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Back to the future: revisiting MAS as a tool for modern plant breeding

Cobb, Joshua N., Biswas, Partha S., Platten, J. Damien
Theoretical and applied genetics 2019 v.132 no.3 pp. 647-667
breeding programs, genetic variation, genomics, loci, major genes, marker-assisted selection, models, plant breeding, quantitative trait loci, rice, uncertainty
KEY MESSAGE: New models for integration of major gene MAS with modern breeding approaches stand to greatly enhance the reliability and efficiency of breeding, facilitating the leveraging of traditional genetic diversity. Genetic diversity is well recognised as contributing essential variation to crop breeding processes, and marker-assisted selection is cited as the primary tool to bring this diversity into breeding programs without the associated genetic drag from otherwise poor-quality genomes of donor varieties. However, implementation of marker-assisted selection techniques remains a challenge in many breeding programs worldwide. Many factors contribute to this lack of adoption, such as uncertainty in how to integrate MAS with traditional breeding processes, lack of confidence in MAS as a tool, and the expense of the process. However, developments in genomics tools, locus validation techniques, and new models for how to utilise QTLs in breeding programs stand to address these issues. Marker-assisted forward breeding needs to be enabled through the identification of robust QTLs, the design of reliable marker systems to select for these QTLs, and the delivery of these QTLs into elite genomic backgrounds to enable their use without associated genetic drag. To enhance the adoption and effectiveness of MAS, rice is used as an example of how to integrate new developments and processes into a coherent, efficient strategy for utilising genetic variation. When processes are instituted to address these issues, new genes can be rolled out into a breeding program rapidly and completely with a minimum of expense.