From Genome to Phenome: how AG2PI is building bridges between kingdomsOctober 31, 2022
Written in collaboration with Carol Brown, AG2PI Communications Coordinator
When it comes to tackling problems as complex and urgent as securing global food security, our research communities have no choice but to become more interdisciplinary.
Let’s take genome-to-phenome (G2P) science, for example. Understanding how the physical properties of a crop connect back to its genetic code, and disentangling the influence of the environment on its genes, is a complicated undertaking. It requires collaboration between farmers, geneticists, plant physiologists, and data scientists.
Actually translating this research into real-world solutions for our food production systems is an even greater undertaking – one that requires the G2P research community to join forces with the likes of engineers, economists, and social scientists.
The Agricultural Genome to Phenome Initiative (AG2PI) was born from a need for this type of collaboration. Established by the U.S. Congress in the 2018 Farm Bill and funded through USDA NIFA, the goal of the AG2PI is to support collaboration in G2P science as it relates to agriculturally important species.
In particular, AG2PI seeks to bridge the gap between crop and livestock science. More often than not, researchers stay within their own plant or animal kingdom, and often within their own species. AG2PI aims to build a cross-kingdom G2P research community.
One of the ways they are doing this is through education. To date, AG2PI has hosted over 20 virtual field days across the crop and livestock domains, with topics including microbiomes, omics, complex modelling, and data storage and standardization. Field days take place online rather than in the field to accommodate a larger, more diverse audience and typically follow a presentation and discussion format which still allows for interaction between attendees and presenters.
They have also held 15 virtual training workshops that offered deeper exploration to build technical capacity in cyberinfrastructure, data tools and pipelines, computational skills and more. Recordings for past training workshops and field days are freely available via YouTube and through the AG2PI website (ag2pi.org).
Patrick Schnable, AG2PI Principal Investigator, says that these field days and workshops have “not only assisted individual researchers improve their skills, but have also helped to build the AG2PI community”.
Alongside training and information sharing, AG2PI also fosters collaboration by awarding seed grants to collaborative G2P projects. “The new knowledge, educational resources, and data pipelines the awardees are developing and freely sharing is another big value-add to the community,” says Schnable.
Excitingly, AG2PI have recently been awarded their third grant through USDA NIFA to continue these seed grant programs. Schnable explains: “with an added $1.6 million devoted to seed funding, we recently published an RFA to support AG2P-related projects with budgets of up to $250,000.”
Details about these grants can be found on the AG2PI website (https://www.ag2pi.org/seed-grants/coconut-seed-grant-2022-10-28/).