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Scientists seek useful traits in wild cottons

If you have Mom's smile, Dad's eyes and Grandpa's laugh, you might wonder what other traits you picked up from the genealogic fabric of the ol' family tree.

Scientists at the Texas A&M University System Agricultural Research and Extension at Lubbock are studying the family tree of cotton for much the same reason.

"Cotton genetic diversity has narrowed in recent years," said Dr. John Gannaway, Texas Agricultural Experiment Station cotton breeder. "Many of today's successful commercial varieties share common parents and grandparents.

"Many scientists believe today's varieties are flexible enough genetically to handle minor changes but lack enough diversity for really spectacular change. Aside from limiting fiber quality and yield potential, narrow genetics makes them more susceptible to insects and disease."

Gannaway and other scientists believe future progress in cotton breeding can only be achieved if sufficient genetic variability remains in global breeding stocks.

The mission of the center's Crops Genetic Research Facility is to investigate the potential of useful traits lying undiscovered in the gene pool or germplasm of obsolete and wild cottons contained in U.S., Russian and French cotton collections. These traits could help diversify the gene pool from which breeders draw new varieties in the future.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service facilities in College Station house one of three international collections of cottons. Another resides in France and another in Uzbekistan, in the former Soviet Union. Breeders worldwide are evaluating specimens from these collections and exchanging germplasm in their efforts to improve the cotton genome.

"These collections contain a wealth of genetic material," Gannaway said, "especially when you compare them to today's varieties. We are screening obsolete and wild cottons for useful tra
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Source:Texas A&M University - Agricultural Communications


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