Research Report 2019_20


Creating a pipeline to diversify and increase crop yields across the world

Diverse seeds from a seed library are planted to test new and/or potential crops for different states across the country.

Entrepreneurial and small business opportunities arise for the food

Fast to grow

Higher Yields

industry including farmers, restaurateurs, food service providers and exporters among others involved in the agriculture process.


Drought Tolerant

Scientists test seeds and consult with agronomists, farmers, food manufactur- ers, consumers and other agriculture agencies on what plants work best for each region of the land.

Farmers continue to grow the new crops over the seasons and report back on findings to share information with the agricultural community.

The plant’s DNA is sequenced and analyzed to gain an understanding of the plant’s genome.

The whole team selects plants based on field and genetics work to fuel next generation of breeding crops and improve production of these crops.

Farmers plant next generation crops and share and receive feedback with partners like food and drink producers.

improve other plants?’ The pipeline from genome sequencing to plant breeding relies heavily on the strong foundation of their high-quality genome sequencing. Im- provements in sequencing technology allow Grimwood and Schmutz's groups to quickly generate high-quality reference sequences for many species of plants, there- by providing a valuable resource for all researchers to begin identifying and breeding for desirable traits. A new project that relies heavily on the reference genomes was recently initiated at HudsonAlpha’s Center for Plant Science and Sustainable Agriculture to address the need for improved agricultural crops in many regions of the country. HudsonAlpha faculty members Josh Clevenger, PhD, Alex Harkess, PhD, and Kankshita Swaminathan, PhD, also contribute their expertise to the project in addition to Grimwood and Schmutz. Because many crops that are grown in Ala- bama were not originally bred for the Alabama climate and soil, they do not flourish as well as they do else- where in the country. The goal of the Center’s new proj- ect is to use the power of genomics and plant breeding to introduce new, improved agricultural crops in Alabama. For example, Grimwood and Schmutz previous- ly generated the first reference sequence for the

common bean 5 and contributed to early work in barley. Researchers at HudsonAlpha, along with several expert collaborators, will plant diverse bean and barley germplasmat several field stations throughout the state, and monitor their growth throughout the growing sea- son to pick plants that produce the most in our climate, are resistant to disease, or other important agricultural characteristics. Leaning on their genomic exper- tise and the reference genome, HudsonAlpha faculty will read the DNA and analyze relationships between genetic variation and phenotypic traits to select lines for improved breeding of new crops for Alabama. Knowing which genes control specific traits allows researchers to select for plants that will thrive in Alabama. While the group is focusing on improving crops to thrive in Alabama, the pipeline that is developed and improved during this initial project will be applicable to plants in other geographical locations in the United States and around the world. Grimwood and Schmutz continue to leverage their growing genomics exper- tise with the ever-improving sequencing technology to deploy genomics into plant breeding and help to ac- celerate plant breeding programs to develop the next generation of crops. n


2019-20 Research Report 31

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