Main content area

The importance of genetic resources in plant breeding

Biological journal of the Linnean Society 1991 v.43 no.1 pp. 3-10
Food and Agriculture Organization, crops, disease resistance, food plants, gene banks, genes, genetic variation, high-yielding varieties, issues and policy, land use, pests, plant breeders, plant breeding, plant genetic resources, races
Modern agricultural technology and the introduction of new high-yielding varieties are largely eliminating the wide range of crop genetic diversity that has evolved during the five to ten thousand years since food plants were first domesticated. Related wild species are also on the decline because of new land use policies. These gene pools (or what is left of them) are generally spoken of as genetic resources, and are vitally needed in the creation of new crop varieties by plant breeders. Wild species and land races often furnish genes conferring resistance to diseases and pests and adaptation to environmental stresses which cannot be found in the modern crop varieties. The study of genetic diversity of crops, its storage in gene banks or in natural reserves, its evaluation and enhancement, are briefly described. The genetic resources work of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and other international agencies such as the International Board for Plant Genetic Resources (IBPGR) is outlined.