What happens if we run out of options?

To slow the evolutionary progression of weeds and insect pests gaining resistance to herbicides and pesticides, policymakers should provide resources for large-scale, landscape-level studies of a number of promising but untested approaches for slowing pest evolution. Such landscape studies are now more feasible because of new genomic and technological innovations that could be used to compare the efficacy of strategies for preventing weed and insect resistance.


Scientists uncover a new face of a famous protein, SWI2/SNF2 ATPase

A team of Texas A&M and Texas A&M AgriLife Research scientists now have a deeper understanding of a large switch/sucrose non-fermentable (SWI/SNF) protein complex that plays a pivotal role in plant and human gene expression that causes life-threatening diseases such as cancer.


Battling bubbles: How plants protect themselves from killer fungus

In the battle between plants and pathogens, molecules called small RNAs are coveted weapons used by both invaders and defenders.