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FIGS – a new tool for rapid mining of agricultural genebanks

Scaling-up: These varieties were bred for dryland farming systems in developing countries. For optimal performance, varieties can be targeted to specific farming systems, depending on locally prevalent stresses.

The new ‘FIGS’ tool – the Focused Identification of Germplasm Strategy ― allows gene bank managers and agricultural researchers worldwide to screen large plant genetic resource collections more rapidly and accurately than was previously possible using traditional methods.

FIGS is a major advance over current approaches. It brings researchers closer to the world’s 6 million genetic resources accessions in the world’s agricultural genebanks.

Many plant genotypes are potential sources of novel genes that can improve drought tolerance, disease resistance and other traits. Until now, breeders have not full succeeded in combing through huge gene bank collections to identify useful traits.

FIGS combines agro-ecological information with data on plant traits and characteristics. FIGS datasets identify sets of plant genotypes with a higher probability of containing specific ‘target’ traits.

This new tool was developed jointly by ICARDA, the Vavilov Institute of Plant Industry in Russia, and the Grains Research and Development Corporation in Australia. In a short period, it has already helped identify sources of resistance to several important pests and diseases. For example:

  • 16% ‘success rate’ in identifying genotypes resistant to powdery mildew disease, compared to the 5 to 6% typically obtained with traditional screening methods.
  • Identified the first-ever sources of resistance to the most virulent biotype of the Russian wheat aphid
  • FIGS analysis revealed new resistance genes to mildew and aphids, that are expected to significantly improve resistance breeding programs

FIGS searches can be done for you by the ICARDA FIGS team on request. A web based version will soon be available where researchers can do searchers through this website.