Meeting at the crossroad of statistics and breeding


Meeting at the crossroad of statistics and breeding

Gepubliceerd op
5 juli 2015

What can you do with hundreds of mathematical equations when you need to estimate thousands of unknown variables? This might be an unsolvable puzzle according to secondary school level mathematics but the EUCARPIA Biometrics for Plant Breeding conference, from 9 to 11 September in Wageningen, gives breeders an insight into how they can use ‘Big Data’ to find a solution.

Early registration fee until july 10th

The complete programme has been made available online today and the Early Registration Fee applies until 10 July.

“Breeding programmes have become considerably more complex due to digital phenotyping, genomics, metabolomics and epigenetics,” explains Marco Bink, co-organiser of the conference. “But they have also become more challenging and exciting.”

Big data

The conference is organised by the ‘Biometrics for Plant Breeding’ section of the European Association of Plant Breeders, EUCARPIA. “Plant breeding today is increasingly characterised by Big Data,” says Bink, expert on applying statistical methods to plant breeding data, at Wageningen UR. “It involves the phenotypic traits of plants – which breeders always had to measure – and now the huge quantities of genetic marker data as well. This does not mean that it is simply a matter of linking one dataset to the other, however. Between genes and phenotypes, issues such as gene expression, epigenetics and metabolomics – which create substantial datasets of their own – are also at play.”

Holy grail in breeding research

According to Bink, the holy grail in breeding research lies in the information that makes the need for large numbers of field trials redundant. “The trick is to predict whether a crop will do well in for example warm, dry conditions based on the genome-wide DNA profile without having to perform costly field trials with thousands of different genotypes in southern countries. In principle this type of information is hidden in the Big Data. Question is: how can the information be unlocked?”

Keynote speaker

The opening speech of the conference will be given by Netherlands-born scientist and professor Peter Visscher from the Centre for Neurogenetics & Statistical Genomics of the University of Queensland (Australia). Bink: “In his keynote lecture, Visscher will discuss how he struggles with largely the same dilemmas in human genetics. The difference is that he tries to find links between genetics and epigenetics and human health or disease.”

Research and industry

The conference will be attended by scientists from the academic field as well as those active in the industry. “I think it will be stimulating for participants from breeding practice to see how a smart setup of experiments and the intelligent use of the near infinite amount of data can be used to realise the desired steps in their breeding programmes at a faster pace.”