Rapid population growth, a changing climate, and increasing constraints on land, water, and fertilizer threaten global food security. As a nation Canada must dramatically expand agricultural production to meet increased demand and to offset predicted declines in crop yields in tropical and sub-tropical countries. This can be achieved by accelerating plant breeding in Canada and focusing on the development of high yielding, climate-adapted and “planet friendly” varieties.
Canadian policy makers and funders have recognized the promise of genomics for speeding up breeding, but breeders and farmers are not yet fully benefiting from ground-breaking research outputs. While crop genomic data is growing in quantity at an overwhelmingly rapid pace, breeders often lack access to simple and intuitive tools to efficiently use crop genomic data and apply it to their breeding programs.
The DivSeek Canada project was funded with an objective to fill this gap by developing an online information management platform that provides easy access to genotypic and phenotypic data associated with crop germplasm, with a focus on Canadian crops (flax, lentil and sunflower). To accomplish this, the project team first consulted with Canadian stakeholders to guide the development of the DivSeek Canada Resource. Based on their input the team used Tripal toolkit and infrastructure from Compute Canada to establish DivSeek Canada, a web-based portal that integrates plant germplasm, genotypic and phenotypic resources with user friendly tools for mapping, breeding and data visualization to accelerate crop improvement. Finally, the team provided training material that will permit stakeholders to efficiently search and use the Resource, host their own data on the Resource, or create their own portal using tools available on the Resource.
The DivSeek Canada Resource is expected to galvanize the use of genomic information by plant breeders, thereby accelerating crop breeding for the Canadian environment.