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Plant Breeding, Genetics & Genomics
Overview
Plant breeding, genetics, and genomics have a critical role to play in 21st century. Through initiatives, projects, and funding programs, NIFA provides leadership and coordination for national genomics research, supports plant breeding through a multi-state effort to identify critical needs, and helps to focus federal dollars for research on cutting-edge plant improvement for human and animal health, food security, sustainable production, and bioenergy.

Plant breeding, genetics, and genomics have already brought us a long way in increasing crop productivity and in cultivating crops resistant to pests, pathogens, and drought. Centuries of selection for preferred traits, accelerated dramatically with the development of scientific plant breeding, have had tremendous positive impacts on food security and an improved quality of life. Todays scientific advances in genomics and genetics are opening new frontiers in plant breeding, including rapid and targeted advances in specific traits. But there is still much work to do  and many goals to achieve. Constantly evolving plant pests and pathogens, global climate change, and changing social needs make plant breeding, genetics, and genomics ever more vital.

Plant Breeding, Genetics, and Genomics for U.S. Agriculture Human life would be impossible without plants to provide food, fiber, fuel, shelter, and medicines. In addition, plants perform a crucial role in sequestering critical greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, from the air we breathe. How can we continue to feed and nourish a growing world population? Can plants contribute to environmentally sound, economically, and socially sustainable sources of energy? How can agriculture-related pollution be reduced? Given these and other current challenges, plant breeding, genetics, and genomics research, education, and extension are more valuable now than ever before.

Definitions Simply put, plant breeding is the science of maximizing positive genetic traits in plants that people grow. Plant breeding consists of analytical frameworks that allow researchers to create and select plants that are consistently outstanding in desired traits. Plant genetics uses inherited differences in plants as clues to understand their natural metabolic processes. Population genetics studies how entire populations adapt in response to selection. Plant genomics is the newest addition to this suite of sciences. Genomics studies the complete genetic makeup of plants, through mapping, sequencing, and analysis to determine the function of genes. Genomics is developing rapidly in the 21st century and the knowledge gained has benefit to all aspects of plant breeding. Together, plant breeding, genetics, and genomics are a powerful approach to societys needs. They are at the core of our ability to meet todays challenges and opportunities for everything that we rely on agriculture to provide.

Impact areas for plant breeding, genetics, and genomics A Safe and Secure Food System Plant breeding, genetics, and genomics deliver robust crops capable of withstanding or recovering from unknown future pests, diseases, or climate changes that could threaten food security. These sciences are the foundation of an affordable food supply. Because of them, food reserves can be maintained to meet global emergencies.

A Healthy, Well-Nourished Population Plant breeding, genetics, and genomics make possible affordable fruits and vegetables, abundant staple foods, and feeds for producing nutrient-dense meat and milk. They deliver scientific advances that make preventive health care a part of daily diets.

Harmony Between Agriculture and the Environment Plant breeding, genetics, and genomics merge with advances in environmental science to develop crops that provide specific environmental benefits, such as trapping pollutants, and improving water and air quality. These sciences allow countries like the United States to enjoy benefits of soil, water, and wildlife conservation because agricultural productivity reduces pressure on natural resources.

Economic Opportunities for Rural Populations Plant breeding,genetics and genomics is the avenue for delivering research results that add value to agricultural production, or create new products. A thriving bio-based economy of renewable resources for energy and industry requires these sciences.

An Agricultural System That Can Compete in the Global Economy Competitive agriculture requires continual access to efficient, high-quality crop varieties. Steady investment in plant breeding, genetics, and genomics is a way to ensure that the right varieties are ready at the right time, while adding value and competitive advantages for producers and countries.

Renewable energy Plant breeding, genetics, and genomics will provide plant feedstocks having improved yields and other characteristics for renewable energy. These sciences will discover and incorporate value-added traits to enhance sustainable yield of useable energy per acre. An integral part of this research will be analyses of the agricultural and environmental effects of new feedstock crops.
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