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Review article - Peer-reviewed, 2017

Assessing and Exploiting Functional Diversity in Germplasm Pools to Enhance Abiotic Stress Adaptation and Yield in Cereals and Food Legumes

Dwivedi, Sangam L.; Scheben, Armin; Edwards, David; Spillane, Charles; Ortiz, Rodomiro


There is a need to accelerate crop improvement by introducing alleles conferring host plant resistance, abiotic stress adaptation, and high yield potential. Elite cultivars, landraces and wild relatives harbor useful genetic variation that needs to be more easily utilized in plant breeding. We review genome-wide approaches for assessing and identifying alleles associated with desirable agronomic traits in diverse germplasm pools of cereals and legumes. Major quantitative trait loci and single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with desirable agronomic traits have been deployed to enhance crop productivity and resilience. These include alleles associated with variation conferring enhanced photoperiod and flowering traits. Genetic variants in the florigen pathway can provide both environmental flexibility and improved yields. SNPs associated with length of growing season and tolerance to abiotic stresses (precipitation, high temperature) are valuable resources for accelerating breeding for drought-prone environments. Both genomic selection and genome editing can also harness allelic diversity and increase productivity by improving multiple traits, including phenology, plant architecture, yield potential and adaptation to abiotic stresses. Discovering rare alleles and useful haplotypes also provides opportunities to enhance abiotic stress adaptation, while epigenetic variation has potential to enhance abiotic stress adaptation and productivity in crops. By reviewing current knowledge on specific traits and their genetic basis, we highlight recent developments in the understanding of crop functional diversity and identify potential candidate genes for future use. The storage and integration of genetic, genomic and phenotypic information will play an important role in ensuring broad and rapid application of novel genetic discoveries by the plant breeding community. Exploiting alleles for yield-related traits would allow improvement of selection efficiency and overall genetic gain of multigenic traits. An integrated approach involving multiple stakeholders specializing in management and utilization of genetic resources, crop breeding, molecular biology and genomics, agronomy, stress tolerance, and reproductive/seed biology will help to address the global challenge of ensuring food security in the face of growing resource demands and climate change induced stresses.


crop improvement; epigenetic variation; florigen pathways; functional diversity; genome editing; genomic estimated breeding value; haplotypes; TILLING

Published in

Frontiers in Plant Science
2017, volume: 8, article number: 1461

Authors' information

Dwivedi, Sangam L.
International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT)
Scheben, Armin
University of Western Australia
Edwards, David
University of Western Australia
Spillane, Charles
National University of Ireland Galway (NUI Galway)
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Plant Breeding

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG13 Climate action
SDG2 Zero hunger

UKÄ Subject classification

Plant Biotechnology
Genetics and Breeding

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