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Cover Plants, Genes & Agriculture

From Classical Plant Breeding to Molecular Crop Improvement  

Paul Gepts and Todd Pfeiffer

This chapter addresses plant breeding, where humans deliberately make crosses and choose specific plant varieties with characteristics that are desirable for food, feed, fibre, and fuel production. Crop improvement requires a never-ceasing pursuit of genetic diversity to introduce new alleles and new gene combinations into elite cultivars. This diversity originates in a wide range of sources, including other cultivars, landraces, wild progenitors, other crossable species, and transgenes. Plant breeding is a well-established science that, since the 1930s, has adopted approaches aimed to increase the efficiency of selection. These approaches include the use of quantitative genetics, artificial mutagenesis, and marker-assisted selection. More recent tools include genome-wide association studies, genomic selection based on extensive genome sequencing, and high-throughput phenotyping.

Chapter

Cover Plants, Genes & Agriculture

Sustainable Food Production in the 21st Century  

Maarten J. Chrispeels

This chapter discusses sustainable food production in the 21st century. Because virtually all available productive land is already being cultivated, the only way to significantly increase food production is through agricultural intensification: increasing the amount of crop produced per acre. Closing the yield gap, especially on smallholder farms, is essential to feeding humanity. Both breeding better crops through genetics and better agronomic practices are needed to close the yield gap. Research and education at all levels are also necessary. Moreover, all countries need to diminish the amount of food that is spoiled and otherwise wasted. Ultimately, creating a sustainable world will require decreasing the impact of agriculture on climate change.