Agricultural Genomics: The Rise of Genomes

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Doreen Ware, Ph.D., Molecular Biologist, USDA Agricultural Research Service and Adjunct Professor, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, New York

Breeding for 2050 and beyond will require designing plants for new environments and preparing them for new diseases, while they are still offshore. Key to this effort will be access to high-quality genomes and annotations for agricultural species and their pests. The genomes of many plants have been sequenced over the past decade, but these are usually limited to one reference assembly. The available genomes are often fragmented and missing complex repeat regions—and so lack sufficient high-level representation of genes and functional variation within a species. We are now entering an era where genome assemblies are reaching a theoretical maximum of contiguity and completeness—at ~0.1% the cost of 10 years ago. This provides an unprecedented opportunity to access genomic information to dissect complex agronomic traits and to provide insights into species evolution.