DNA is the molecule that plants use to store all the information required to build itself, and is primarily responsible for the plants physical appearance .
DNA is inherited from parent to child, and is contained with-in the nucleus of every plant cell. At the earliest seedling stage, plant breeders have access to read the instructions, and predict what the plant will be like or how it might respond to stimuli. But, of course, its not quite that simple. Plants are in constant contact with their environment, and need to respond to ensure they survive, and most importantly, generate pollen or seed for the next generation. To achieve survival, plants modify their physical characteristics, also know as the phenotype.
For example, plants grown in shade become narrow and tall to reach the sun to allow it to grow. Plants in alpine and windy locations grow stubby and strong to protect themselves. Such modifications are known as genotype x environment interaction, and in the context of plant breeding, we apply technical and data-driven approaches to manage them. In practice, prediction of some traits based solely on DNA markers is very reliable, and such traits would be described as ‘highly heritable’. While other traits are not easily predicted based on DNA marker alone due to genotype x environment interaction, for example. Such traits would be said to have ‘low heritability’.
Another challenge for using molecular markers in plant breeding is understanding the genetics underlying the trait. In the simplest example, a single dominant gene may control a trait, an example of which may be resistance to a fungal pathogen. At the more complicated end of the spectrum, traits such as ‘yield’ may be controlled by many genes, and the influence of each gene on the trait subject to modification by genotype x environment interaction. In this case, many markers, each related to specific components of ‘yield’ are employed to inform selection for specific cultivation conditions.
Whatever your target, Triffid will be pleased to advise how to get started. Take a look at our breeding services, PreBreeder and SpeedBreeder.