Major advances in plant biology over the past decade are in large part thanks to new technologies for DNA sequencing and phenotyping (i.e. mapping the physical expression of genetic traits). The resulting datasets allow researchers to determine how different plants develop and respond to changes in their environment. Yet, in order to take advantage of the tremendous amount of new data, innovative tools are required to integrate and visualize the number of individual data points in different datasets. The original ePlant system, developed as part of a previous Genome Canada effort, integrates many data types but was not configured for phenotype data. Amongst its many applications, phenotype data provide important information on traits of interest to plant breeders.
Drs. Nicholas Provart of the University of Toronto and Jörg Bohlmann of the University of British Columbia are developing a new module to integrate the wide variety of data available, including ecosystem data, phenotypes and genotypes into ePlant. This will be done for the already existing ePlant species and any new ePlant species to be developed as part of this project. The researchers will also open the ePlant system to the research community to build a larger ePlant ecosystem of information. This online system will act as a resource where plant biologists will be able to share their datasets.
Ultimately, these tools can help to accelerate the task of identifying useful genes to feed, shelter and power a world of nine billion people by the year 2050.