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Maize and wheat informatics for improved livelihoods around the world

Maize, wheat and barley (courtesy pixabay.com)
"The ICS group brings together an exceptional combination of skills and expertise, providing the Institute with a unique capacity to rise to the challenges of genome analysis to contribute to UN Sustainable Development Goal 2

Bioinformaticians at the James Hutton Institute are contributing to a major research effort which seeks to deliver better maize and wheat varieties to over 40 countries around the world, with the aim of improving resilience to farmers’ risks, fragile food markets and natural disasters.

The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) in Mexico is the global leader on publicly-funded maize and wheat research and related farming systems. For the past 5 years the James Hutton Institute has actively contributed to this effort by facilitating the use of DNA tools and novel bioinformatics to help breed climate-resilient maize and wheat varieties to feed the future.

Within the Mexican-funded SAGARPA MasAgro Seeds of Discovery project, more than 5,000 maize landraces from the CIMMYT genebank have been evaluated using DNA markers for agriculturally important traits such as drought tolerance, improved nutritional quality and resistance to pests and diseases. Wheat genebank accessions from CIMMYT and ICARDA are also being genotyped and phenotyped for disease resistance and drought or heat tolerance.

Software and resources developed by Hutton bioinformaticians Dr Paul Shaw, Dr Iain Milne, Sebastian Raubach and Gordon Stephen have been key in achieving this goal. Germinate, a generic plant genetic resources database, offers facilities to store standard germplasm collection and passport data as well as phenotypic, genotypic and field trial information along with other visualization tools such as Flapjack, Helium and CurlyWhirly are being used to support the work coordinated by CIMMYT and have all been developed here in Dundee.

Dr David Marshall, a bioinformatician in the James Hutton Institute’s Information and Computational Sciences (ICS) Group and leader of the Institute’s role in this project, said: “The software tools developed here are now in routine use by both public and private sector plant breeders and geneticists throughout the world and play a major role in underpinning crop germplasm development.”

Dr Rupert Hough, ICS group leader, commented: “Our datascience has global impact. The ICS group brings together an exceptional combination of skills and expertise, providing the Institute with a unique capacity to rise to the challenges of genome analysis to contribute to UN Sustainable Development Goal 2: ‘End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture’. The James Hutton Institute is proud to contribute to the CIMMYT effort.”

More information from: 

Bernardo Rodriguez-Salcedo, Media Manager, Tel: +44 (0)1224 395089 (direct line), +44 (0)344 928 5428 (switchboard) or +44 (0)7791 193918 (mobile).

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Printed from /news/maize-and-wheat-informatics-improved-livelihoods-around-world on 17/09/19 11:26:35 AM

The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.