News and Views: Harnessing the potential of germplasm collections (Nature Genetics) ($)

There are more than 7 million crop accessions in gene banks around the world, however the information records for them are in multiple formats, making a comparison between and within collections difficult. Extrapolating from a new paper by Milner et al. (Nature Genetics 51: pages319–326) Langridge and Waugh suggest a framework to efficiently utilize this genetic diversity in crop improvement. The first step will be to characterize the collection by low cost high throughput genotyping technology which will allow the identification of duplicates, geographical structures and mix-ups. With this common information to all accessions, a representative core can be selected for deeper characterization. The second approach recommended is the use of contemporary breeding methods like CRISPR-Cas to introduce important agriculture genes already identified in elite lines into diverse germplasm. This strategy will help circumvent the problem of low recombination rates between wild relatives and elite lines in crops with a large genome. (Summary by Celilia Vasquez-Robinet) Nat. Genet. 10.1038/s41588-018-0340-4