This talk will explore a relatively new domain of agronomy, Omics and crop breeding research. Breeders want “crop adaptability” but tend to be uncomfortable with phenotypic plasticity, wrapped anonymously in the GxE term. Recent insights into the physiological and epigenetic control of adaptations acquired through exposure raise the question of the scope, potential benefits and accessibility to breeding of the various types of phenotypic plasticity. I will address the following topics:
1. 1. Theoretical scope for adaptive plasticity and acclimation potential
Phenotypic plasticity in rice: examples of the crop’s large compensation potential
Phenotypic plasticity may improve crop growth response to atmospheric CO2
Intended de-selection of plasticity traits by breeders: example of photoperiodism in sorghum
Expressing “hidden” adaptation potential in genome through exotic transcription factors
Phenotype is not what the genome contains but what it expresses!
Adaptive epigenetics, tip of an iceberg?
1. 2. A recent case study
Multi-E phenomics, modeling & GWAS provide thermal acclimation loci for phenology and floral fertility
1. 3. Big questions for future molecular breeding approaches
Is epigenetic adaptation potential desirable in crops? When is “forgetfulness” preferable?
Is epigenetic adaptability too fuzzy for meaningful selection? Do major-effect loci exist?
Can epigenetic acclimation potential be used to produce pre-adapted seed?
What does it take to adapt phenotyping approaches to the challenge?
Beyond epigenetics: From breeding for trait introgression to engineering of trait expression?
Nota: The author is a crop physiologist, modeler and phenotyper. Please don’t expect more than an educated vision of the molecular science!
Michael DINGKUHN is an accomplished eco-physiologist from Germany, working since 1998 for Cirad (International Center for Agronomic Research for Development) in France. Much of his career was devoted to rice research at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines and at AfricaRice in West Africa, but he is also a specialist of sorghum, oil palm and several other crops. Michael’s broad disciplinary experience includes agronomy, stress and developmental physiology, crop modeling, and most recently plant phenotyping in the service of gene discovery. Major impacts were his design of of IRRI’s New Plant Type and AfricaRice’s interspecific, weed-competitive NERICA rices.