By combining genomics with the powerful tools of informatics, breeding for genetic gain has undergone a revolution. But due to high-costs, some smaller breeding programs have been left behind. The mission of the Breeding Insight team is to make high-tech breeding a reality for smaller programs.

Breeding Insight is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) through Cornell University. The USDA ARS delivers scientific solutions to national and global agricultural challenges. As a global leader in agricultural discovery through scientific excellence, ARS is committed to delivering cutting-edge, scientific tools and innovative solutions for American farmers, producers, industry, and communities to support the nourishment and well-being of all people; sustaining our nation’s agroecosystems and natural resources; and ensuring the economic competitiveness and excellence of our agriculture.


The Challenge

Currently there are many USDA-ARS smaller breeding programs focused on specialty crops and animals that have not benefited sufficiently from the genomics and informatics revolution of breeding.  By combining breeding approaches with genomics and informatics, it is now possible to accurately predict some of the traits and performance of an individual long before it is ever grown. The smaller breeding programs do not have the resources to implement the powerful predictive models that have been deployed in major livestock and crops by ARS and industry. The genomics and specialized informatic technologies are not only too expensive for individual programs to implement on their own, but require high-tech expertise to tailor them to different species and kinds of breeding programs. 

What We Do

Breeding Insight will leverage recent improvements in genomics and open source informatics components, and through partnerships with small breeding programs, will enable these programs to harness these incredibly powerful digital tools to accelerate their genetic gains.  It will support breeding projects across ARS by building a team of specialists in information technology, genomics, and breeding process design that will partner with individual ARS pre-breeding and breeding groups and NPGS genebanks. This "coordinator" type model will enable the efficient and cost-effective deployment of modern genomics and informatics to ARS small breeding programs. 

The initial two years will focus on recruiting the Breeding Insight team and integrating informatics tools. The project will leverage investments in open source informatic tools that are already funded by ARS, CGIAR, USAID, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Currently, these tools cover the domain space (various activities) needed for breeding programs. The Cornell software engineers will improve and integrate these tools so they can be applied to specialty breeding programs.