About this Research Topic
Predictions suggest that global population will exceed nine billion and crop yields must approximately double by 2050 to adequately feed an increasing global population. Thus in a world dealing with hunger and malnutrition, the demand for food security and healthier diets is continuously on the rise. Although we have obtained self-sufficiency in producing adequate food in many parts of the world, most food produced fails to deliver the required quantity of essential nutrients for supporting human growth, development, and disease prevention in later life. Among the nutrient often deficient in the food supply include iron (Fe), zinc (Zn) and protein. Thus, the health and wellness of future generations will depend on our ability to sustainably produce and deliver sufficient nutritious food to the world population.
Historically, breeding for nutritional traits through conventional/traditional breeding has yielded reasonably good results provided by improved varieties developed with enhanced nutritional traits that have been released for farmer’s cultivation. However, feeding the growing undernourished world population will require breakthrough solutions to improve food quality and dietary patterns in a globally equitable way. Beside nutritional security, it is equally important to address potential food safety issues related to allergenicity and toxicity of crop products prior to consumer consumption. Emerging new and combination technologies are available that can be applied towards addressing issues related to food and nutritional quality and quantity.
The recent advances in genomic tools and technologies have transformed agriculture, resulting in genetic revolution that is changing the way food is produced. The unprecedented recent developments in next-generation DNA sequencing technologies, gene discovery approaches like QTL mapping, association mapping/genome-wide association studies (GWAS) and QTL sequencing provide an array of options to study and understand crop genomes. The use of major and stable QTLs/genes for nutritional traits have led to their subsequent application in molecular breeding programs aimed at enhancing nutritional quality and food safety. Gene editing (using CRISPR-Cas9) of plants is considered a revolutionary technique that makes genetic editing considerably easier, safer and less expensive. A new generation of foods and ingredients with enhanced intrinsic nutritional quality and taste could be developed to improve population dietary patterns and health and made accessible to populations at needs of reducing nutritional deficiency.
In addition to genome editing, other available tools include genetic modification (of the traditional GMO type), marker-assisted breeding (MAB) or genomics-assisted breeding (GAB). The GAB or MAB resulted in fast development of nutritional superior crop varieties through modern breeding techniques like marker-assisted selection (MAS), marker-assisted recurrent selection (MARS) and genomic selection (GS) or Genome-wide Selection (GWS). The development of new crop varieties with enhanced yield, plant health and nutritional quality can be accelerated, by applying and combining new and old breeding technologies.
An approach is to use genomics tools to accelerate the process towards the crop’s suitability for consumers. As an example, cadmium (Cd), a heavy metal in soil that readily enters the food chain through soil-plant system can be reduced by breeding plant variety more resistance to metal contamination. Considering this, breeding crops with enhanced micro-nutrient content (bio-fortification) and reduced toxic element contents could be a more sustainable approach to address this important worldwide problem.
This Research Topic aims to highlight the importance of new or emerging technologies /research on breeding for nutritional and food safety traits, addressing the progress made in the development and application of genetic/genomics resources for improvement of important crop traits. This Research Topic will also address challenges in implementing these technologies including food safety, risks, and potential and regulatory issues. We welcome work from different disciplines to contribute Original Research, Review, and Commentary articles covering:
- Genetics for nutritional and food safety traits.
- Development and use of genomics resources for improvement of health-related traits.
- Gene/QTL discovery for nutritional traits.
- Conventional and genomics-assisted breeding for improving nutritional value enhancement and health related traits in crop plants.
- Regulatory challenges related to approval of new varieties /breeds.
- Risk assessment of new traits, variety
Keywords: Crop improvement, Gene/QLT discovery, Molecular breeding, Genomics resources