2021-094: Genomic analysis of alfalfa for the development of drought and salt tolerant germplasm for breeding programs
Researcher: Andrew Sharpe
Alfalfa is the most important forage crop due to high yield and nutritional quality. While many note the importance of developing more alfalfa varieties, especially for salt and drought tolerance, the conventional approach of recurrent selection is time consuming and labour intensive. Also, salt and drought tolerance mechanisms in alfalfa are poorly understood due to lack of genomic resources and because alfalfa needs long-read sequencing to understand its structural variants.
This project will develop new genomic resources to understand the salt and drought tolerance mechanisms in alfalfa and will also be used for association and linkage mapping studies to develop breeding tools for the creation of salt and drought tolerant cultivars/varieties.
To do so, existing, and new assemblies will be used to establish a resource that will help to understand alfalfa genome evolution for breeding purposes. The research team, lead by Dr. Andrew Sharpe of the Global Institute of Food Security, will analyze genetic structures and relationships, heterozygosity, and genetic distance using various population genetic analysis tools. To do this, they will use 10 plants, yielding genotypes for 960 plants by mapping them against the newly developed reference genomes. After screening plants and the using advanced physiological phenotyping facility for drought trait screening and phenotyping for salt tolerance, they hope to identify superior parents and develop newer, superior varieties.