Study identifies candidate genes to accelerate tropical forage breeding
This study, led by CIAT in collaboration with the Earlham Institute and Yale University highlights genetic elements that could accelerate the breeding of vital forage crops for animal nutrition in Africa and Latin America. The study identifies plants that undergo a biological phenomenon that can reproduce clonally by apomixis. This means that they do not require egg cells to be fertilised by a male sperm or pollen grain. As a result, the progeny (genetic descendants) are clones from the mother plant. A molecular diagnosis for reproduction enables quicker selection of the Brachiaria hybrid plants. The Brachiaria breeding programme at CIAT produces hybrids that segregate for reproductive mode. Therefore approximately half of the progeny in each generation are sexual and the other half are apomictic (asexual seed formation). This trait is useful to propagate plants with superior traits, but it is also a barrier for efficient breeding. Therefore, the sexual plants are maintained in the breeding programme to produce the next generation. By identifying candidate genes and genome regions linked to apomixis, this study opens the door to the use of molecular markers to efficiently select apomictic or sexual plants, a technique called marker-assisted selection (MAS).