Track 1-03

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Twenty years ago, in 1993, we published one of the first two alfalfa genetic linkage maps. At the time, hopes ran high that genetic marker technologies would revolutionize selection, making the development of superior cultivars both easier and faster. The objective of this paper is to critically examine forage improvement since that time and to suggest ways to more fully capitalize on those initial hopes in the future. Marker studies have been conducted around the world, identifying quantitative trait loci (QTL) for the major agronomically important traits, including biomass yield, nutritive value, disease resistance, abiotic stress tolerance, and others. But progress has been slow and no cultivars on the market today have been bred using marker technology in a significant way. I will discuss reasons for the limited progress, including the lack of a critical mass of researchers, funding limitations, and genetic complexities integral to the crop. Despite the limitations, I suggest that the international community can do a better job integrating resources to achieve better genetic gain in breeding programs. I will discuss focused methods that could successfully integrate markers into breeding programs by manipulating individual QTL from unadapted germplasm and by applying genomic selection to accelerate breeding cycles. Even so, the real world value of these technologies needs to be carefully considered before they can be adopted in a commercial scale.

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Global Impact of Sown Temperate Pastures on Productivity and Ecosystem Stability–What Progress Have We Made?

Twenty years ago, in 1993, we published one of the first two alfalfa genetic linkage maps. At the time, hopes ran high that genetic marker technologies would revolutionize selection, making the development of superior cultivars both easier and faster. The objective of this paper is to critically examine forage improvement since that time and to suggest ways to more fully capitalize on those initial hopes in the future. Marker studies have been conducted around the world, identifying quantitative trait loci (QTL) for the major agronomically important traits, including biomass yield, nutritive value, disease resistance, abiotic stress tolerance, and others. But progress has been slow and no cultivars on the market today have been bred using marker technology in a significant way. I will discuss reasons for the limited progress, including the lack of a critical mass of researchers, funding limitations, and genetic complexities integral to the crop. Despite the limitations, I suggest that the international community can do a better job integrating resources to achieve better genetic gain in breeding programs. I will discuss focused methods that could successfully integrate markers into breeding programs by manipulating individual QTL from unadapted germplasm and by applying genomic selection to accelerate breeding cycles. Even so, the real world value of these technologies needs to be carefully considered before they can be adopted in a commercial scale.