The USDA is promising people like Luigi1 a get out of hell free card. Shiaoman Chao, a molecular geneticist, sequences and fingerprints thousands of wheat and barley samples sent to her by breeders around the country. The results can help breeders to decide whether a particular seedling is worth persevering with.
But those data on their own become much more valuable when they can be married to other kinds of information from other kinds of laboratory. Enter GrainGenes, “a treasure trove of genetic information about wheat, barley and other ‘small grains’ like rye, oats and triticale”.
Personally, I don’t have the knowledge to make use of GrainGenes, or any of the other massive portals dedicated to just a few crops each: maize, strawberry, potato and others. But there is help out there.
The bigger question is the extent to which all those portals can be brought together and interlinked with other kinds of data: where selections grow, their visible characteristics, their utility, etc. etc. I know there are people coming at this from the non-molecular side of things, but I do sometimes wonder whether they really have the chops (and the resources) to pull it off. If some of the gene-jockeys decided they wanted to do it, and could throw some of their brains, brawn and bucks at the problem, I reckon Luigi would have his lifeline sooner. And it might be more reliable.