Marker-assisted breeding is a conventional technique that allows breeders to track genes without using transgenic approaches. It can be used in plants and animals to select qualities that are desirable for farmers and consumers. Marker-assisted breeding doesn't produce genetically modified organisms.

Marker-assisted breeding uses DNA markers associated with desirable traits to select a plant or animal for inclusion in a breeding program early in their development.

This approach dramatically reduces the time required to identify varieties or breeds which express the desired trait in a breeding program. The marker is not the gene for the trait, but a genetic marker which is usually inherited with the trait. Desirable traits include characteristics such as disease resistance, size and high yield.

Projects using marker-assisted breeding

  • Hornless cattle: The Australian Poll Gene Marker test which is helping Australian cattle breeders select the best breeding cattle for their herds. It may also help the industry end the painful practice of dehorning beef cattle.
  • Protecting wine grapes from mildew: With an estimated cost to the Australian industry of approximately $140 million per annum, powdery and downy mildew are the most economically important diseases in viticulture, causing reduced yield and loss of berry and wine quality. Our scientists have identified two resistance genes, providing breeders with an alternative to fungicides in the constant battle against these deadly pathogens.

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