Model figure

31 October 2016 - By: Jonathan Ingram and Christine Raines

Modelling and technology are helping identify traits for plant breeding

Raphaël P.A. Perez , Benoît Pallas , Gilles Le Moguédec , Hervé Rey, Sébastien Griffon, Jean-Pierre Caliman, Evelyne Costes and Jean Dauzat
J Exp Bot 67 (15), 4507–4521 doi:10.1093/jxb/erw203

John T. Christopher, Mandy J. Christopher, Andrew K. Borrell, Susan Fletcher and Karine Chenu
J Exp Bot first published online July 21, 2016 doi:10.1093/jxb/erw276

A major challenge for crop improvement strategies is the development of robust approaches to study plant morphology and architecture. These are complex traits that change during development and in response to the prevailing environment. A raft of new technologies is being developed to enable detailed analysis of these complex traits. Perez et al have started tackling the structural complexity of plant architecture by looking at 3D architecture of oil palm. The ‘classic’ palm form with a single stem and massive, pinnate leaves might appear relatively simple – and this does make it a good model – but there is still deep complexity. They used an allometry-based approach, meaning that plant architectures at different stages of development could be reconstructed from fewer field data – a clever way forward. This was coupled with mixed-effect modelling to examine genotypic variability in the palm’s architecture. Paul Struik (67/15) puts the research into context in his Insight piece, and it’s clear that such detailed and painstaking work can lead to more effective breeding, and application to other species. Phenotyping technology can also help us approach other complex traits in crop improvement. Christopher et al measured the stay-green phenotype using optical sensing and, taking this as a cue, the Insight by Rebetzke et al (67/17) explains how high-throughput tools now offer a step-change in field monitoring.

Jonathan Ingram and Christine Raines 
Senior commissioning editor and Editor-in chief


Category: Plant Biology