June 17, 2024

Agrigenomics Industry: How Crop Genomics is Transforming the Future of Farming

Improving Yield through Better Understanding of Plant Genetics

By understanding the genetics of plants at a deeper level, scientists are able to pinpoint genes responsible for traits like drought tolerance, pest resistance and increased productivity. This is allowing precision breeding of new crop varieties through techniques like marker-assisted selection and genome editing.

Using Agrigenomics Industry to Enhance Stress Tolerance

One major focus of a Agrigenomics Industry research has been on improving the ability of crops to withstand biotic and abiotic stresses. Climate change is making droughts, floods and heat waves more frequent and severe. At the same time, pests and diseases are also evolving and spreading to new regions. Through association studies that map the link between plant genotypes and phenotypes under stress conditions, scientists have identified several genes related to drought tolerance in crops. Breeding programs can now introgress these drought tolerance genes into new varieties through molecular marker techniques. Similarly, genomics aided identification of resistance genes is helping develop varieties that can better resist major diseases and pest attacks.

Harnessing Genetic Diversity for Productivity Gains

While modern commercial crop varieties have seen substantial yield increases since the green revolution, further gains will require tapping into the vast genetic diversity present in crop wild relatives and landraces. Agigenomics tools like genome sequencing, genetic mapping and genome-wide association studies are playing a key role here. By screening the genomes of thousands of diverse accessions, genes linked to important traits are being detected. These genes can then be introduced into adapted high-yielding varieties to enhance their productivity potential. For example, sequencing of rice wild relatives has revealed genes for improved photosynthesis efficiency, abiotic stress tolerance and grain quality that can boost rice yields.

Tailoring Nutritional Content for Health Benefits

With growing recognition of the links between diet, nutrition and non-communicable diseases, agrigenomics is making it possible to customize crop varieties with enhanced nutritional profiles. Genome and transcriptome analyses have mapped genes influencing the accumulation of health-promoting compounds like antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fibre and micronutrients in crops. Marker-assisted breeding and genome editing tools provide an accurate way to modulate these genes and develop biofortified crops with optimized nutritional content. For instance, genes determining pro-vitamin A levels in maize and carotenoid content in cassava, sweet potato and rice have been cloned, enabling the development of varieties addressing vitamin A deficiency in vulnerable populations.

Unlocking Complex Traits through Multi-omics Integration

While individual genes governing simple traits can be identified relatively easily, most important agronomic characteristics like yield are polygenic in nature, influenced by multiple genes and their interactions. Unravelling the genetic architecture of such complex quantitative traits requires integrating different omics datasets from genomics, epigenomics, transcriptomics and metabolomics. Advanced technologies now allow genome-wide association studies at the level of DNA, RNA and small molecule metabolites on the same mapping populations. By taking a systems biology approach that considers how components interact across multiple levels of gene regulation and expression, researchers are getting a more holistic understanding of complex trait determination. This is facilitating the development of predictive genomic selection models for accelerated crop breeding.

Harnessing Gene Editing for Precise Modifications

The advent of precise and efficient gene editing tools like CRISPR-Cas9 has unleashed tremendous potential for agrigenomics. These new technologies allow introducing gene modifications with an accuracy close to natural mutation, overcoming issues associated with transgenesis. CRISPR is being used to make tailored insertions, deletions and base changes in crop genomes to generate a wide range of useful traits. Examples include creating disease resistance in rice, making wheat tolerant to aluminum soil toxicity, generating herbicide tolerant and high oil varieties of canola, and developing low gluten wheat. Gene editing holds the promise of more rapidly deploying discovered genes to achieve trait improvements with minimal regulatory hurdles compared to transgenic approaches.

Data-Driven Breeding Through Digital Tools

To keep pace with shortening product development cycles in agriculture, digital technologies are transforming crop breeding through data-driven approaches. High-throughput phenotyping platforms capture massive phenotypic datasets on plant growth, architecture, composition and response to changes in the environment. When combined with genomic, epigenomic and environmental data through breeding management software, these tools enable analyzing genotype-phenotype relationships at an unprecedented scale. Digital fields automated with drones and sensors facilitate precision phenotyping of large breeding populations. Machine learning and artificial intelligence are further augmenting data analysis capabilities to predict hybrid performance, select superior lines and accelerate the overall breeding cycle.

Global Impact of Agrigenomics Industry and Future Outlook

With agrigenomics applications being adopted worldwide, their impact in sustainably boosting global food production is becoming evident. In China, marker-assisted breeding programs have increased rice and maize yields by over 10%. Drought tolerant varieties developed through genomics are improving crop resilience in India. Cassava biofortified with pro-vitamin A through genetic engineering is tackling malnutrition in Africa.

Emerging countries are establishing national genomics initiatives to drive agricultural transformation. Going forward, continued efforts in refining genome editing, systems level trait dissection, artificial intelligence for breeding and global data sharing hold promise to further bolster crop productivity, nutrition, climate adaptation and resource use efficiency on a massive scale. Agrigenomics thus remains pivotal to ensuring global food and nutritional security in the coming decades.

1.Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2.We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it