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Researchers use genomics for more targeted rainbow trout breeding

2 December 2016, at 12:00am

With the use of genomic selection, Danish researchers will target their breeding of rainbow trout towards adaptations to different production environments worldwide. This could pave the way for an even larger export of eggs from rainbow trout.

Countries worldwide are benefitting from the expertise of the Danish trout farms with the breeding of high quality rainbow trout.

To avoid the spreading of diseases, Danish breeding farms have closed breeding stocks. This helps to ensure high animal safety, but it also limits the breeding progress as transfer of fish between production farms and breeding farms is not allowed. As a result, performance testing of the brood stock in the production environments cannot take place.

Researchers from Aarhus University and AquaSearch farm ApS will now develop a breeding tool that makes it possible to select the best fish for breeding, while maintaining the high level of veterinary safety. The idea is to develop a genomic breeding tool that allows the breeders to find the breeding fish with the best traits for a given production environment without having to test them in this environment first.

DNA samples to identify production traits

Instead, a DNA sample will reveal which parent fish will have optimal traits in a given production environment. These fish will be used in the breeding to develop production of fish adapted to the different environmental conditions that exist in different countries of the world, such as Chile and Peru. Here a number of environmental parameters are different such as farming in salt water – and not fresh water as in Denmark.

By setting up reference populations at foreign producers, AquaSearch farm Aps and Aarhus University intend to compare the traits of trout in the production and breeding environment across borders using DNA markers. In this way, the researchers hope to be able to select the most suitable eggs for the individual producer.

With genomic selection, the researchers will take tissue samples of fish in different countries around the world and determine the relationship between their production characteristics and their DNA.

Kristian Meier from AquaSearch farm ApS states: "When we know the link between the DNA and the traits, we can develop a model that allows us to identify the breeding fish at home with the DNA profiles that are best suited for different production environments."

The development of the breeding tool for the rainbow trout breeders is a collaboration between the Center for Quantitative Genetics and Genomics (QGG), Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics at Aarhus University in Denmark and the company AquaSearch farm Aps. The project is cofinanced by the Green Development and Demonstration Programme (GUDP) with a grant of DKK 6.4 million over a four-year period.

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