One of the greatest global challenges of our time is to meet the demand for more and better food in meeting the many pressure vectors. Agricultural production will have to increase by 60% by 2050 while varieties more tolerant to various biotic and abiotic stresses will be increasingly essential to the sustainability of agriculture. The most disturbing fact, however, is that the breeding programs use only a small fraction of the genetic diversity available to develop new cultivars in each one of these species. It is undeniable the importance given to the implementation and conservation of genetic resources (GR) in the form of Genebanks to ensure the integrity of the germplasm. However, to effectively enhance the use of GR it is essential to increase the knowledge about the conserved genetic material, to aggregate value to the germplasm through characterization activities. Only with knowledge and detailed information about the stored accessions, users of GR collections, including breeders and researchers in biotechnology, will be able to make decisions about which materials to use for the development of new varieties.
The Genetic resources characterization for conservation and plant breeding research group works in a wide range of areas, including taxonomy, chemistry, morphology, genetics, genomics, cytogenetics, biochemistry and biophysics. The aim of the research group is to contribute to the identification, discrimination and cataloging of accessions, and to generate information about genetic diversity, ancestry and presence of functional genetic variants that impact productivity or quality that enhances breeding and biotechnology research activities. Characterization of plant genetic resources allows one to make technically sound decisions about the assembly of core collections and the selection of accessions to optimize long-term conservation efforts and detailed phenotypic characterization. It also enables the selection of accessions for the assembly of new breeding populations or the enrichment of existing ones, the identification of priority parents for crossbreeding, and the selection of suitable materials for genomic projects that include gene discovery, genome editing and systems biology research.