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Tailoring bioinformatics for the genetic improvement of orphan crops
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The advent and rapid advance of genomics technologies can enable plant breeders to design cost-effective and efficient breeding strategies by exploiting the ability of molecular plant breeding to increase favorable gene action and efficiency of selection. The unparalleled scientific progress in the fields of genomics and bioinformatics can successfully be harnessed to address the challenges of small holding farmers in developing countries. The power of molecular breeding extends to orphan crops with little DNA sequence information through comparative genomics methods. This growing abundance of genomic resources necessitates that plant scientists be equipped with fundamental genomic analysis tools for genomics assisted crop improvement. The role of bioinformatics as a pivotal tool for molecular breeding is growing steadily, particularly in identification of nucleotide variants associated with key traits. Basic bioinformatics skills to utilize selected public databases and integrated resources are outlined. Online resources for self-paced tutorials and other skill building opportunities were suggested. Particular emphasis was made to comparative genomics techniques to develop genomic resources for molecular breeding. Research institutions in developing nations should invest in bioinformatics capacity building in terms of human resources and infrastructure development in addition to forging strong partnerships with advanced research institutes.