Pea (Pisum sativum L.) was the original model organism used in Mendel’s discovery (1866) of the laws of inheritance, making it the foundation of modern plant genetics. However, subsequent progress in pea genomics has lagged behind many other plant species. Although the size and repetitive nature of the pea genome has so far restricted its sequencing, comprehensive genomic and post genomic resources already exist. These include BAC libraries, several types of molecular marker sets, both transcriptome and proteome datasets and mutant populations for reverse genetics. The availability of the full genome sequences of three legume species has offered significant opportunities for genome wide comparison revealing synteny and co-linearity to pea. A combination of a candidate gene and colinearity approach has successfully led to the identification of genes underlying agronomically important traits including virus resistances and plant architecture. Some of this knowledge has already been applied to marker assisted selection (MAS) programs, increasing precision and shortening the breeding cycle. Yet, complete translation of marker discovery to pea breeding is still to be achieved. Molecular analysis of pea collections has shown that although substantial variation is present within the cultivated genepool, wild material offers the possibility to incorporate novel traits that may have been inadvertently eliminated. Association mapping analysis of diverse pea germplasm promises to identify genetic variation related to desirable agronomic traits, which are historically difficult to breed for in a traditional manner. The availability of high throughput ‘omics’ methodologies offers great promise for the development of novel, highly accurate selective breeding tools for improved pea genotypes that are sustainable under current and future climates and farming systems.
- breeding; germplasm; genetic diversity; marker-assisted breeding; legumes; pea