The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee leads a MARINER Category 5 project to develop a breeding program and produce macroalgae varieties with consistently high yields under farmed conditions. Controlled genetic improvements through crop breeding require establishing a bank of genetically homogeneous lines examined for markers and traits important for domestication and production. The research focuses on the giant kelp from the Southern California Bight, an area of high genetic diversity. The team completed two years of trait evaluation, growing our kelp on a farm off the Santa Barbara coast. We measured traits such as survival, growth rate, temperature tolerance, and chemical composition at different stages. The first reference genome has been sequenced and assembled, allowing for kelp genotypes to be mapped into the genome and the first inquiries about trait genetic architecture. In the 2021 kelp farm season, we will validate our first phenotype-genotype association model for yield. Our ex-situ germplasm lines constitute a “seed stock,” similar to that established for crops. We are using it as the foundation to stage model-based, efficient, cost-effective, and environmentally sound targeted genome-based selection.
PI: Filipe Alberto; email@example.com