US - The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded $18.5 million to Cornell University to aid worldwide breeding of the staple crops wheat, rice, maize, sorghum and chickpea.
The project will allow plant breeders all over the world to use modular, open-source breeding software resources to manage big data.
Millions of data points are being accumulated on hundreds of thousands of new breeding lines in breeding programs run by CGIAR, a consortium of 15 research centres around the world.
The centres are filling databases with genetic profiles as well as breeders’ observations on traits, and also include information about drought tolerance, disease resistance and yield.
Susan McCouch, professor of plant breeding and genetics and the project’s principal investigator, said: “No one can handle the volumes of data.
"Massive quantities of phenotype and genotype data are overwhelming to most public-sector breeding programs.
“On this project, we think of ourselves as the back office.
"The grant allows us to move forward with what’s essentially a service project to develop and deliver useful tools and information to public sector breeders around the world.”
The project will bring together software engineers and geneticists with plant breeders at three centres in Mexico, India and the Philippines.
Ms McCouch said: “Ultimately, our goal is to increase the rate at which smallholder farmers in the developing world benefit from advances in the application of genomics to plant breeding.”
TheCropSite News Desk