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Agriculture: DNA Identification Technologies

Biology (Year 12) - Biotechnology: Applications

Ben Whitten

Agriculture is defined as the science of growing crops and livestock, and cultivating the soil and microorganisms in which they grow. Agricultural biotechnology is a growing area of study, and has its advantages and disadvantages! DNA identification technology (for example, electrophoresis, profiling, sequencing) has a number of applications in agriculture. It can be used to accurately trace the genetics of desirable traits and pass said traits on to other plants within a generation. Marker-assisted breeding allows plant scientists to examine the DNA found in particular seeds to identify which seeds will produce the best outcome, based on traits such as disease resistance, drought tolerance, yield, taste or nutrition.

DNA Identification Technologies

Applications in wheat breeding

  • Wheat is an important source of nutrition for both human and livestock, and is the worlds' most widely cultivated crop!

  • Researchers at CSIRO have used PCR and gel electrophoresis to reveal molecular markers for characterising loci that confer resistance in the adult plant to leaf rust and yellow (stripe) rust, two fungal leaf diseases which pose significant threat to the yield and quality of WA wheat crops

  • The wheat genome was fully sequenced in 2018, and has enabled scientists to undertake more accurate mapping of desirable genes, such as disease-resistant genes

  • With the reference genome sequence now being fully completed, breeders have new and efficient tools for addressing challenged; they now have the ability to rapidly identify genes and regulatory elements in underlying complex agronomic traits such as yield, grain quality, resistance to fungal disease and tolerance to abiotic stress

Applications in the pork industry

  • The Government of Western Australia issued the Western Australia Pork Industry Strategic plan 2012-2020 to increase the consumption of fresh pork, increase productivity, reduce costs in the supply chain for pork and develop/grow export markets

  • DNA identification technologies have played an important role in the genetic management syustems of this plan; larger breeding companies have used PIGBLUP (BLUP standing for best Linear Unbiased Prediction) to monitor the progress of their breeding program, and can accelerate the rate of genetic progress for traits which have historically low heritability, such as large litter size

  • PBMARKER takes into account information on molecular genetic markers in genetic evaluation, and using gathered information aids selection in economically important traits; increased litter size and growth rate and improved carcase quality (taste and tenderness for example)

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