After my holidays, my first visit was to the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB-TAG), where I enjoyed seeing the many recent developments in all phases of the ‘pipeline’ from some comparatively basic research on optimizing genetic transformation in wheat to some very applied work involving varietal testing and an innovation farm showcasing various activities. As the UK’s largest grain crop, wheat is an important target (including for genomics-driven breeding), and NIAB was studying a great many varieties.
Not least since the paper of Meuwissen and colleagues in 2001, it has been recognized that breeding strategies are likely to work better when one has knowledge of as much as possible of the genotype as well as of the phenotype, although the difficulty lies more in the optimization of the genotype-phenotype mapping. Genome sequences continue to be released apace (e.g. that for an apple variety), and the opportunities afforded by the upcoming genome sequencing of wheat – see last week’s blog – are truly enormous. [...]