Introgressiomics: a new approach for using crop wild relatives in breeding for adaptation to climate change


The need to boost agricultural production in the coming decades in a climate change scenario requires new approaches for the development of new crop varieties that are more resilient and more efficient in the use of resources. Crop wild relatives (CWRs) are a source of variation for many traits of interest in breeding, in particular tolerance to abiotic and biotic stresses. However, their potential in plant breeding has largely remained unexploited. CWRs can make an effective contribution to broadening the genetic base of crops and to introgressing traits of interest, but their direct use by breeders in breeding programs is usually not feasible due to the presence of undesirable traits in CWRs (linkage drag) and frequent breeding barriers with the crop. Here we call for a new approach, which we tentatively call ‘introgressiomics’, which consists of mass scale development of plant materials and populations with introgressions from CWRs into the genetic background of crops. Introgressiomics is a form of pre-emptive breeding and can be focused, when looking for specific phenotypes, or un-focused, when it is aimed at creating highly diverse introgressed populations. Exploring germplasm collections and identifying adequate species and accessions from different genepools encompassing a high diversity, using different strategies like the creation of germplasm diversity sets, Focused identification of germplasm strategy (FIGS) or gap analysis, is a first step in introgressiomics. Interspecific hybridization and backcrossing is often a major barrier for introgressiomics, but a number of techniques can be used to potentially overcome these and produce introgression populations. The generation of chromosome substitution lines (CSLs), introgression lines (ILs), or multi-parent advanced inter-cross (MAGIC) populations by means of marker-assisted selection allows not only the genetic analysis of traits present in CWRs, but also developing genetically characterized elite materials that can be easily incorporated in breeding programs. Genomic tools, in particular high-throughput molecular markers, facilitate the characterization and development of introgressiomics populations, while new plant breeding techniques (NPBTs) can enhance the introgression and use of genes from CWRs in the genetic background of crops. An efficient use of introgressiomics populations requires moving the materials into breeding pipelines. In this respect public–private partnerships (PPPs) can contribute to an increased use of introgressed materials by breeders. We hope that the introgressiomics approach will contribute to the development of a new generation of cultivars with dramatically improved yield and performance that may allow coping with the environmental changes caused by climate change while at the same time contributing to a more efficient and sustainable agriculture.

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This work was undertaken as part of the initiative “Adapting Agriculture to Climate Change: Collecting, Protecting and Preparing Crop Wild Relatives”, which is supported by the Government of Norway. The Project is managed by the Global Crop Diversity Trust with the Millennium Seed Bank of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and implemented in partnership with national and international gene banks and plant breeding institutes around the world. For further information see the project website: This work has also been funded in part by European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under Grant agreement No 677379 (G2P-SOL) and from Spanish Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad and Fondo Europeo de Desarrollo Regional (Grant AGL2015-64755-R from MINECO/FEDER, EU). Pietro Gramazio is grateful to Universitat Politècnica de València for a pre-doctoral (Programa FPI de la UPV-Subprograma 1/2013 call) contract.

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Correspondence to Jaime Prohens.

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This article is part of the Topical Collection on Plant Breeding: the Art of Bringing Science to Life. Highlights of the 20th EUCARPIA General Congress, Zurich, Switzerland, 29 August–1 September 2016

Edited by Roland Kölliker, Richard G. F. Visser, Achim Walter & Beat Boller

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Prohens, J., Gramazio, P., Plazas, M. et al. Introgressiomics: a new approach for using crop wild relatives in breeding for adaptation to climate change. Euphytica 213, 158 (2017) doi:10.1007/s10681-017-1938-9

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  • Crop wild relatives
  • Plant genetic resources
  • Introgression breeding
  • Hybridization
  • Backcrossing
  • Genomics