World Congress of Genetics Applied to Livestock Production held in the Netherlands focus on Aquaculture

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Aquaculture was one of this year’s focal areas of the World Congress of Genetics Applied to Livestock Production 2022 (WCGALP) took place a few weeks ago in Rotterdam, Netherlands. With an increase in the number of papers presented in the conference in comparison to the previous events, the 12th edition of the WCGALP being accorded two full afternoon sessions on the second day of the congress.

The participants were specialists in the field of animal genetics and related expertise. During the congress they shared knowledge and interacted on innovations in the area of genetics applied to livestock production.

“Also known as the ‘Olympics of Genetics’, WCGALP occurs every four years and gathers researchers from the entire world for five days of presentations. The 2022 edition was hybrid.”

Due to the pandemic and travel restrictions in the different parts of the globe, the WCGALP 2022 was unique since for the first time it was fully hybrid with online and onsite participants, providing an opportunity for a large number of scientists around the world to share their work.

“The scope of WCGALP 2022 was aimed at the sustainable production of high-quality animal proteins for a growing world population through modern animal breeding.”

Animal breeding relies on research and development as well as long-term commitment to increase the efficiency of the food chain, reduce its ecological footprint, minimize the use of antibiotics, and generally contribute to food security and safety, all while maintaining better health and welfare of farmed animals and meeting the changing consumer demands.

Aquaculture talks

The Aquaculture talks focused mainly on disease resistance traits including resistance to Flavobacterium columnaris in rainbow trout, Piscirickettsia salmonis, sea lice in Atlantic salmon, SRS in Coho salmon, and VNN in seabass.

The second session focused on breeding and novel phenotyping techniques with an invited talk by Wageningen University’s Wout Abbink on the possibilities of using electronic sensors to monitor different fish behavioral changes in breeding environments.

He demonstrated that the electronic sensors they developed could be used to collect very accurate health, welfare and physiological trait measurements for breeding program management.

Roslin Institute Aquaculture

In this edition, the event received the presence of the Roslin Institute Aquaculture group, of the University of Edinburgh, was represented by Agustin Barria, Clémence Fraslin, Robert Mukiibi and Saif Agha, who presented some of their most novel results at the conference.

Fraslin presented her results from the AQUAImpact project on ‘Potential of imputation for cost-efficient genomic selection for resistance to Flavobacterium columnare in rainbow trout’.

“She demonstrated the potential of utilizing lower density SNP panels (as low as 300 SNP markers) and genotype imputation to enable cost effective implementation of genomic selection in the aquaculture industry.”

Mukiibi, on his part, presented results from the AQUA-FAANG project on ‘A major QTL affects resistance to viral nervous necrosis in farmed European seabass’. He showed a major VNN resistance QTL and potential causal genes they have identified on the European seabass’ chromosome 3.

Whole Genome Sequence information

Part of the conference was aimed on the use of Whole Genome Sequence information, either to explore the genetic architecture of traits (GWAS sessions), where the use of WGS data improved QTL detection and fine mapping, or in two sessions that were dedicated to the challenge of using such information, with a focus on cattle.

Theo Meuwissen presented an interesting talk ‘On the advantage of identifying causal genetic variants for genomic prediction’, concluding that in some cases identification of causal variants improved the prediction accuracy whereas for other traits surrounding SNPs could pick-up the effect of the variant.

Knowing causal variant is helpful to understand the biology underlying the phenotype and opens up possibilities for gene editing.

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