Pre-breeders generate a lot of data. A LOT of data. They can make thousands of crosses between wild and domesticated species of food crops and evaluate those thousands of crosses under various conditions, in different climates and countries. Then they’ll make backcrosses and evaluate those crosses. Collecting and managing the data is hard work but analyzing it is an even bigger challenge – but one that must be addressed if pre-breeding is going to contribute to the development of studier ‘climate-proof’ crops.
The Crop Wild Relatives Project is managing pre-breeding projects on 19 crops. These projects are bringing back to our most important crops the many useful traits that their wild cousins still have in the genetic make-up, but the crops themselves have left behind. By crossing and backcrossing these plants, our partners are generating complex data in huge quantities.
For example, the sunflower pre-breeding project resulted in 545,000 molecular markers. This kind of data is an amazing contribution to the breeding community.
The Project has teamed up with the James Hutton Institute in Invergowrie, Scotland to ensure the CWR project’s pre-breeding data is available in a format that allows breeders and scientists to view and analyze the data as easily as possible. Hutton has been developing software known as Germinate which is specifically tailored to handle complex data from the use of plant genetic resources collections.