Animal breeding is essential for achieving the required production of food in the future. Classical selection is based on measured performances of animals and their relatives. The recent introduction of Genomic Selection has revolutionized artificial selection. Genomic Selection selects animals based on their genome, which is more precise than on performances and can double the annual rate of genetic improvement.
Selection for improved trait values alters the genetic architecture of a trait, defined here as the genes underlying a trait and their frequencies and effects. Genomic Selection likely accelerates the change in genetic architecture by strongly selecting on genes with large effects. Genomic Selection, however, largely ignores genes with small effects or with rare variants and therefore increases the risk of losing rare favourable variants. This potentially reduces the genetic variation in a population, which may limit the long-term genetic improvement and the potential of populations to adapt to changing environments.
Funding body TTW-NWO has awarded a prestigious 3-year VENI grant to Yvonne Wientjes to investigate the rate of change in the genetic architecture of traits under Genomic Selection. Her results will reveal how fast current Genomic Selection methods change the genetic architecture of traits and whether or not they limit the potential for long-term genetic improvement. This provides important information for animal breeding companies to enable a continuous genetic improvement of livestock populations to contribute to food security for the growing human population.
VENI grants aim at researchers who recently obtained their PhD. According to the jury, Yvonne received the grant due to a combination of being a talented researcher, and defining a highly innovative and relevant topic in her application, which has a clear route towards utilisation via the link with the Breed4Food consortium.