As Virginia Tech’s new small grains breeder, Nicholas Santantonio hopes to broaden on the successes constructed by long-term Virginia Tech breeder Carl Griffey who retired to his native Tennessee in January.
“Carl built one of the most successful small grain breeding programs in the country. It was his baby that he nurtured seven days a week. I am honored to take over and continue the great program that he built,” Santantonio mentioned.
Griffey was the small grains breeder at Virginia Tech for 31 years and is taken into account among the best at his commerce within the japanese United States. Virginia Tech’s small grains breeding program is thought to be one of many few extremely regarded breeding applications within the nation. Griffey and his staff have launched 107 wheat and barley varieties since 1990 which have grown throughout the japanese states.
Santantonio comes to Virginia Tech with a bachelor’s and grasp’s diploma from New Mexico State College in genetics and plant and environmental science and a Ph.D. from Cornell College in plant breeding and genetics. He has labored in a number of public breeding applications, together with alfalfa breeding at New Mexico State and small grains breeding at Cornell.
Santantonio is integrating genomic choice and high-throughput phenotyping with the purpose of introducing new wheat and barley varieties at a sooner tempo. On the Virginia Small Grains Area Day on the Japanese Virginia Agricultural Analysis and Extension Heart in Warsaw Might 20, Santantonio confused that creating higher strategies, predictive fashions and technology to speed up genetic features and convey improved small grains varieties to the market is crucial.
Local weather challenges
“The biggest challenge we have right now is that the climate appears to be more variable from year to year. We’ve had a lot of variation, so we want to start breeding [for] stability in our varieties,” Santantonio informed the sector day crowd.
He famous that plasticity in breeding permits you to be steady throughout totally different environments so varieties can deal with totally different sorts of stress. On the discipline day, he highlighted a analysis venture at Virginia Tech that’s funded by a $1.6 million collaborative grant from the Basis for Meals and Agriculture. That grant is permitting Virginia Tech to make the most of data from progress traits in season to make higher breeding choices, particularly underneath various climates.
“The goal of this project is to monitor traits through time. Most plant breeding programs have had a tough time measuring things through time. Most of what we do is all measured at the [end of the season]. We wait until they are all mature, we come in, we take their heights, we drive a combine through here, we weigh the grain, we get the moisture, we get the test weight and then we can say something about those different varieties out in the field,” Santantonio defined.
“Now that there is technology such as drones, we have the ability to easily collect data at multiple time points. We can come out here for half an hour or 45 minutes, fly the drone, collect aerial imagery, and make the computer do all the work. Then we can start getting information about how lines grow and develop,” he mentioned.
The purpose of the analysis is to study genotype by surroundings interplay to decide which selection performs finest over time throughout totally different areas and years as a result of totally different wheat and barley strains all reply in another way to various environmental situations.
“What we have largely done in the past is look backwards and say now that we have looked at these different locations across these multiple years, we can build a story on why certain ones did better in certain years or certain locations. But we have almost no ability to do that predicting into the future; it’s always a retrospective kind of experiment,” Santantonio mentioned.
“The idea is to monitor growth and development through time and characterize genotype specific growth and development patterns. We look at plasticity. Some plants can be very deterministic in growth. It doesn’t matter if it’s wet, dry, hot, they will grow at a very known rate to some extent,” Santantonio mentioned.
He famous that some strains could also be much less plastic, and if situations turn into too excessive, they may fail whereas different strains could also be extra plastic and higher ready to adapt to various environmental situations. The purpose of the analysis is to decide which technique, plasticity or determinism, is finest for yield stability throughout environments.
“These are things we largely don’t know outside of looking at [the black box outcomes of past experiments],” Santantonio mentioned. The three-year trial will have a look at progress and improvement patterns relatively than simply end-use traits.
“The beauty of it is the way we model these, we can actually start to predict the growth curves of varieties that we have not observed because all the wheat out there is related to other lines. We can start to gather this bulk of information about their DNA, as well as their phenotypes so that we can actually start to do a very good job of predicting phenotypes of lines that we have not actually observed in the field,” he mentioned.
Members find out about new wheat varieties on the Virginia Small Grains Area Day on the Japanese Virginia Agricultural Analysis and Extension Heart Might 20 in Warsaw. (John Hart Picture)