Plant breeding is the purposeful manipulation of plant species to create desirable plant types that adapt to human needs more efficiently. It is an essential pre-requisite in the field of plant biotechnology. Plant biotechnology is a set of techniques used to adapt plants for intentional usage and benefits.
Following are the interests of adopting plant breeding:
- Improve quality
- Increase yield
- Development of resistance to insecticides pesticides and lastly
- Improved tolerance for environmental stress like drought flood salinity insects etc.
All these characteristics will result in greater production of plants and eventually plant products that are essential for the human race to survive directly or indirectly.
Image Source: Janeen Wright
The need for plant breeding
Traditional farming yields less biomass in a considerable amount of time. These yields are not satisfactory and enough for a growing population’s needs. The primary producers of food for human beings is plants. Thus for meeting the increasing demand of a growing population, it becomes necessary to increase the yield. By the use of plant breeding, yields increase to a large amount.
The Green Revolution- a period when the productivity of global agriculture increase as a result of new advances. During this time period, new chemical fertilizers and synthetic herbicides and pesticides find their way to agriculture. The fertilizers make it possible to supply crops with extra nutrients and, therefore, increase yield. The use of herbicides and pesticides controls weeds or kills insects, and prevents diseases, which also results in higher productivity. The Green Revolution extending from a period of 1967 to 1978, eventually transforms India from a food- deficient country to one of the world’s leading agricultural nations.
Steps in plant breeding and their significance
Collection of variability
Nature provides us with a vast variety of biodiversity. Plant breeding requires a large variety of plants and then collection or selection of higher-yielding varieties. Different wild varieties, species of wild types are a pre-requisite for effective exploitation. Lastly, Germplasm is the entire collection of all the diverse alleles for all the genes in a population.
Significance: This enables the breeder with a large variety to choose for the superior parents. Higher quality varieties are essential for a successful plant breed development.
Evaluation and selection of parents
For plant breeding, selection of high yielding varieties and their selfing creates pure lines. Now, what are pure lines? So to answer this, pure lines are the progeny of self- pollinated homozygous plants that are breeding true for that particular trait.
Significance: Better quality and better yielding parents will give rise to enhance quality offspring.
Hybridization or crossing
It is important for the creation of hybrid that the characteristics of high yielding breeds combine. Such an organism is a hybrid. The emasculation of the anthers from plant variety chosen to be a male parent and pollen grains from it is placed on the stigma of plant variety chosen to be the female parent.
Selection and testing of superior recombinants
Resultant hybrids are not all of the desirable qualities. Hence among the progeny, plants with desirable characteristics are selected. Therefore this selection process is crucial to the success of the breeding objective and requires careful scientific evaluation of the progeny. As a result, this step yields plants that are superior to both of the parents. These undergo self-pollination for several generations till they reach a state of uniformity (homozygosity) so that the characters will not segregate in the progeny.
Testing and release of hybrids
Growing these hybrids in the research fields and recording their performance under ideal fertilizer application, irrigation, and other crop management practices are essential. In addition to this, testing of materials in farmers’ fields follows the evaluation in research fields for at least three growing seasons at several locations in the country, representing all the agroclimatic zones where the crop is usually grown. Similarly, preservation and storage of viable hybrid seeds is a usual practice so that better yielding characters make a way in the future.
- Practical biotechnology and plant tissue culture by Madhavi Adhav.
- Plant biotechnology by S Umesha.
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