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Plant breeding: past, present and future

Bradshaw, John E.
Euphytica 2017 v.213 no.3 pp. 60
cisgenesis, corn, crop production, crops, dispersions, ex situ conservation, farmers, farming systems, food production, gene editing, genetically modified plants, habitats, high-yielding varieties, hybrids, inbred lines, inbreeding, inheritance (genetics), introgression, landraces, mutation, new variety, outbreeding, plant breeders, plant breeding, plant genetic resources, potatoes, rice, synthetic populations, wheat, wild relatives
Plant breeders can help farmers increase food production by breeding new cultivars better adapted to their chosen farming systems, but these must be capable of providing the necessary plant inputs for the required levels of crop production in 2050. Until 200 years ago the farmers themselves were the plant selectors. Plant domestications, extensive crop dispersions and farmers’ selections produced thousands of locally adapted landraces of cultivated plants. During the twentieth century these were largely replaced by relatively few high yielding cultivars and the natural habitats of many of their wild relatives became endangered. Hence in situ and ex situ conservation, and evaluation and use of plant genetic resources is vital for future plant breeding. The development of scientific breeding from the beginning of the twentieth century was based on understanding the mechanism of inheritance and the mating systems of crop plants. The types of genetically uniform, high yielding cultivars that have been bred from genetically heterogeneous landraces were determined by the mode of reproduction and mating system of the cultivated plant species: inbred line (wheat) and hybrid (rice) cultivars for inbreeding species, hybrid (maize) cultivars for outbreeding species, and clonal (potato) cultivars for vegetatively propagated species. When genetically heterogeneous crops are desired, mixtures of cultivars and synthetic cultivars can be produced. Future progress in crop improvement will come from three complementary approaches: use of hybridization and selection in further conventional breeding, base broadening and introgression; mutation breeding, cisgenesis and gene editing; and genetically modified crops.