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Possible Breakthrough for Plant Breeders
Iowa State University Researcher has Learned to Accurately
Predict Plant Traits


Iowa State University Agronomist Jianming Yu has been able to predict plant traits in sorghum from genetic sequencing with up to 83 percent accuracy. His work could significantly accelerate plant breeding efforts.

Iowa State University Agronomist Jianming Yu published a study earlier this month that describes an experiment used to sift through plant genes in order to find specific ones that will have desired effects in breeding.

Currently, there are about 1,750 gene banks across the world, containing over 7 million plant accessions. The great obstacle is sorting through all of the genes in order to find the ones that exhibit the qualities that are desired by plant breeders.

Professor Yu's research focused on sorghum, although he says that the principles can be used for many different crops. His team selected 962 sorghum accessions from the USDA's database and conducted genetic sequencing of them. Using the data and various prediction tools, they determined various traits that the genes would produce in the sorghum plants. They then grew 200 of the accessions in order to check how accurate their predictions were.

Traits that affected plant yield were predicted with 76 percent accuracy, while other traits (height was given as a example) were predicted accurately 67 to 83 percent of the time.

"We think it's possible to use these predictions to guide our breeding and selection decisions," said Xiaoqing Yu, in a statement to the Iowa State University News Service. "We hope it will facilitate better and more precise breeding with the diverse genetic materials."

Yu believes that with further research and analysis, the trait predictions can be made even more accurately. If Yu's research continues to produce results, plant breeding could be accelerated to new levels.

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August 24, 2019, 12:11 pm PDT

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