Using genetic markers in plant breeding

david52 Zone 6April 17, 2014

At the link is a detailed account of the latest techniques in plant breeding, where scientists use genetic sampling of seedlings to test for desired traits - everything from flood-resistant rice strains to better tasting tomatoes. They then breed these specific plants.

snip - nside of it, two robotic arms perform a frenzied dance with plastic plates, each containing almost 100 leaf samples.

The machine, called the Biocell, does the work of 30 lab technicians and can process tens of thousands of tissue samples daily, said Jeff Touchman, Monsanto's head of molecular breeding in Woodland. The samples are liquefied, clarified and eventually injected into tiny indentations on a clear plastic ribbon.

The ribbon is spooled onto a scanner that uses light to trigger a chemical fluorescence, which reveals the presence of any desired genetic markers. A blue Internet cable threads upward, carrying the data to Monsanto's headquarters in St. Louis, where the company's vegetable breeders around the globe can download their results.

"If plants were people, we could test the entire population of Los Angeles for breast cancer susceptibility in a month and a half," Touchman said. "We think this is the highest throughput of genetic testing in the world, of any industry."

It is about to get higher.

For plants with larger seeds, breeders can clip off a piece of the seed and test its DNA without waiting for it to grow into a seedling. snip

My reaction - Wow. Much more at the link

Here is a link that might be useful: link

This post was edited by david52 on Thu, Apr 17, 14 at 10:48

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rosie(Deep South, USA 7A/B)

Wow, also.

Plant biotics aside, though, this is the kind of thing someone meant when he told me just the past several years had brought enormous advances in computers that were beyond the imagining of laymen and that they were going to change everything. He was in the field and, watching his face, clearly awed just thinking about it, was probably a moment I'll never forget.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 12:39PM
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Does this method of plant breeding qualify as biopiracy?

The example of flood resistant rice is absurd considering there already was flood resistant rice, along with about 500 other varieties of rice grown in India. Navdanya is Vandana Shiva's organization.

"Through extensive research among farmers whose crops did not fail in the event of a natural disaster, Navdanya has amassed saline-resistant, flood-resistant and drought-resistant seeds. In 1999, after a cyclone devastated Orissa, NavdanyaâÂÂs seed bank in the area distributed saline-resistant seeds to farmers. In 2004, after the tsunami in Tamil Nadu, the same seeds were given to farmers there. âÂÂItâÂÂs in moments of crisis that people look at alternatives, and where alternatives catch on,â says Jani. âÂÂLarge parts of Orissa and Tamil Nadu now use our saline-resistant and flood-resistant rice varieties.â "

I like this quote from the same article:

"âÂÂLook at these beautiful corn kernels,â Anand says, beaming, âÂÂwe know how to spot the best seeds, itâÂÂs in our blood.âÂÂ

Here is a link that might be useful: live mint & the wsj

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 8:57PM
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Probably I'm a bit of a Luddite, but I don't feel like this kind of thing is the answer for food security.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 9:31PM
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marshallz10(z9-10 CA)

Marker-assisted plant breeding has been around for more than a decade and time and again out-performed plant breeding via horizontal transgenic transfer of traits in east Africa search for disease resistances in manioc, yams and other crops. These research stations developing non-gmo crops with superior qualities have found their staff and funds limited while Gates and friends push GMOs. Pretty sad.

Moreover, it is one thing to identify the traits and another to isolate and essentially replace these genetic packages and their rNA managers in living plants. We are not often talking about identifying a single pair of genes since the same genes will express any number of properties in the formation of proteins/enzymes.

What they are breeding are genetic clones with narrow genetic diversity. Yes, a variety my be saline-resistant, but at what agronomic costs for the farmer facing other pressures on crop production.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 10:42PM
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Very sad, Marshallz...

"What they are breeding are genetic clones with narrow genetic diversity. Yes, a variety my be saline-resistant, but at what agronomic costs for the farmer facing other pressures on crop production."

One can only control so much... and the variables can be many.

Corporations like Monsanto won't be happy until they've monopolized a world they refuse to see in the long term... it can't end well.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 2:10AM
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According to this Diary post on

Monsanto and the other 4 gene giants have taken more than 1,500 patents on climate resilient traits in crops (âÂÂBiopiracy of Climate resilient cropsâ �" Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology �" 2009).

The Indian patent office rejected a Monsanto patent on climate resilient crops.

Marshall, do you know if these crops are sold as a "package" that includes fertilizer & pesticides?

Here is a link that might be useful: biopiracy

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 8:00AM
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marshallz10(z9-10 CA)

I lost another post. Getting old (both losing it and LOSING it.) My short answer is unlikely that there is a packaged system for fert and pest. with hybrid seed, at least for the vast number of small-holder farmers in India. But I'm no expert in these matters. Dr. Shiva is on top of all these issues through her organizations' outreach efforts.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 6:23PM
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