About Plant Breeding
What is plant breeding?
Seed is at the origin of all our food. Without plant breeding, many of the foods we consume today would not even exist or they would at least not be that healthy or tasty.
The origins of plant improvement stretch back thousands of years to the first farmers who selected the best plants to provide seed for their next crop. In the mid-19th Century, Europe became the birthplace of modern plant breeding when Augustinian monk Gregor Mendel discovered the law of genetic inheritance in plants in 1856. Meanwhile, the first seed companies were established in Europe between the 18th Century and the mid-20th Century. Many of these evolved out of agricultural cooperatives and farmers specialising in seed selection and production.
How does it work?
Genetics are the basis of plant breeding. Breeders cross plants to create new combinations of several traits. All traits are determined by genes located on chromosomes. The breeders’ intention is to find the plant that exhibits the desired attributes.
Today, the scientific approach to professional plant breeding has triggered an unprecedented acceleration of what would have taken farmers, selecting from their own harvest, centuries to achieve. Some varieties, as for example CMS hybrids, could not have developped at all by mass selection. It has enabled a better, quicker and more efficient use of genetic resources, as well as the conservation and maintenance of seed collections to ensure that their qualities endure and are passed on to future generations.