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Genome and epigenome enabled breeding in terrestrial livestock


The selected projects will assist in the exploitation of existing knowledge on the genome sequence and its regulation and expression. They will do so by providing (i) analysis of the genome and the epigenome in relation to combinations of traits (including intermediate and/or indicators) important for efficient terrestrial livestock production and (ii) tools to improve breeding schemes, both for cosmopolitan and local breeds of terrestrial livestock, striving to ensure optimal genetic and epigenetic diversity, at least within breeds. The projects will encompass development of methods, tools and models to assist both industry and policy makers as well as to respond to social challenges. Proposals should fall under the concept of 'multi-actor approach'[[See definition of the 'multi-actor approach' in the introduction to this Work Programme part.]], involving representatives of breeders, biodiversity conservation and other relevant professionals from animal production, the food chain and decision-makers, as appropriate.

The activities may address:

  • Study of the genetic relationship between animal performance traits to tackle some potential trade-offs between different phenotypes of interest that may alter long-term selection strategies to improve lifetime efficiency.
  • Assessment of the relevance of (i) epigenetic mechanisms as a potential source of phenotypic variance unaccounted by genomic selection, and (ii) improving genomic prediction models with better integration of environmental and non-genetic inheritance factors.
  • Development of (i) appropriate deep phenotype indicators and their genomic and epigenomic determination that reflect different ways of improving resource-use efficiency, health, welfare, quality and resilience of terrestrial livestock and (ii) multi-trait genomic and epigenomic prediction models that can efficiently utilize these indicators.
  • Assessment of the potential, including benefits and risks, of both (i) genome editing for cross-species and/or inter-breed transmission of specific traits without affecting other selected characteristics or specificities and (ii) targeted epigenome editing for improved animal welfare and/or product quality.
  • Study of the opportunity and feasibility of integration of genome editing in genomic selection (specifics and comparison with introgression: theoretical and practical applications).
  • Development of refined genomic and epigenomic strategies for management of biodiversity.

The projects are encouraged to interact as appropriate with relevant Horizon 2020 projects.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of up to EUR 7 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Genetics is currently one of the important levers for efficient livestock production, not only to increase performance and productivity, but also to ensure resilience and to reduce resource use and environmental impact, to ensure health and welfare of the animals, while maintaining or improving longevity of animals and product quality. Understanding of the biological mechanisms underpinning traits, including epigenetic responses to the environment and non-genetic inheritance, remains relatively limited and underexploited, notably when several complex traits need to be targeted simultaneously, while avoiding or reducing trade-offs. In addition, improving livestock breeding programmes in both cosmopolitan and local breeds requires an optimal level of genetic diversity that needs to be measured and exploited. There is a need also for new knowledge and tools to open up new prospects for the measurement, conservation and exploitation of genetic diversity in farm animal species, for optimal genetic diversity in farm animal breeding programmes in both cosmopolitan and local breeds and to inform and develop strategies to provide for cost-effective in vivo conservation of endangered genetic resources.

  • Methods for biology-driven selection of livestock with more balanced performances for production, robustness, and/or quality, taking into account environmental variability.
  • Set of phenotypes as well as the molecular tools available to farmers and farm advisers to assess and simultaneously drive animal traits related to efficiency, for a long-time evaluation of breeding strategies.
  • Set of options for conservation of genetic diversity among and within breeds.
  • More generally, the projects will contribute to the diversity and sustainability of livestock production.