Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: July 17, 2006
Publication Date: November 1, 2006
Citation: Jauhar, P.P. 2006. Use of biotechnology for incorporating value-added traits in cereal crops. International Conference on Post-Harvest Technology and Value Addition in Cereals, Pulses, and Oilseeds. p. 1. Technical Abstract: Cereal crops – chiefly wheat, rice, maize, sorghum, and pearl millet – are the main food source for more than two-thirds of the world population. From time immemorial humans, particularly those in the Asian and African countries, have relied heavily on cereals for their dietary carbohydrates. Bread wheat is the most important cereal used for human consumption worldwide. Durum or macaroni wheat, a forerunner of bread wheat on the evolutionary ladder, is also widely used for preparing pasta and semolina. Most improvement in cereal crops has been achieved so far through conventional breeding aided by knowledge from agronomy, cytogenetics, plant pathology, entomology, and related disciplines. Exploitation of hybrid vigor helped increase grain yields of maize, pearl millet, and sorghum from 1965 to 1990. More remarkably, the development of semi-dwarf improved wheat and rice cultivars in the 1960s launched the most-welcome Green Revolution in Asia, averting mass-scale starvation. Chromosome engineering effected by interspecific hybridization, coupled with manipulation of chromosome pairing, has helped genomic reconstruction of polyploid cereals like wheat and oats. However, these methods are often tedious and painfully slow. Recent tools of molecular genetics and biotechnology offer prospects for considerably increasing the efficiency of cereal breeding. These supplementary tools could speed up genetic enrichment of cereals by helping to engineer new traits that are otherwise very difficult to introduce by traditional breeding. Thus, the deployment of transgenic approaches to combat pests and diseases of rice, wheat, maize, and barley, to improve tolerance to abiotic stresses of wheat, and to enhance nutrition of cereal grains is opening up exciting possibilities for accelerating breeding programs. Rapid biofortification of cereals may help tackle global hunger and malnutrition. Various contributions of modern biotechnology to cereal improvement will be discussed. Hopefully, the enormous potential of the new technologies will be harnessed to the best advantage of humankind.