Submitted to: Field Crops Research
Publication Type: Literature Review
Publication Acceptance Date: April 29, 2011
Publication Date: August 1, 2011
Citation: Gore, M.A., 2011. Molecular plant breeding. Field Crops Research, 123:183-184.
Interpretive Summary: With an unprecedented 30% increase in only 40 years, the world’s population is presently projected to reach about 9 billion by 2050. This expectant growth in concert with marked shifts in consumption patterns could result in a need for 70 to 100% more food. The multifaceted competition for arable land, water, and other diminishing resources further complicates the challenge to sustainably increase food production at a rate that can support 9 billion people, especially in the face of global climate change. Interconnected improvements in agronomics and particularly, crop genetics have provided a continual linear increase in yearly global food production, but the current production rate must attain an increase of at least 40% to minimally meet food demands by 2050. Genetic diversity—the foundation of plant breeding—provides the raw material for development of locally adapted, higher yielding crop varieties and, thus, will need to be effectively exploited if we are to attain a 40% increase in global food production. This effective exploitation of genetic diversity relies on the ability to link the genetic constitution of an individual (genotype) to its characteristics or traits (phenotype). By connecting genotype to phenotype, higher yielding varieties can be developed more rapidly and efficiently than current methods allow. Molecular Plant Breeding by Dr. Yunbi Xu, the principal maize molecular breeder at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in Mexico, aptly discusses the numerous molecular plant breeding methodologies that are needed for genetic improvement of crop species important to societal needs.
“Nevertheless, the number of farmers, small as well as large, who are adopting the new seeds and new technology is increasing very rapidly, and the increase in numbers during the past three years has been phenomenal.” – Dr. Norman Borlaug
This excerpt from Dr. Norman Borlaug’s Nobel Lecture at the Nobel Institute in Oslo, Norway, in December 1970 is in reference to the landmark events that sparked the “Green Revolution” in countries of Southern Asia. The adoption of “new seeds” and “new technology” by farmers and plant breeders has continued to play a prominent role. If crop yields are to continually increase in this period of climate change and unprecedented population growth, plant breeders will need to augment “first revolution” technology such as hybrid seed and synthetic fertilizers with newer technologies such as genotyping-by-sequencing, proximal remote sensing for plant phenotyping, and crop simulation modeling. In that light, current and future plant breeders need to be armed with a multitude of skills that are drawn from a variety of scientific disciplines. Of paramount importance, the modern plant breeder will need to know how to make effective use of molecular biology for varietal development. There are few books if any that deliver a careful integration of plant breeding, quantitative genetics, and molecular biology to the reader. Therefore, I welcomed with excitement the opportunity to review Molecular Plant Breeding by Dr. Yunbi Xu, the principal maize molecular breeder at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in Mexico.