Allen Van Deynze, University of California, Davis; Shawn Yarnes, University of California, Davis
Image Credit: The Seed Biotechnology Center at UC Davis.
Germplasm is a collection of individual plants that contains a species' genetic variation. It can be represented and propagated by any living propagule such as seeds, cuttings, or even cells. Germplasm is the basis of plant breeding programs. It is usually limited to any sexually compatible species for a given crop. For more information, see germplasm.
Bioinformatics is the science of using information technologies to answer biological questions from enormous data sets, like those created by genome sequencing. Bioinformaticians develop computer databases and use statistical techniques to manage and analyze biological data. Bioinformatic tools, like those found at the National Center for Biotechnology Information, make it possible to search and compare vast amounts of genetic and biochemical data. For more information, see bioinformatics.
Genotyping is the process of determining the genetic makeup of individuals. Genotype can refer to the genetic makeup of a single location in the genome, multiple locations in the genome, or the sequence of the entire genome. Genotyping has many uses in plant breeding, such as the ability to test seedlings for the presence of genes involved in disease resistance. Genotyping also allows breeders to quickly determine if a plant is true-breeding, or homozygous, for important genes. For more information, see genotyping.
Induced mutations are created when plant DNA is exposed to mutagenizing agents that alter the DNA sequence. Naturally occurring DNA mutations are the source of all variation between organisms. Plant breeders looking for new sources of genetic variation in crop plants can induce mutations to generate artificial variation. For more information, see induced mutation.
Phenomics is the study of a plant's phenome, the collection of all its traits, or phenotypes. Phenotypes are influenced by genetics (genotypes) and environmental conditions. As the process of genotyping plants has become simplified, there is much interest in developing methods to measure diverse plant phenotypes. For more information, see phenomics.
Proteomics is the study of a plant's proteome, the collection of all its proteins. The structure of protein molecules is determined by an individual's genotype and represents the heritable portion of a plant's phenotype. However, unlike the plant's genome, proteins interact directly with the environment. The composition and activity of the proteome changes in response to environmental cues. For more information, see proteomics.
A wild species is evolutionarily related to a cultivated plant species, and may represent the ancestral population of the cultivated species. Wild species are generally more genetically diverse than their cultivated relatives. Wild plant populations are adapted to living in a range of environmental conditions, as opposed to cultivated species that are adapted to more stable agricultural conditions. Plant breeders often use wild species to introduce new sources of genetic variation into their cultivated relatives. For more information, see wild species.
Development of this page was supported in part by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Solanaceae Coordinated Agricultural Project, agreement 2009-85606-05673, administered by Michigan State University. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the United States Department of Agriculture.