Domesticaton in the CRISPR era

The world’s food supply depends on about 150 plant speciesbut this number could increase, even considerably. In fact, 250 species are considered to be fully domesticated, while 7,000 are semi-domesticated and 50,000 are edible. In the genomic era domestication may not require centuries and millennia, as was the case in the early days of agriculture. The process could happen at an accelerated pace, within a few years, taking advantage of modern knowledge about useful traits and new tecnologies such as gene editing. 

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Neutralizing cryptic mutations in plant breeding

We talk of cryptic mutations when genes are changed in a way that remains hidden until they interact with other mutations. As a result, combining beneficial traits can have negative consequences hindering agricultural production (watch this video from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on unexpected negative interactions). Classic breeders have been dealing with this problem for decades, but researchers from CSHL are finally working on a solution suitable for the genomic era. Zach Lippman and colleagues have studied one infamous cryptic mutation affecting a tomato variety developed by the Campbell Soup Company in the 1960s and discuss an anti-negative-interaction strategy for the future. Please see their paper in Nature Plants and watch the video below offering a cautionary tale for crop gene editing.