Evolutionary Plant Breeding in Cereals—Into a New Era
In evolutionary plant breeding, crop populations with a high level of genetic diversity are subjected to the forces of natural selection. In a cycle of sowing and re-sowing seed from the plant population year after year, those plants favored under prevailing growing conditions are expected to contribute more seed to the next generation than plants with lower fitness. Thus, evolving crop populations have the capability of adapting to the conditions under which they are grown. Here we review the current state of research in evolutionary plant breeding and concentrate on the ability of evolving plant populations to deal with stressful, variable, and unpredictable environments. This resilience of evolving plant populations is seen as a major advantage under the predicted threats faced by agriculture such as global climate change. We have conducted an analysis of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of this breeding approach and suggest how its concept can be broadened and expanded. Given the current legal restrictions for realizing the potential of evolutionary plant breeding, we call for a change in legislation to allow evolving crop populations to enter agricultural practice on a larger scale.
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- Nelson, Gerald C. & Rosegrant, Mark W. & Koo, Jawoo & Robertson, Richard & Sulser, Timothy & Zhu, Tingju & Ringler, Claudia & Msangi, Siwa & Palazzo, Amanda & Batka, Miroslav & Magalhaes, Marilia & Va, 2009. "Climate change: Impact on agriculture and costs of adaptation," Food policy reports 21, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
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