Submitted to: Trends in Plant Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/3/2003
Publication Date: 3/2/2004
Citation: Sinclair, T.R., Purcell, L.C., Sneller, C.H. 2004. Crop transformations and the challenge to increase yield potential. Trends in Plant Science. 9:70-75.
Interpretive Summary: Research into molecular genetics holds great promise for increasing the potential yields of crops. While the direct application of molecular genetics for crop yield increase appears to be straightforward, past experience in achieving yield increases as a result of biochemical and physiological research suggest the task is a very challenging one. The analysis presented in this paper by an ARS scientist located at CMAVE, Gainesville, FL, and his colleagues, attempted to identify some of the critical considerations to increasing yields using the molecular genetics approach. First, the amounts of available light, water, and nitrogen can impose constraints on crop yield that are not subject to amelioration by plant alterations. Second, the application of biological understanding to improved performance of individual processes does not directly translate into increased yields in the cropping situation. Fortunately, there have been a few successes in using a physiological approach to increase yields and these help to highlight the key components that may be required to have success in the molecular genetics approach. These components include demonstration of a beneficial trait, attention to trait phenotyping, a multi-disciplinary group of scientists, and a long-term commitment.
Technical Abstract: Molecular transformations are commonly offered as hopes to overcome the apparent stagnation in crop yield potential. Basic understanding of resource limits imposed on yield and of the hierarchy in yield formation from the molecular level to harvestable yield results in a discouraging view that transformations of a few, or even a complex of genes will result in major yield increases. A few cases do exist, however, in which physiological research has led directly to crop yield increases. These successes are instructive in highlighting the key elements that are likely to be required for success in the molecular genetics approach