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                       Welcome to Plant Breeding at SAEES
Plant breeding is the art and science of changing the traits of plants in order to produce desired characteristics. Plant breeding can be accomplished through many different techniques ranging from simply selecting plants with desirable characteristics for propagation, to more complex molecular techniques (see cultigen and cultivar).

Plant breeding has been practiced for thousands of years, since near the beginning of human civilization. It is practiced worldwide by individuals such as gardeners and farmers, or by professional plant breeders employed by organizations such as government institutions, universities, crop-specific industry associations or research centers.

 


 

International development agencies believe that breeding new crops is important for ensuring food security by developing new varieties that are higher-yielding, resistant to pests and diseases, drought-resistant or regionally adapted to different environments and growing conditions.

One major technique of plant breeding is selection, the process of selectively propagating plants with desirable characteristics and eliminating or "culling" those with less desirable characteristics. 

Another technique is the deliberate interbreeding (crossing) of closely or distantly related individuals to produce new crop varieties or lines with desirable properties. Plants are crossbred to introduce traits/genes from one variety or line into a new genetic background.

        
 
 

For example, a mildew-resistant pea may be crossed with a high-yielding but susceptible pea, the goal of the cross being to introduce mildew resistance without losing the high-yield characteristics. Progeny from the cross would then be crossed with the high-yielding parent to ensure that the progeny were most like the high-yielding parent, (backcrossing). The progeny from that cross would then be tested for yield (selection, as described above) and mildew resistance and high-yielding resistant plants would be further developed. Plants may also be crossed with themselves to produce inbred varieties for breeding. Pollinators may be excluded through the use of pollination bags.

Classical breeding relies largely on homologous recombination between chromosomes to generate genetic diversity. The classical plant breeder may also make use of a number of in vitro techniques such as protoplast fusion, embryo rescue or mutagenesis to generate diversity and produce hybrid plants that would not exist in nature.

Traits that breeders have tried to incorporate into crop plants include:

  • Improved quality, such as increased nutrition, improved flavor, or greater beauty
  • Increased yield of the crop
  • Increased tolerance of environmental pressures (salinity, extreme temperature, drought)
  • Resistance to viruses, fungi and bacteria
  • Increased tolerance to insect pests
  • Increased tolerance of herbicides
  • Longer storage period for the harvested crop

 

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