• Preparation of a DNA sample in the laboratory
    Marker technology and genomic selection

Marker technology and genomic selection


In short

With the help of molecular markers, plant characteristics are analyzed.


Quick selection of the desired characteristics of a plant, independent of environmental conditions.




Application in practical plant breeding since the 1990s.

Application at KWS

Molecular markers (also known as marker-assisted selection, MAS) are routinely used for all crops.

Genetic markers are short segments of DNA with a known location within the genome and are associated with a trait of interest. By using molecular markers, traits (genes) can be quickly and easily identified early in the plant’s development. For example, fungal resistance can more easily be determined in seedlings. Molecular markers make plant breeding significantly more efficient.

Without this modern technology, we would have to wait until the plant has fully matured to be able to observe the desired attributes. For example: In parental development breeders, cross two different parental lines and harvest the seed, and plant, for upcoming generations. They then obtain a small leaf sample from each seedling and analyze the DNA. If results reveal the marker they are looking for, it means that the offspring contains the desired trait. Thanks to molecular markers, we can find out within 48 hours whether a desired characteristic is present in the cultivated variety. This enables pre-selection of the offspring and allows breeders to concentrate on the most promising plants.

The pre-selected plants are then field tested resulting in a more efficient process.

Even faster with genomic selection

Genomic selection is a further development of the traditional marker technology (MAS) and leads to an even better and more reliable selection when selecting optimal crossing partners and future varieties. Because the cost of detecting genetic markers has significantly decreased, one plant can be analyzed for various markers simultaneously.

Breeders do this by creating a marker profile with several thousand markers for each individual plant. Each plant has a specific marker profile, comparable to a fingerprint. With the high-throughput marker technologies already established at KWS, marker profiles can be created quickly and cost-effectively.

Thousands of marker profiles from one plant population are then linked to the measured field data. Based on this, statistical and mathematical models are developed that can be used to predict the breeding value of the plants and whether they are suitable for the subsequent development of varieties, based on the marker profiles of seed or young plants. Complex software then assumes the task of determining those plants that are most promising for crossing from the marker profiles of other individual plants that were not field-tested. Thanks to this pre-selection process, many field tests are no longer required, while breeding progress continues.

Close collaboration between genome and breeding research continuously increases breeding efficiency and accelerates breeding progress.