Forage Crop Genome Unit conducts the fundamental researches to develop new varieties of forage and energy crops using DNA marker-assisted selection, genetic transformation and genome editing technology. The main topics are: (1) DNA marker assisted selection to develop flooding tolerant maize, (2) genetic modification and genome editing in maize and (3) breeding of brachiaria grass using DNA marker approach.
Flooding tolerance in maize
We conduct genetic analyses for flooding tolerance-related traits such as the capacity to form constitutive root aerenchyma, the formation of the radial oxygen loss barrier in roots (ROL barrier) and tolerance under reducing soil conditions using wild relative of maize "teosinte". Also, we perform collaborative investigation for gene isolation of ROL barrier.
Genetic modification and genome editing
We are producing transgenic maize for feed containing functional compounds such as CoQ10 and etc. Genome editing, a breakthrough technology which enables introduction of point mutation into any target gene, is now applied to Japanese maize inbred line in order to develop a highly digestible cultivar.
Breeding of brachiaria grass
In Japanese southwest islands, mainly Okinawa prefecture, utilization of brachiaria grass have been under way in this decade. In Tropical South America, brachiaria grazing fields is getting larger area in this 50 years, and now close to 100 million hectares. Cross breeding of this brachiaria grass was prevented by asexual seed propagation way of apomixis, therefore, combinations of superior agronomical traits have been extremely difficult. We construct cooperative research with domestic and overseas research institute and advance crossing enabled line creation and combinations of important agronomical traits with DNA marker development.