Crop alteration and biotechnology

By biogeny 27-Oct-2017

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  • Crop alteration has been practiced by humankind for thousands of years, since the beginning of civilization. Altering crops through breeding practices changes the genetic make-up of a plant to develop crops with more beneficial characteristics for humans, for example, larger fruits or seeds, drought-tolerance, or resistance to pests. Significant advances in plant breeding ensued after the work of geneticist Gregor Mendel. His work on dominant and recessive alleles, although initially largely ignored for almost 50 years, gave plant breeders a better understanding of genetics and breeding techniques. Crop breeding includes techniques such as plant selection with desirable traits, self-pollination and cross-pollination, and molecular techniques that genetically modify the organism.

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Crop alteration has been practiced by humankind for thousands of years, since the beginning of civilization. Altering crops through breeding practices changes the genetic make-up of a plant to develop crops with more beneficial characteristics for humans, for example, larger fruits or seeds, drought-tolerance, or resistance to pests. Significant advances in plant breeding ensued after the work of geneticist Gregor Mendel. His work on dominant and recessive alleles, although initially largely ignored for almost 50 years, gave plant breeders a better understanding of genetics and breeding techniques. Crop breeding includes techniques such as plant selection with desirable traits, self-pollination and cross-pollination, and molecular techniques that genetically modify the organism.

Domestication of plants has, over the centuries increased yield, improved disease resistance and drought tolerance, eased harvest and improved the taste and nutritional value of crop plants. Careful selection and breeding have had enormous effects on the characteristics of crop plants. Plant selection and breeding in the 1920s and 1930s improved pasture (grasses and clover) in New Zealand. Extensive X-ray and ultraviolet induced mutagenesis efforts (i.e. primitive genetic engineering) during the 1950s produced the modern commercial varieties of grains such as wheat, corn (maize) and barley.

The Green Revolution popularized the use of conventional hybridization to sharply increase yield by creating "high-yielding varieties". For example, average yields of corn (maize) in the US have increased from around 2.5 tons per hectare (t/ha) (40 bushels per acre) in 1900 to about 9.4 t/ha (150 bushels per acre) in 2001. Similarly, worldwide average wheat yields have increased from less than 1 t/ha in 1900 to more than 2.5 t/ha in 1990. South American average wheat yields are around 2 t/ha, African under 1 t/ha, and Egypt and Arabia up to 3.5 to 4 t/ha with irrigation. In contrast, the average wheat yield in countries such as France is over 8 t/ha. Variations in yields are due mainly to variation in climate, genetics, and the level of intensive farming techniques (use of fertilizers, chemical pest control, growth control to avoid lodging).

Plant Breeding

Plant breeding is the art and science of changing the traits of plants in order to produce desired characteristics. It has been used to improve the quality of nutrition in products for humans and animals. Plant breeding can be accomplished through many different techniques ranging from simply selecting plants with desirable characteristics for propagation, to methods that make use of knowledge of genetics and chromosomes, to more complex molecular techniques (see cultigen and cultivar). Genes in a plant are what determine what type of qualitative or quantitative traits it will have.The main purpose plant breeders is have is so they can create a specific outcome of plants and potentially new plant varieties.

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

Classical plant breeding

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 (see below) 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

Modern plant breeding

Modern plant breeding may use techniques of molecular biology to select, or in the case of genetic modification, to insert, desirable traits into plants. Application of biotechnology or molecular biology is also known as molecular breeding.

Sometimes many different genes can influence a desirable trait in plant breeding. The use of tools such as molecular markers or DNA fingerprinting can map thousands of genes. This allows plant breeders to screen large populations of plants for those that possess the trait of interest. The screening is based on the presence or absence of a certain gene as determined by laboratory procedures, rather than on the visual identification of the expressed trait in the plant. The purpose of marker assisted selection, or plant genomes analysis, is to identify the location and function (phenotype) of various genes within the genome. If all of the genes are identified it leads to Genome sequence. All plants have varying sizes and lengths of genomes with genes that code for different proteins, but many are also the same. If a gene's location and function is identified in one plant species, a very similar gene likely can also be found in a similar location in another species genome.

 

By biogeny 27-Oct-2017

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1 Comments

  1. Biogeny 2017-11-14 05:06:05 PM

    amazing article