Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

To feed the future, we must mine the wealth of the world's seed banks today, experts argue

Date:
July 5, 2013
Source:
Cornell University
Summary:
With fewer than a dozen flowering plants out of 300,000 species accounting for 80 percent of humanity's caloric intake, people need to tap unused plants to feed the world in the near future, claims a plant geneticist.

Rice. After screening more than 6,000 varieties from seed banks, plant breeders identified and crossbred a single wild species of rice, Oryza nivara; the result is a variety that has protected against grassy stunt virus disease in almost all tropical rice varieties in Asia for the past 36 years.
Credit: Fyle / Fotolia

With fewer than a dozen flowering plants out of 300,000 species accounting for 80 percent of humanity's caloric intake, people need to tap unused plants to feed the world in the near future, claims Cornell University plant geneticist Susan McCouch in the Comment feature of the July 4 issue of Nature.

To keep pace with population growth and rising incomes around the world, researchers estimate that food availability must double in the next 25 years. The biodiversity stored in plant gene banks coupled with advances in genetics and plant breeding may hold the keys for meeting the demands of more food in the face of climate change, soil degradation and water and land shortages, according to the paper.

"Gene banks hold hundreds of thousands of seeds and tissue culture materials collected from farmer's fields and from wild, ancestral populations, providing the raw material that plant breeders need to create crops of the future," said McCouch.

For example, after screening more than 6,000 varieties from seed banks, plant breeders identified and crossbred a single wild species of rice, Oryza nivara; the result is a variety that has protected against grassy stunt virus disease in almost all tropical rice varieties in Asia for the past 36 years, the paper states. Similarly, by 1997, the value of using crop wild relatives as sources of environmental resilience and resistance to pests and diseases led to an estimated $115 billion in annual benefits to the world economy.

Though seeds are readily accessible in 1,700 gene banks throughout the world, "they are not used to their full potential in plant breeding," McCouch said.

At present, it is difficult for breeders to make use of the wealth of genetic material in seed banks because of a lack of information about the genes in most plants and the traits they confer, she said. Due to the time and effort required to identify and then use wild and unadapted genetic resources, "a breeder must have a good idea about the genetic value of an uncharacterized resource before attempting to use it in a breeding program," McCouch said.

In the paper, McCouch and colleagues outlined a three-point plan to address these constraints:

  • A massive genetic sequencing effort on seed-bank holdings to document what exists in the collections, to strategically target experiments to evaluate what traits a plant has (called phenotyping) and to begin to predict plant performance.
  • A broad phenotyping initiative, not only of the gene bank holdings, but also of the progeny generated from crossing wild and exotic materials to adapted varieties targeted for local use.
  • An internationally accessible informatics infrastructure to coordinate data that are currently managed independently by gene-bank curators, agronomists and breeders.

The estimated cost for such a systematic, collaborative global effort to help characterize the genetic resources needed to feed the future is about $200 million annually, according to McCouch.

"This seems like great value, given that as a society we spend about $1 billion each year to run CERN's Large Hadron Collider near Geneva, Switzerland, and up to $180 million on a single fighter jet," said McCouch.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cornell University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Susan McCouch, Gregory J. Baute, James Bradeen, Paula Bramel, Peter K. Bretting, Edward Buckler, John M. Burke, David Charest, Sylvie Cloutier, Glenn Cole, Hannes Dempewolf, Michael Dingkuhn, Catherine Feuillet, Paul Gepts, Dario Grattapaglia, Luigi Guarino, Scott Jackson, Sandra Knapp, Peter Langridge, Amy Lawton-Rauh, Qui Lijua, Charlotte Lusty, Todd Michael, Sean Myles, Ken Naito, Randall L. Nelson, Reno Pontarollo, Christopher M. Richards, Loren Rieseberg, Jeffrey Ross-Ibarra, Steve Rounsley, Ruaraidh Sackville Hamilton, Ulrich Schurr, Nils Stein, Norihiko Tomooka, Esther van der Knaap, David van Tassel, Jane Toll, Jose Valls, Rajeev K. Varshney, Judson Ward, Robbie Waugh, Peter Wenzl, Daniel Zamir. Agriculture: Feeding the future. Nature, 2013; 499 (7456): 23 DOI: 10.1038/499023a

Cite This Page:

Cornell University. "To feed the future, we must mine the wealth of the world's seed banks today, experts argue." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 July 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130705121051.htm>.
Cornell University. (2013, July 5). To feed the future, we must mine the wealth of the world's seed banks today, experts argue. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130705121051.htm
Cornell University. "To feed the future, we must mine the wealth of the world's seed banks today, experts argue." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130705121051.htm (accessed July 30, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

AP (July 30, 2014) Thousands of people are trekking to a Bavarian farmer's field to check out a mysterious set of crop circles. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

AFP (July 30, 2014) Pan-African airline ASKY has suspended all flights to and from the capitals of Liberia and Sierra Leone amid the worsening Ebola health crisis, which has so far caused 672 deaths in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Duration: 00:43 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey

At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey

AP (July 30, 2014) At least 20 New Jersey residents have tested positive for chikungunya, a mosquito-borne virus that has spread through the Caribbean. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo

Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo

AP (July 30, 2014) River otters were hitting the water slides to beat the summer heatwave on Wednesday at Ichikawa City's Zoological and Botanical Garden. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

    Technology News



      Save/Print:
      Share:

      Free Subscriptions


      Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

      Get Social & Mobile


      Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

      Have Feedback?


      Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
      Mobile: iPhone Android Web
      Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
      Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
      Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins