Mapping Out a Better Route
April 25, 2017
New iMAP technology allows for faster and more efficient pulse breeding
Traditional plant breeding is a time-consuming process, requiring breeders to evaluate hundreds of thousands of individual plants across agro-climatic environments to identify the ones with the desired characteristics. Because of this rigorous process, it takes approximately seven to 10 years to develop a new pulse cultivar.
Due to the rapid expansion of pulse acreage in Canada and the demand for more intense rotations, there is a constant need for new pulse varieties. This is why Saskatchewan Pulse Growers (SPG) invested in research in 2010 that would allow breeders at the University of Saskatchewan’s (U of S) Crop Development Centre (CDC) to adopt Implementation of Markers in Pulses (iMAP) technology, a process which, according to Dr. Bunyamin Tar’an, Associate Professor at the CDC and Plant Breeder at the CDC, expedites the breeding process while also enhancing the effectiveness of it.
“The iMAP project has allowed us to analyze thousands of DNA ‘landmarks’ in plant genomes to understand the genetic architecture of each pulse crop, to extract biological meaning from those DNA variations, and to eventually identify the candidate genes responsible for economically important traits,” he says.
“In other words, iMAP developed new approaches that augment conventional breeding practices and are necessary to facilitate the rapid incorporation of traits into pulse crop cultivars.”
The project also allowed researchers to use genome sequencing to identify and implement DNA diagnostic tools that are predictive of specific plant characteristics such as disease resistance, early maturity, and improved productivity and quality. This allows breeders to accelerate the development of new varieties that better suit grower and end-consumer needs.
“One of the practical applications from iMAP is in the selection of chickpeas and lentils for resistance to IMI-herbicide and disease resistances in the common bean,” Tar’an says. “We are continuing testing and confirmation of the outputs of iMAP for other traits that would expand the scope of the selection.”
The project, now complete, allowed for the sequencing of the entire CDC Frontier kabuli chickpea genome, an effort which involved 49 scientists from 23 institutions around the globe and helped set the foundation to do similar work for lentils and peas, efforts that are currently underway. For more information on this ongoing project, download the magazine.
“These achievements are monumental for the research community, but also for pulse growers in Saskatchewan, who will benefit in a number of ways,” Tar’an says. “In the long run, iMAP technology will allow growers to improve their production systems, decrease production costs and risks, increase the stability of the crops, and move commercial yields forward.”
SPG Investment: $2,678,508
Project Lead: Dr. Bunyamin Tar'an, Associate Professor at the University of Saskatchewan and Breeder at the Crop Development Centre, Dr. Andrew Sharpe, of the National Research Council - Plant Biotechnology Institute