First web portal for Brassica will accelerate improvements

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brassica information portalThe Brassica Information Portal (BIP), released by TGAC,  will provide a single point of access to all data from pre-breeding trait scoring experiments performed on Brassica species. Scoring the beneficial traits assists Brassica breeders improve crop yields, increase nutritional benefits and reduce the carbon footprint through biofuel production.

The Brassica genus contains a range of versatile vegetable, forage and crop plants including: cabbage, broccoli, swede and rapeseed. The new standardised, curated data resource will allow the identification of beneficial genetic traits, for example, how rapeseed responds to different experimental conditions. Matching the characteristics (phenotypes) of plants with their genetic background, will better inform breeding programmes for crop improvement.

By enabling scientists to store and analyse large quantities of Brassica trait data, the portal will serve as a gateway for an integrated analysis of phenotypic and genotypic information using methods such as associative transcriptomics and QTL analysis.

Using new traits for marker assisted selection, Brassica breeders will be able to decrease the input of fertiliser and water, increase crop yield, quality and resilience of the plants. High concentrations of industrially important compounds can also be selected for in otherwise discarded parts of the plant, adding value to the crop (e.g. lubricants in waste straw).

Additional data includes information about to make rapeseed contain more oil for biofuel production.

This can all be done with conventional breeding methods, drawing from the list of genetic traits associated with plants in the new Brassica genus database.

With climate change impacting the UK with both droughts and floods, new pests arriving and thriving, old varieties may not be as resilient to these changes in the environment as newly bred ones. It is important to understand and create a diversity of vegetables to ensure resilience.

Dr Wiktor Jurkowski, Project lead and Group Leader at TGAC, said: “Data sharing today must be extensive, comprehensive, global and long-term. With the BIP, we help the Brassica Community to achieve these objectives.

“With all trait information in one place, and linked with genomics data, many new connections between the plant’s traits and responses in different experiments can be drawn, that was previously not possible. This database can, therefore, encourage integrative, big data analysis, which has become a crucial part of today’s Science.

“At the same time, it is a perfect example of collaborative work across UK and beyond. The Brassica Information Portal is derived from ‘Cropstore’, a database hosting Brassicas and other crops led by Prof Graham King (University of Southern Cross, Australia) and currently supported by the Renewable Industrial Products from Rapeseed (RIPR) project, led by Prof Ian Bancroft at the University of York and by BBSRC.”

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