Cornell University Receives $18.5 Million to Improve Crop Breeding

Cornell University Receives $18.5 Million to Improve Crop Breeding

Cornell University has announced an $18.5 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in support of efforts to streamline the breeding of staple crops in the developing world.

The grant will support efforts led by Cornell's Genomic and Open-Source Breeding Informatics Initiative (GOBII) to use genomic data and open-source database software resources to increase the production of wheat, rice, maize, sorghum, and chickpeas in developing countries. The software will enable breeders to accumulate data on hundreds of thousands of new breeding lines — the basis for new varieties — in programs run by CGIAR, a consortium of fifteen research centers around the world that has been working to populate databases with genetic profiles as well as breeders’ observations on plant traits such as drought tolerance, disease resistance, and yield.

With the funding, GOBII will bring software engineers and geneticists together with plant breeders at three CGIAR centers in Mexico, India, and the Philippines to develop databases and software tools that enable breeders to use genomic information to identify farmers' needs, develop analytical tools that help them make selections among breeding lines, and integrate the new tools into existing information systems used by each CGIAR center.

"This is a significant moment in the history of breeding, with genomes making their way into the heart of applied plant improvement," said Susan McCouch, professor of plant breeding and genetics at Cornell and the project’s principal investigator. "We can finally use genome-wide approaches to model plant performance in real time using tools that are shared across diverse species and regions of the world."

"$18.5 Million Grant to Boost Breeding of Global Staples." Cornell University Press Release 04/10/2015.