Five crop staples to benefit from $18.5 million grant

The development of wheat, rice, maize, sorghum and chickpeas will grow thanks to an $18.5 million grant to Cornell University from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Cornell announced on April 9 in Ithaca, New York.

Bestowed for the purpose of developing breeding software for these five staples on a global scale, the funds represent potentially enormous advantages for plant breeders. Cornell’s Genomic and Open-source Breeding Informatics Initiative (GOBII) will tackle data generated by the new era of genomics.

“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 and the project’s principal investigator. “The grant allows us to move forward . . . to develop and deliver useful tools and information to public sector breeders around the world.”

McCouch cited work done by the Consulting Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), a global consortium of 15 research centers that runs breeding programs and is establishing databases with genetic profiles (genotypes) and breeders’ observations on traits (phenotypes) to prepare for future breakthroughs in agricultural research. The databases will include information about drought tolerance, disease resistance and yield.

Cornell’s GOBII will allow software engineers and geneticists to collaborate with plant breeders at CGIAR locations in Mexico, India and the Philippines.

Organizations in this story

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation 500 5th Ave N Seattle, WA 98109

Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research 19th St NW Washington, DC

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