Plant genomics focus of website

jbrehm2, January 24, 2011 | View original publication

Plant genomics focus of website

A group of researchers and educators from America's land-grant universities, government agencies and industry have created the first Internet resource aimed at quickly putting basic research on crop genomes into practice through plant breeding programs across the U.S. to more efficiently improve crops.

The resource is a new online community housed at eXtension (pronounced E-extension),, at

Deana Namuth-Covert, plant science educator in the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, contributed educator materials for this project and serves as co-leader for the community of practice.

As global food needs increase, so does the need for crops that can be efficiently and safely produced. Traditional plant breeding methods have served well in the past and breakthrough technologies are now available to aid this process. These breakthroughs include key information on the genetics, or genomes of crops.

Development of crop varieties through plant breeding traditionally has focused on selection of the best plant lines based on traits (phenotypes). In the past decade, research has yielded extensive databases of gene sequences and of the complete genetic makeup (genomes) of entire plants.

As sequencing technology improves, available information to aid in crop improvement is expanding rapidly. This basic research information is used when linking important agricultural traits to genetic sequence variations and incorporating this knowledge into crop improvement strategies.

In 2009 the international community was still working to complete the first draft of the tomato genome sequence, in 2010 two draft sequences became public. The research community expects as many as 100 Solanaceae genomes to be available within the next year or two. This complements whole genome sequences already known in key crops such as potato, rice, poplar, soybean, maize, cotton and cucumber.

The site will provide up-to-date production information on new varieties available to agricultural producers.

eXtension is an educational partnership of more than 70 land grant universities helping Americans improve their lives with access to timely, objective, research-based information and educational opportunities.

eXtension's interactive website is customized with links to local Cooperative Extension sites.

Land-grant universities were founded on the ideals that higher education should be accessible to all, that universities should teach liberal and practical subjects and share knowledge with people throughout their states.