Mutation breeding in agriculture

Published on December 1, 2013   48 min

A selection of talks on Plant & Animal Sciences

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Hello. My name is Bradley Till. I work for a joint program between the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the International Atomic Energy Agency. Today, I'll be talking about mutation breeding in agriculture.
During this presentation, I'll cover the following topics. I'll start with the background on plant breeding. Following this, I'll talk about the foundations of mutation breeding and give you some real world examples. Then, I'll move to some newer techniques using reverse genetics for functional genomics and breeding. After this, I'll talk about some special considerations for vegetatively propagated crops. Finally, I'll end with some new technologies for mutation assisted breeding.
Plant breeding has been carried out by humans for over 10,000 years. It can be broadly defined as the process of altering the genetics of plants to create desirable traits. Early farmers were interested in increasing yields and this is exemplified on the photo. On the left, we have the progenitor of modern-day maize known as teosinte. Work from John Doebley's lab at the University of Wisconsin showed that through several genetic mutations, one can achieve plants that look like modern day maize with large kernels that stay on the cob, and this is highly advantageous for farmers. So we can consider plant breeding as involving the selection or creation of genetic variation and the phenotypic evaluation of these plants, and this really is selective pressure created by humans, rather than natural selective pressure. Again, traits of interest to the early farmers were seed shattering, grain size, plant height, and so forth.