Climate change continues to threaten global crop output by reducing annual productivity. As a result, global food security is now considered as one of the most important challenges facing humanity. To address this challenge, modern crop breeding approaches are required to create plants that can cope with increased abiotic/biotic stress. Metabolomics is rapidly gaining traction in plant breeding by predicting the metabolic marker for plant performance under a stressful environment and has emerged as a powerful tool for guiding crop improvement. The advent of more sensitive, automated, and high-throughput analytical tools combined with advanced bioinformatics and other omics techniques has laid the foundation to broadly characterize the genetic traits for crop improvement. Progress in metabolomics allows scientists to rapidly map specific metabolites to the genes that encode their metabolic pathways and offer plant scientists an excellent opportunity to fully explore and rationally harness the wealth of metabolites that plants biosynthesize. Here, we outline the current application of advanced metabolomics tools integrated with other OMICS techniques that can be used to: dissect the details of plant genotype-metabolite-phenotype interactions facilitating metabolomics-assisted plant breeding for probing the stress-responsive metabolic markers, explore the hidden metabolic networks associated with abiotic/biotic stress resistance, facilitate screening and selection of climate-smart crops at the metabolite level, and enable accurate risk-assessment and characterization of gene edited/transgenic plants to assist the regulatory process. The basic concept behind metabolic editing is to identify specific genes that govern the crucial metabolic pathways followed by the editing of one or more genes associated with those pathways. Thus, metabolomics provides a superb platform for not only rapid assessment and commercialization of future genome-edited crops, but also for accelerated metabolomics-assisted plant breeding. Furthermore, metabolomics can be a useful tool to expedite the crop research if integrated with speed breeding in future.
Keywords: climate change; crop improvement; gene-edited crops; metabolic editing; metabolomics; metabolomics-assisted breeding.