Developing new strains of plants with a greater yield or greater resistance to disease is a lengthy process. Currently, breeding products must be manually infected to determine whether they are disease-resistant, and corn plants must first produce ears before their yield can be determined.
A research team from Vlaams Instituut voor Biotechnologie (VIB) and Ghent University in Belgium has developed a new method which allows them to predict the final size of a plant while it is still a seedling. This discovery can significantly accelerate plant breeding programs.
This newly developed method is based on the knowledge that a set of genes is associated with the final size of a leaf. Scientist Dirk Inze from VIB said, "These new insights will help us accelerate the plant breeding process. This selection process can be made much more efficient by choosing plants on the basis of genetic data rather than on the basis of external characteristics."
Which DNA sequences are responsible for which traits remains unknown to a large extent. By identifying the presence of such DNA sequences in seedlings, also known as genetic markers, it is possible to predict at a very early stage whether the fully grown plants will be disease-resistant. This type of breeding is known as marker-assisted breeding.
The scientists developed a new method designed to predict the size of the leaves of a fully-grown corn plant while the plant itself is still a seedling. They said, "Expression analysis of specific genes will help breeders select the most useful crossing products at a very early stage."
The results were published in two scientific papers in Genome Biology.