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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Plant Breeders Are from Mars and Molecular Biologists Are from Venus

Authors
item Bilyeu, Kristin
item Chappell, Andrew

Submitted to: American Society of Plant Biologists Annual Meeting
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: May 4, 2005
Publication Date: July 16, 2005
Citation: Bilyeu, K.D., Chappell, A.S. 2005. Plant breeders are from mars and molecular biologists are from venus [abstract]. American Society of Plant Biologists Annual Meeting.

Technical Abstract: Successful manipulation of a crop plant’s genetic and molecular composition to address evolving nutritional demands of both humans and livestock requires the convergence of plant genomics and modern plant breeding; two fields that do not always interfuse. Plant genomics research will simply remain an academic endeavor unless intellectual gains are translated into improved quality crop traits through advanced plant breeding. Research in our lab focuses on applying the tools of genome analysis to real world problems in agriculture with the goal of bridging the gap between molecular biology and plant breeding. Using both forward and reverse genetic approaches, we are applying genomic gains from model plant systems to the complex genome of the soybean. For example, recent work in our lab has been directed at elucidating the genetic basis of soybean lines with the traits of altered fatty acid composition. Normal soybean seeds are high in polyunsaturated fatty acids, which ultimately lead to the formation of undesirable trans fats during oil processing. The soybean lines studied in this work exhibit altered fatty acid profiles and therefore result in a trans fat-free oil; a trait that is highly desirable in today’s marketplace. Using a candidate gene approach, mutations in three separate genes were identified, each of which additively contributes to the altered fatty acid phenotype. Gene-specific molecular markers were developed for each of the three genes to facilitate incorporation of the trait into elite soybean varieties through traditional plant breeding techniques. These markers are currently being used by plant breeders and are helping to increase breeding efficiency, thereby demonstrating the importance of successfully merging plant genomics and plant breeding. We are applying a similar approach to other important soybean seed traits such as energy content and available phosphorous levels. We believe that linking the powerful field of molecular biology to the practical problems of the classical plant breeder will result in innovative solutions to the demands of a hungry world.

Last Modified: 11/22/2014
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