Moving from Functional Genomics to Functional Improvement in Sorghum
In an era when resequencing crop genomes has become easy, relatively cheap and commonplace, we are finally in a position to understand the function of nearly every gene in the genome and the effect each has on traits of agronomic or economic interest. A sequence indexed, searchable, saturated collection of mutants allows breeders to pursue a much more informed approach to improving important traits. In turn, that information allows us to explore and mine the natural genetic diversity for specific genes of interest in breeding programs. This huge amount of information, and the pipelines that lead to it, prove to be complex and somewhat user-unfriendly. While that presents great opportunity for the earliest movers, optimization of growth and production in food and fuel crops, in the global sense, will only come when both the information and the training in its routine application are in the hands of breeders worldwide in a useful form. Those most familiar with the natural diversity of crop species and the sometimes subtle, phenotypic differences among locally adapted breeding stock are often unable to tap into valuable and important information that can help them understand and develop their materials and promote germplasm exchange. We are trying to change that paradigm.
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