Agroecology 3 min

H2020 GEroNIMO: thinking about the breeding of tomorrow

Within the framework of the European Horizon 2020 program, the “Genome and Epigenome eNabled breedIng in MOnogastrics” (GEroNIMO) project, involving teams from the Genetics, Physiology and Breeding Systems (GenPhySE) laboratory at the INRAE Occitanie-Toulouse center and the Animal Genetics and Integrative Biology (GABI) laboratory in Jouy-en-Josas, has been awarded 7 million euros over 5 years. This Europe-wide multi-actor project studies ways to improve genetic selection in animal breeding and to conserve genetic and epigenetic diversity, in order to provide new knowledge and perspectives to stakeholders, while taking into account current issues associated with sustainable development.

Published on 28 June 2021

illustration H2020 GEroNIMO: thinking about the breeding of tomorrow
© INRAE

In order to cope with a growing human population, increasing environmental constraints and changing socio-cultural values, livestock breeding must move towards a more sustainable model by guaranteeing production. This can be achieved by promoting an efficient use of resources, by improving the health and welfare of animals and by ensuring the preservation of genetic diversity.

 

New technologies for sustainable breeding

With the recent developments of "omics" technologies (genomics, epigenomics, transcriptomics, etc.), it is now possible to evaluate the relevance of enriching selection models with non-genetic inheritance factors. To do so, it is worth taking advantage of the continuous gain in knowledge on genome-phenome relationships, which takes into account genetic and non-genetic mechanisms that affect traits. This work will focus on chickens and pigs, which are the most widely used sources of animal protein in the world, to provide breeders with new knowledge and tools to promote innovative genome and epigenome-based selection methods for traits related to production (quantity and quality), efficiency, productive longevity, fertility, resilience and welfare.

A large number of animals of cosmopolitan and local breeds will be studied in different environments to:

  1. Identify the underlying biological mechanisms affecting trait variation,
  2. Develop methods to improve selection strategies that integrate genetic and non-genetic factors,
  3. Propose strategies to optimize the conservation of genetic and epigenetic diversity.

This program aims to help livestock stakeholders move towards selection that is better adapted to local needs while taking into account environmental issues. This should allow for optimal production, both in terms of quality and quantity, by combining the current "environmental, economic and societal" issues.

 

A participatory and multi-actor approach as close as possible to the field

GEroNIMO promotes demand-driven innovation through the direct involvement of breeders and animal production associations on a European scale. In addition to the implementation of specific protocols, it aims to add value to existing knowledge at both academic and industrial levels, by combining existing data from academic partners on the mechanisms underlying trait variation, with the existing functional knowledge from other programs, as well as large-scale production data from the pig and poultry industries. One of the objectives is to co-construct, with all stakeholders, large-scale phenotypic, genetic and epigenetics datasets that will allow to test hypotheses about the role of non-genetic determinism in trait variation.

It is by gaining detailed knowledge of the underlying biological mechanisms that we will be able to build and test innovative models that will exploit this information for selection and optimize strategies for conserving genetic diversity in cosmopolitan and local breeds.

 

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