New web portal could open the door to better brassicas

An oilseed rape crop. Picture: Matthew Usher.

An oilseed rape crop. Picture: Matthew Usher. - Credit: Matthew Usher

Norwich-based scientists have developed an online knowledge bank to help plant breeders around the world to harness the potential of brassica crops.

The Brassica Information Portal (BIP), has been developed at The Genome Analysis Centre (TGAC) on the Norwich Research Park, to share data from pre-breeding trait-scoring experiments performed on mustard plants.

Scoring the versatile crop's beneficial traits could assist breeders in their efforts to improve yields, increase nutritional benefits and improve biofuel production.

Project leaders said the brassica genus contains versatile vegetable, forage and crop plants which have many valuable attributes for public consumption and the environment.

Annemarie Eckes, research assistant in the Integrative Genomics Group at TGAC, said: 'Thanks to this database, traits from pre-breeding trials are made more accessible and can be used for improving existing varieties. Breeding of improved varieties means that we can have very nutritious cabbage, broccoli and swede, varieties which are resistant to pests, or varieties which need minimum resources.'

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Other developments which could be possible by using the genetic trait data stored on the portal could include enabling brassica breeders to decrease the crop's requirement for fertiliser and water, building the resilience of the plants, or giving rapeseed more of the oil used for biofuel production.

The project team said this could all be achieved through conventional breeding methods, drawing from the list of genetic traits associated with plants in the new database.

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Dr Wiktor Jurkowski, project leader at TGAC, said: 'Data sharing today must be extensive, comprehensive, global and long-term. With the BIP, we help the brassica community to achieve these objectives.

'With all trait information in one place, and linked with genomics data, many new connections between the plant's traits and responses in different experiments can be drawn, that was previously not possible. This database can, therefore, encourage integrative, big data analysis, which has become a crucial part of today's science.'

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