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Better Cotton Breeding to Clothe a Growing Population

Mimi Padmabandu
| Sep 02, 2015

Cotton makes up the denim in our jeans, the shirts on our backs, and the fibers in our shoelaces. It’s a common part of everyday life and is grown in more than 75 countries. Although we often consider the human genome to be complex, the cotton genome is arguably even more complex, with multiple sets of chromosomes (known as polyploidy). These duplications make genetic analysis and breeding a challenge. Until now, breeders relied on physical measurements of cotton plants to select the best lines, but this is a slow process. A breeder might evaluate up to a million plants in their search for the best crop.

Thanks to the work done by Amanda Hulse-Kemp, PhD and her colleagues, breeders now have a tool to make their work much easier. As a doctoral student, Dr. Hulse-Kemp collaborated with an international consortium to design and develop the CottonSNP63K BeadChip, a custom cotton genotyping array. Using this tool, researchers and breeders can identify markers associated with valuable traits, leading to higher yield and disease-resistant varieties able to grow in harsh climates.

Cotton will undoubtedly be an important crop for the future, as the global population continues to grow at a rapid pace. “The CottonSNP63K BeadChip will allow a revolution in cotton breeding,” Dr. Hulse-Kemp said. “Almost everyone who works on cotton will use it in the future.”