Main content area

Biotechnological advancements in alfalfa improvement

Kumar, Suresh
Journal of applied genetics 2011 v.52 no.2 pp. 111-124
agronomic traits, alfalfa, amino acid composition, biopharmaceuticals, carbohydrates, experimental design, forage quality, genes, genetic markers, genomics, pest resistance, proteins, rumen, water use efficiency, winter hardiness
Review of biotechnology research in alfalfa shows that molecular techniques are extensively being used for basic and applied research toward alfalfa improvement. Biotechnological approaches have been used in two major areas, genomics and transgenics. In genomics, molecular markers, structural and functional genomics allowed identification of genes of interest and their regulatory components. Alfalfa being obstinate to genetic and genomic analysis, comparative genomics is used for molecular and genetic dissection of various plant processes in alfalfa. Alternatively, transgenic approach involves incorporation of specific and useful genes into alfalfa to improve the traits of interest. Input traits to improve agronomic performance and output traits to improve forage quality, or to produce novel industrial/pharmaceutical proteins, are the focus of current transgenic research in alfalfa. However, transgenic approach is controversial requiring cautious experimental design to combat bioisafety concerns. Ideally, forage alfalfa needs to possess more fermentable carbohydrates, proteins with balanced amino acid profile that degrade slower in rumen, improved winter hardiness, better water use efficiency, pest resistance and no anti-quality factors. Concerted efforts are required to bring together maximum of these characteristic features into the alfalfa plant.