Contact: Ian Mackay
New crop varieties are still routinely produced by crossing together existing strains and selecting among the progeny. Nowadays, this age-old method of “crossing the best, picking the best and hoping for the best” can be enhanced by more sophisticated methods: information available in the genetic fingerprint of varieties can also be used to identify good progeny. However, this first requires that robust and accurate associations are identified between genetic fingerprint and target traits. MAGIC is an experimental method to increase precision. It requires two simple extensions to the more traditional method of analysing genetic fingerprints in which two parents are crossed and associations are searched for among the segregating progeny. Firstly, rather than simply crossing two lines, a population is established by crossing together multiple founder lines. Such populations are more genetically diverse that those established from just two parents, giving more bangs per buck: more associations can be found. Secondly, rather than searching for associations immediately after crossing, the population is first cycled through several additional generations of crossing. Each extra generation mills the genetic contribution from the founder lines finer and finer. As a result, associations are located with greater accuracy and are therefore of more use. We are setting up MAGIC populations in UK winter wheat, the UK’s most important crop, yet one in which resources for such fine mapping are not readily to be found.
Funding: BBSRC – Crop Science Initiative