Executive Summary:

Genetics Section of the Botanical Society of America

The committee identified plant molecular genetics and cytogenetics, plant developmental genetics, plant evolutionary genetics, and plant genetic resource management as four priority fields for future plant genetics research.

Future research in plant molecular genetics and cytogenetics should focus on: identifying genes that encode proteins that have central roles in plant function or genes that encode products with potential economic value; identifying genes that are expressed in discrete patterns within the plants, so as to use associated regulatory regions to direct the expression of foreign genes in transgenic plants; furthering efforts to understand the regulation of gene expression in plants, including posttranscriptional, translational, and posttranslational control; and discovering efficient and practical means of introducing new genes into plants, so as to study their intrinsic properties and to incorporate agronomically useful traits into crops.

Plants have fewer cell types than do animals, and plant organogenesis proceeds via regulation of patterns of cell division and cell expansion, rather than via cell migrations and the folding of cellular sheets characteristic of animal organogenesis. Consequently, plants possess many intrinsic advantages as model systems for future priority studies in plant developmental genetics that: elucidate the genetic control of pattern formation in plants; unravel plant ontogenetic mechanisms; describe the structure and function of plant homogenetic genes; and characterize plant-microbe interactions.

Two of the paramount goals of plant evolutionary genetics are reconstructing the evolutionary history of plants and revealing processes and mechanisms responsible for evolutionary change in form and function. Research should focus on all levels of biological organization-organismal, genome, and gene evolution. DNA sequence information has dramatically improved our ability to unravel phylogenetic relationships, and readily available molecular genetic markers have radically strengthened empirical and theoretical investigations of evolution. Accordingly, most of the new discoveries and future insights in plant evolutionary genetics will probably rely heavily on molecular genetic tools.

Plant genetic resources not only underpin modern agriculture, they are vital to all life. Deploying modern statistical, genetic, and ecological principles to effectively and efficiently safeguard and utilize these invaluable resources for current crop improvement programs, for sustainable agriculture of the future, and for conserving our ever diminishing wildlands presents a very formidable challenge. Priorities for future research in plant genetic resource management include: perfecting efficient yet precise assays for genetic diversity and change; developing rapid and efficient statistical and database management methods; incorporating unadapted germplasm into crops via novel genetic enhancement procedures; improving cryogenic methods for ex situ plant genetic resource management; and integrating the preceding technologies into practical methods and models for effective and efficient plant genetic resource management.

Section Committee:

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