Location: Cereal Crops ResearchTitle: Engineering Value-Added Traits in Cereal Crops Author
Submitted to: Journal of Plant Biochemistry and Biotechnology
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/30/2009
Publication Date: 5/26/2009
Citation: Jauhar, P.P., Ganeshan, S., Chibbar, R.N. 2009. Engineering Value-Added Traits in Cereal Crops. Journal of Plant Biochemistry and Biotechnology. p. 15-25. Interpretive Summary: Cereal crops, wheat, rice, maize, sorghum, and pearl millet, are staple foods around the world and a major source of calories in human diet and animal feed. Application of traditional plant breeding has produced cereal cultivars with superior agronomic performance that are adapted to diverse agro-climatic regions of the world. However, incorporation of value-added traits into otherwise superior cultivars has been challenging. Advances in molecular biology-based strategies have facilitated the insertion of well characterized genes into cereal genomes by genetic engineering. Incorporation of insect pest and disease resistance, grain quality improvement, and nutritional enhancement of cereal crops are some of the traits introduced by genetic engineering. Thus, the nutritional enhancement of rice for both vitamin A and iron would be unimaginable by conventional breeding. However, to reap the maximum benefits of genetic engineering, it should be carefully applied in conjunction with traditional breeding.
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. Conventional breeding is mainly responsible for the genetic improvement of cereal crops and has resulted in cultivars with superior agronomic traits. However, these breeding procedures are often slow and tedious. To add a single desirable trait into an otherwise acceptable cultivar can be very lengthy. The recent advent of newer tools of direct gene transfer into cereal crops has added new dimensions to crop improvement efforts for meeting human needs. The newer tools of biotechnology have catalyzed the genetic enrichment of cereal crops. Thus, introduction of insect pest and disease resistance, breeding for abiotic stresses, and nutritional enhancement of crop plants are fascinating accomplishments of modern biotechnology. This novel technology has the potential of rapidly changing the genotypic makeup of a crop plant, helping to design more nutritious crops with several other value-added traits. This technology should, however, be carefully applied in conjunction with traditional breeding for maximal crop improvement for the benefit of the human race.