College of Food, Ag & Nat Res Sci
Hairy vetch (Vicia villosa) is a winter-annual legume with characteristics that render excellent potential for a Minnesota adapted cover crop species including: biological N fixation, stress tolerance, weed suppression, erosion inhibition, and pollinator accommodation. However, certain traits still require improvement to increase farmer adoption, primarily winter survival. The breeding program at the University of Minnesota has developed methods of phenotyping freezing tolerance and has performed recurrent selection for adaptive traits for multiple generations. However, researchers recognize that genetic gain will be limited using only conventional plant-breeding techniques. An imperative next step is to then develop molecular and genomic tools to expedite varietal improvement and gain understanding for the mechanisms underlying winter hardiness, a sought-after trait for annual legume species. Freezing tolerance acquisition is a primary determinant of winter survival and will therefore be the target of an RNA-sequencing experiment to measure gene expression in a growth chamber environment programmed to mimic autumn conditions. To supplement this, they will conduct a mapping experiment where they will construct a linkage map and find QTL for freezing tolerance and winter-hardiness. This dual approach will provide biological insight, genetic markers, QTL for marker-assisted selection, and resources to improve the current assembly of the V. villosa genome.