Traceability Key to Plant Breeding Success

- Dieter Mulitze

Why is traceability important in plant breeding? One big reason: patented genes. When used in breeding, you need to prove by audit what gene is used where, and its presence in a given genetic background. This will determine royalty payments to the company owning the gene, and hence licensing fees will result.

Also, in the wider sense, response to selection is a big reason for the importance of traceability. Can I trace a gene that I need to include in crosses? If GMO is a factor, what crosses involved its use, and which gene from where is involved?

Seed companies never know when they might have to trace a gene, especially in these days of seemingly tighter regulation imposed for a variety of reasons, some perfectly legitimate and some not so much. Either way, traceability is crucial to business success.

All too often, traceability data is stored using Excel sheets or similar software. What does this look like? Considering Excel is a program not meant for plant breeding, not only is it hard to do, it’s prone to error, time consuming, and extremely unpleasant to undertake. Using such improper software could lead to errors that get you sued, and what adds insult to injury in this case is the fact is takes a lot more time to prove your case during an audit trial when all you have is a slew of Excel sheets to go by.

What if you’re using using software designed specifically for plant breeding? The whole process is a lot easier when you have the benefit of a highly relational software system where the presence, absence or variation of a gene can be connected as a descriptor trait to a genotype, to parents of a cross or crosses. Need to instantly know all the plots where genotypes with the gene were grown, what crosses were involved, and all descendants? You’ll know, and you’ll have easy access to the data.

It’s worth repeating — traceability is crucial to success in the plant breeding and seed industries. And using good software can make all the difference between being successful and not.