Improving on nature


Conventional plant breeding involves the controlled inter-crossing of parental lines that each have desirable characteristics, followed by generations of selection within the progeny to identify elite genotypes that have the desired combinations. This is the backbone of crop improvement in all crops and is responsible for most of the gains made in yield, agronomic performance, and disease resistance. However, it is limited to the possibilities achievable using the natural genetic variation within the gene pool of the crop species.

Plant breeding can be used to introduce new product quality traits that may be already present within the gene pool of the species, such as higher oil content or different fatty acid composition. Canola quality rapeseed was developed in this way by combining naturally-occurring genes that reduced the content of two nutritionally undesirable components, erucic acid in the oil and glucosinolates in the protein meal. Varieties of seed oils with increased oleic acid content have also been developed in some species using conventional plant breeding.

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