Plants, Genes and People
Shaping food as we know it
For at least 10,000 years, people have been reshaping plants to fit our food needs. Through the power of choice, plus the powerful addition of science, people have changed plant genes to address ongoing challenges like drought, diseases, climate change. Look closer to see the exciting technologies that have allowed food production to keep pace with an exploding world population.
This timeline represents the evolution of Plant Breeding from the beginning of recorded history to the present. The amount of change that has happened in the last 100 years is amazing.
A plant breeding continuum:
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A plant breeding continuum:

Simple selection. The power of choice shapes the plants we eat. For at least 10,000 years, people have made choices about which seeds to plant. Their choices have reshaped food plants completely.

Controlled crosses. Plant breeders and farmers use scientific knowledge of inheritance to increase the power of selection. Breeders choose parents with desirable and make intentional crosses to reshape varieties more quickly.

Hybrid technology. Plant breeders harness the yield bump caused by hybrid vigor. Plant breeders inbreed different parents and then combine them for unexpected gains.

Molecular markers. Advances in genetics allow plant breeders to use landmarks in the DNA to speed the plant breeding process. Using DNA markers allows plant breeders to focus selection on specific stretches of useful DNA.

Genetic engineering. Scientists, including plant breeders and geneticists, use sophisticated genetic techniques to introduce useful genes from other organisms across previously uncrossable species barriers. After introduction, scientists use crosses and selection to move the new genes between varieties.

Genome editing. Recent advances allow scientists and plant breeders to disable, repair or replace genes. This editing uses a bacterial defense system and can modify living cells. Once gene is changed, scientists use traditional plant breeding crosses to modify and improve varieties.

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