Plants and Animals – Bridging the Gap in Breeding Research: Talks & Panel Discussion

The establishment of an European-wide unique „Centre for Integrated Breeding Research“ (CiBreed) at the University of Goettingen aims to bring together the expertise of plant and animal breeding with findings from natural and social sciences in order to establish an internationally visible position in this field.

The kick-off event „Plants and Animals: Bridging the Gap in Breeding Research“ for CiBreed took place in October. Various talks and keynote addresses by the invited experts can be watched online now: 

(1) Presidential and industry partner addresses 

Professor Ulrike Beisiegel, the President of the University of Göttingen, and Dr Rudolf Preisinger and Dr Dieter Stelling who represent CiBreed animal and plant partners deliver their greetings to the Center of Integrated Plant and Animal Breeding.

(2) Welcome and opening 

Henner Simianer, Professor of Animal Breeding and Genetics at the University of Goettingen and Chairman of CiBreed, gives an introduction into the Center, the adjunct teaching concept, and insights into the reasoning why plant and animal breeding should join forces.

(3) Using information from natural populations to improve plant and animal breeding 

Bruce Walsh, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Arizona, about „Using information from natural populations to improve plant and animal breeding“. In theory, genomic editing can be used to edit parallels and to improve overall performance without any crosses. Walsh explains how to detect signatures of both recent and ongoing selection and how genomic data of wild populations can help improve domesticated lines.

(4) Genome editing in farmed animals: a valuable opportunity?

Helen Sang, Professor of Vertebrate Molecular Development from the Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh, about „Genome editing in farmed animals: a valuable opportunity?“ Genome editing can make animals resistant to disease. Sang discusses the methods, chances and risks of curing diseases and improving farm animals beyond traditional breeding.

(5) Site-directed genome modification in cereals 

Dr Jochen Kumlehn from the IPK Gatersleben about „Site-directed genome modification in cereals using RNA-guided Cas endonucleases“. Targeted genome modification and genome editing are powerful tools to change crop traits. Kumlehn explains the functioning of Cas9 and guide RNA genome modification and gives some examples of cereal improvement with the gRNA/Cas9 method as well as an outlook into what this technology can do if the problem of distinguishing modified specimens is solved.

(6) GWAS for meat and carcass traits 

Dr Clemens Falker-Gieske from the Functional Breeding Lab of the University of Göttingen about „GWAS for meat and carcass traits using imputed sequence level genotypes in pooled F2-designs in pigs“. The identification of short chromosomal regions harbouring causal mutations of quantitative traits becomes more and more important in pig breeding. Listen how Falker-Gieske wants to improve the use of GWAS on SNP chip data to implement a new method that yields smaller LD blocks and high mapping resolution.

(7) Feeding the world with big data 

Kristian Kersting, Professor of Machine Learning at the Computer Science Department of the TU Darmstadt, about „Feeding the world with big data: machines uncover spectral characteristics and dynamics of stressed plants“.

(8) Deep Learning – an alternative for genomic prediction? 

Thorsten Pook about „Deep Learning – an alternative for genomic prediction?“ Ever wanted to know what deep learning exactly is and if and how it can be used to improve genomic prediction? Listen to Thorsten Pook who addresses these questions in his research at the University of Göttingen.

(9) Information theoretical methods in animal and plant breeding 

Dr Mehmet Gültas from the Breeding Informatics lab of the University of Goettingen about „Information theoretical methods in animal and plant breeding“. The probability functions and calculations of entropy from information theory can be applied to marker identification in genomics. Gültas presents his approach of application of relative entropy and Shannon’s communication system in GWAS and epistasis analysis.

(10) From RNA-based prediction of hybrid performance to breeding-assisted genomics of heterosis 

Stefan Scholten, Professor of Quantitative Genetics and Genomics of Crops at the University of Hohenheim, about „From RNA-based prediction of hybrid performance to breeding-assisted genomics of heterosis“. Scholten gives an overview on the functioning of small RNA and how these can be used to understand and predict phenomena like heterosis in breeding.


(11) Identifying selection on complex traits in maize, chickens, and beyond 

Tim Beissinger, Professor of Plant Sciences at the University of Missouri, about „Identifying selection on complex traits in maize, chickens, and beyond“. How does selection work on quantitative traits? How can we find it using genomic data? Can we determine traits that were previously under selection? Answering those questions Beissinger presents his new method to test for polygenetic selection in breeding populations.

(12) R2, H2 and the importance of pairwise differences 

Hans Peter Piepho, Professor of Biostatistics at the University of Hohenheim, about „R2, H2 and the importance of pairwise differences“. How should experiments be designed to deliver efficient data to study heritability? Should environmental data be random or fixed? And which analysis is appropriate for which kind of design? Which coefficients should be used to assess the story our data tell us? Listen how Piepho tackles all these questions in his talk. 

(13) Genomics-enabled breeding for forest resilience 

John E. Carlson, Professor of Molecular Genetics at the Pennsylvania State University and Director of The Schatz Center for Tree Molecular Genetics, about „Genomics-enabled breeding for forest resilience“. Due to the long generation time, improving trees is a special challenge. Issues and approaches for forest tree improvement, the challenges of sustainability, and the roles for genomics in addressing forest health are presented here by John E. Carlson.

(14) Conflicting views on breeding 

Senja Post, Professor of Life Sciences Communication at the University of Goettingen, about „Conflicting views on breeding – Why do public perceptions and scientific knowledge differ?“ Different members of society hold differing views on breeding. Scepticism towards new technologies is widespread and a dialogue is hard because people tend to stick to their opinion. Watch Senja Post explain how different groups of people engage in motivated reasoning and why this is a problem for science.

(15) Panel Discussion – Breeding and Society 

Panel Discussion about “Breeding and Society”. Representatives from academia and industry discuss the influence and role of breeders and breeding research on society and how the dialogue and the relation between research and society can be improved.

Dr Léon Broers, KWS Saat SE
Professor Urs Niggli, Research Institute of Organic Agriculture, FiBL
Professor Senja Post, University of Göttingen
Professor Henner Simianer, University of Göttingen
Chair: Professor Achim Spiller, University of Göttingen


For further information:

Executive Director of CiBreed

Prof. Dr. Henner Simianer
Albrecht-Thaer-Weg 3
D-37075 Goettingen
phone: +49 (0) 551- 39 5604

 Scientific Coordination of CiBreed

Dr. Liane Schulz-Streeck
Albrecht-Thaer-Weg 3
D-37075 Goettingen
phone: +49 (0) 551- 39 20848

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