Molecular markers are landmarks that help plant scientists identify specific chromosome segments that contain genes of interest. Marker-assisted selection technology allows breeders to more precisely and simultaneously select the best trait combinations (or genes) during the breeding process.
For example, a plant scientist might mark a combination of genes known to increase disease resistance, Close explained. Breeders wanting the disease resistance trait then use marker information to identify individuals containing that specific combination of genes. They do so without having to directly measure the trait, which can be difficult and expensive.
Ehlers, Roberts and Close, along with their project-funded programmers, postdoctoral researchers and students, will develop a detailed genetic roadmap of cowpea. In collaboration with their African partners in the national breeding programs of Senegal, Burkina Faso, Cameroon as well as with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Nigeria, they will identify genes linked to important traits such as tolerance to drought and resistance to pests.
The grant to UCR is part of a broader effort by CGIARs Generation Challenge Program to improve legumes in sub-Saharan Africa, including beans, groundnuts and chickpeas.
The Generation Challenge Program is a research network that uses plant genetic diversity, advanced genomic science and comparative biology to develop tools and technologies that enable plant breeders in the developing world to produce better crop varieties for resource-poor farmers.
|Contact: Iqbal Pittalwala|
University of California - Riverside