Selection for accelerated barley breeding

Lead Research Organisation: University of Dundee
Department Name: School of Life Sciences

Abstract

Continual improvement of our major crops through breeding is essential if we are to maintain our supply of food, feed and fibres. Modern crop breeding often uses a variety of molecular and statistical tools to make breeding faster and more precise. Marker assisted selection can help in breeding programmes by following the presence of molecular DNA markers that correspond to traits of interest, such as high yield or disease resistance, even when nothing is known about the exact genes controlling the trait. In livestock breeding, as opposed to crop breeding, an alternative method is sometimes used called genomic selection. In genomic selection, all of the specific DNA markers that define the genetic make-up of an animal, and not just those correlated with the trait, are used to predict its 'breeding value' i.e. how good a parent it will be for producing superior offspring with improved specific characteristics. We have produced a new model for adapting genomic selection methods to barley breeding. Our statistical model correlates all of the specific DNA markers that are present in a cultivar (indicative of the specific gene variants in that cultivar) with a range of different phenotypes we have measured including grain yield, biomass yield, straw strength etc. The model can be used to predict which cultivars are best to use to improve specific traits, and can further predict how progeny will perform for that trait by determining the complement of molecular markers that they inherit from their parents. This is a more efficient way of predicting the best cultivars to breed from as it takes into account all of their molecular markers and not just those that are obviously correlated with the trait, as is the case with traditional marker assisted selection.

This studentship will explore the use of this model for its value in barley pre-breeding, by using it to select the best barley cultivars to breed from in order to improve a couple of specific traits (e.g. digestibility, yield). The project will train the PhD student in many aspects of plant breeding including the use of both molecular and statistical analyses, the design and performance of field trials, field phenotyping, production of di-haploid populations etc. The student will be supervised by Prof Claire Halpin of the University of Dundee (based on the James Hutton Institute site) and the barley breeder at the James Hutton Institute (JHI), Dr. Bill Thomas. The student will also receive training from Prof Robbie Waugh (cereal genetics), Hazel Bull (trainee barley breeder) and Helena Oakey (biological statistician). The successful applicant will benefit from all of the expertise and resources available at both UoD and JHI. Candidates must fulfil RCUK eligibility requirements, which can be found at: http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/web/FILES/Guidelines/studentship_eligibility.pdf

Publications

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Thomas WTB (2019) A Practical Guide to Barley Crossing. in Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.)

Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
BB/M017362/1 01/10/2015 30/09/2019
1653751 Studentship BB/M017362/1 19/10/2015 30/09/2019 Ruth Hamilton
 
Description Plant Power Day- Botanical gardens Dundee 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Plant power day is a joint event between the University of Dundee and the James Hutton Institute held annually at the Botanical gardens in Dundee. The event was attended by +1000 visitors in the past few years. A range of activities are organised for visiting families, including face painting, science workshops and birds of prey.

We ran the Crop wild relative activity and the crop origins game, where members of the public need to guess where in the world crops major crops originated from.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015,2016,2017,2018,2019
 
Description Street Food event- University of Dundee-Dundee Science Festival 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Two games were taken to the Street Food event, an +18 event run within the Dundee Science Festival. The event aimed to link food production, particularly with local businesses to science research at the University of Dundee. Local businesses at the event included a brewing company and an ice cream company. Talks were also given about research/facilities at the University of Dundee.

I ran the Crop Wild Relative game, where members of the public need to guess which picture matches the modern crop variety.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018
URL https://www.dundee.ac.uk/festival-future/programme/2018/18-10-18-street-food-.php
 
Description Women in Science- Family Fun event at Mills Observatory 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact As part of the Women in Science festival, a Family fun day event was run at Mills Observatory. Multiple research groups from the University of Dundee attended.

A DNA extraction activity was organised, where children assisted in extracting DNA from raspberries.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2019
URL https://www.facebook.com/events/2177285275625203/