NC1170: Advanced Technologies for the Genetic Improvement of Poultry

(Multistate Research Project)

Status: Active


How the proposed research addresses regional and/or national priorities and in context of stakeholder input:

The poultry industry in the United States underpins the global food system providing an efficient, economical and nutritious source of animal-based protein (meat and eggs). The industry foundation consists of breeding companies and growers/producers distributed throughout the nation (and the world) with a heavy concentration in states from which the members of Multistate Research Project NC1170 are drawn (e.g., Arkansas, California, Delaware, Georgia, Iowa, Minnesota, North Carolina, Virginia). The USDA Economic Research Service reports that the U.S. poultry industry is the world’s largest producer and second-largest exporter of poultry meat and a major egg producer. The USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service reported that the combined value of production from broilers, eggs, and turkeys in 2015 was $47.9 billion. Many allied industries support and are impacted by the poultry industry, e.g., from grain producers and distributors to housing/cage manufacturers. Thus, the economic impact of the poultry industry to the financial health of the U.S. is enormous. The interactions of the poultry researchers involved in NC1170 with their stakeholders takes place via a variety of formats and opportunities so as to integrate our expertise with their needs and goals. These formats include, but are not limited to, organized informal meetings, workshops, and conferences (e.g., Poultry workshop at annual International Plant and Animal Genome meetings, annual National Breeders Roundtable, annual Poultry Science Association meeting), listserves, web based tools/utilities useful to the industry, as well as collaborative ventures among research institutions and poultry industry businesses. Many NC1170 members have leveraged USDA-AFRI or other federal grants and have substantive collaborations with poultry breeders and producers. It is noteworthy that many NC1170 researchers not only utilize specialized poultry genetic lines for experimental analysis but also routinely employ commercially-selected foundational lines and crosses in their work.


The importance of the work, and what the consequences are if it is not done

The work of NC1170 explores fundamental biological mechanisms using the most advanced technologies available that contribute new knowledge for application to improve the genetics, breeding and production of the poultry industry. These tools and our continued emphasis on their development and application are essential for improving efficiency of the birds directly (genotype selection) or indirectly (the management system, e.g., nutrition). Most important is improvement in the sustainability of poultry production. We operate in a world wherein it is imperative that researchers and stakeholders together consider the role and impact of our industries on the animal systems and the environment. Thus there is an essential need for continued creation of novel opportunities made possible by new technologies and knowledge to assist the industry in its continued positive evolution. It can be easily argued that significant advancements will not occur or at least at the same rate without the engine of research and development at both the fundamental and applied levels. Key is the fact that the members of the project are often involved in the development stages of the technologies (e.g., genomics tools) and engage the community of project members in employment of the technologies. Other important facets of the NC1170 project are the educational opportunities provided for the next generation of researchers at the undergraduate and graduate levels, and the interactions with visiting scholars from numerous international locations and including commercial industry collaborators. 


The technical feasibility of the research.

The methods employed by the NC1170 investigators are state of the art techniques for genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, and bioinformatics, for the purpose of exploring the fundamental biological mechanisms underpinning growth, development, physiology, nutrition, immunity and animal health. Each of the investigators has extensive expertise in poultry and avian biology  to manage the wealth of opportunities and enormous volume of data. Efforts range among all scales, from fundamental to translational to applied. The investigators are the leaders in the various fields, involved in development and application of the tools and resources (e.g., sequencing and analysis of both the chicken and turkey genomes was accomplished with the direction and collaboration of NC1170 researchers). Further, one can easily have confidence that the investigators involved in the NC1170 project will be at the forefront of development and application of new technologies during the next five year project. 


The advantages for doing the work as a multistate effort.

Improvements in knowledge generation that are applicable for poultry production are not generated by single disciplinary efforts. Significant improvement in poultry production traits is the result of genotype by environment interactions. With the tools of advanced technologies we can now better dissect the phenotype which is the sum of the organism’s genome (sequence), development, management, physiology, nutrition, immune status, etc. The NC1170 multistate research effort brings together principal investigators with their local priorities, a range of tool/technology backgrounds and interests (e.g., genome biologists interact with bioinformaticians and physiologists and immunologists) and employing a multidisciplinary approach (e.g., understanding the immune system in the context of genomics). The NC1170 project is in fact a sophisticated tool to bring together expertise and responsibilities (researchers and stakeholders) to advance mission-oriented knowledge with an emphasis on the fundamentals for eventual use to translate and apply that knowledge towards a meaningful goal, such as food production to feed the growing world population and meaningful contributions to the economic development of regions, states and the U.S. New goals of the industry can be more effectively addressed by the combination of resources available by the NC1170 team approach. The NC1170 researchers possess an exciting combination of expertise to create and contribute new tools and knowledge to apply to poultry improvement. And the ability to meet, interact, and share information and resources fosters an environment for multidisciplinary interactions needed to address the complex biological questions facing researchers today.

What the likely impacts will be from successfully completing the work.

The NC1170 project impacts will include the development of new experimental tools and knowledge to opportunistically apply new breeding strategies and management systems to improve growth, development, immunity, and physiology for a stronger poultry industry which is sustainable (economically viable) and produces a safe, nutritious protein source with reduced environmental impacts. 




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