Plant domestication started some 10,000 years ago by farmers selecting the best performing plants in a field. It was not until the discovery of Mendel’s laws of heredity in the nineteenth century turned the first plant breeding efforts from an art into science, and specialised farmer-breeders emerged, building a business concept on their efforts. From that point in time, scientific breakthroughs in agricultural and biological sciences have accelerated. With an increased understanding of plant biology and plant genes, plant breeders have constantly improved their breeding tools to include a wide variety of breeding methods. The development of newer plant breeding methods did not lead to a complete replacement of the older ones. Depending on the problems plant breeders must solve, they must be able to choose the tools that enable them to reach their breeding goals in the most efficient and specific way.
Conventional plant breeding methods, transgenesis or newer plant breeding methods are all essential components of the plant breeders’ toolbox. Building on the mechanisms created by nature, the latest innovations in plant breeding methods simply achieve the relevant breeding results in less time and with greater precision.
The efficient and targeted development of improved plant varieties is important to fight new plant pests, insects or diseases. These can be devastating to crops and lead to huge pre-harvest losses.
Other plant varieties provide quality improvements, such as better taste (e.g. in fruits and vegetables), processing advantages or nutritional enhancements, such as desirable proteins or lower saturated fats.
With that, plant breeding innovation contributes to providing sufficient and healthy food supply from plant varieties with improved characteristics.