Accelerated Breeding of Cereal Crops


Bilichak, A., & Laurie, J. D. (2022). Accelerated breeding of cereal crops. Humana Press.

Plain language summary

This volume provides a comprehensive collection of methods for plant breeders and researchers working in functional genomics of cereal crops. Chapters detail advances in the sequencing of cereal genomes, methods of traditional plant breeding, use of machine learning for genomic selection, random and targeted mutagenesis with CRISPR/Cas9, quantitative proteomics and phenotyping in cereals.


Growing world population and increased threats associated with a warming climate place
high demands on plant breeders to rapidly develop resilient crops with stable yields across
different environments. To meet global food demand, growers need to double crop production
by 2050, a seemingly unrealistic goal with the current yield increase. Maize, rice,
and wheat provide 60% of the energy intake for people around the globe. Although crops
like rice and maize have seen significant development of genomic resources and understanding
of genetic causes for agronomically important traits, hexaploid wheat lags in this regard.
The large genome of wheat has hampered progress, but its polyploid nature offers great
untapped potential for the creation of functional variation. With advances in omics technologies
and the advent of gene editing, biotechnology in cereal crops is accelerating at an
incredible pace.
Leading scientists with expertise ranging from cereal biotechnology and genomics to
conventional breeding provide in this book either up-to-date methods used in respective
programs or an overview of their research fields. In a stepwise manner, the reader is
introduced to well-established and emerging techniques that can potentially streamline
the discovery of genes responsible for agriculturally important traits in crops. We start
with the recent progress in genomics of selected crops from the Poaceae family, highlighting
approaches undertaken to create the first pangenome for bread wheat and what can be done
to streamline mining for genetic variation. Methods that utilize this variation are increasingly
crucial for breeders. The reader is introduced to techniques widely used in conventional
breeding, such as marker-assisted selection and mapping of quantitative trait loci, as
well as recent advancements of genome-wide association studies. Next, we show how
artificial intelligence can help with breeding by using machine learning for genomic selection.
Technologies that speed-up the breeding process, such as the production of doubled
haploid plants through microspores, are of great interest to breeders. In addition to the
variation that occurs naturally, we look at induced mutagenesis through the use of chemicals,
radiation, and transposable elements. Rapid high-throughput detection of natural and
induced variations can be accomplished using PCR and Targeting Induced Local Lesions
in Genomes (TILLING). Transcription factors play an essential role in regulating gene
expression; therefore, the precise mapping of their position using methods such as DNA
affinity purification sequencing (DAP-seq) is vital for functional genomics studies. With
rapid advancements in gene editing, this technology is now making it into the breeders’
hands. Included methods describe approaches to construct CRISPR/Cas expression cassettes
for monocots using modular assembly systems and genome editing in wheat. A
manifestation of genomic sequence at the phenotypic level is performed through proteins
and their posttranslational modifications. Therefore, quantitative proteomics in cereals is
gaining momentum for a comprehensive understanding of crop genetics. Finally, phenotyping
is a crucial component of plant breeding, integrating crop development, growth, and
yield. High-throughput phenomics offers a powerful tool for breeders to select traits that are
either challenging to see or not detectable by the eye.
Overall, this book provides a collection of methods that, we believe, will be of interest to
plant breeders, researchers, postdoctoral fellows, and students working in functional genomics for the development of the next generation of crop plants. Finally, we would like
to gratefully acknowledge the authors for their valuable contribution to this book, the
associate editor for Springer protocols, Monica Suchy, and Springer Nature for the invitation
to contribute.