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Sustainability 2011, 3(10), 1944-1971; doi:10.3390/su3101944
Review

Evolutionary Plant Breeding in Cereals—Into a New Era

1,* , 2
, 3
, 4
 and 1
1 The Organic Research Centre, Hamstead Marshall, Newbury, Berkshire RG20 0HR, UK 2 Institute of Plant Breeding, Seed Science and Population Genetics, University of Hohenheim, Fruwirthstraße 21, Stuttgart 70599, Germany 3 Department of Genetic Resources and Organic Plant Breeding, Brunszvik u. 2, Martonvásár 2462, Hungary 4 Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, Washington State University, 291D Johnson Hall, Pullman, WA 99164, USA
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 23 August 2011 / Revised: 30 September 2011 / Accepted: 9 October 2011 / Published: 17 October 2011
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Plant Breeding for Sustainable Agriculture)
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Abstract

In evolutionary plant breeding, crop populations with a high level of genetic diversity are subjected to the forces of natural selection. In a cycle of sowing and re-sowing seed from the plant population year after year, those plants favored under prevailing growing conditions are expected to contribute more seed to the next generation than plants with lower fitness. Thus, evolving crop populations have the capability of adapting to the conditions under which they are grown. Here we review the current state of research in evolutionary plant breeding and concentrate on the ability of evolving plant populations to deal with stressful, variable, and unpredictable environments. This resilience of evolving plant populations is seen as a major advantage under the predicted threats faced by agriculture such as global climate change. We have conducted an analysis of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of this breeding approach and suggest how its concept can be broadened and expanded. Given the current legal restrictions for realizing the potential of evolutionary plant breeding, we call for a change in legislation to allow evolving crop populations to enter agricultural practice on a larger scale.
Keywords: composite cross populations; competition; diversity; farm-saved seed; resilience composite cross populations; competition; diversity; farm-saved seed; resilience
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Döring, T.F.; Knapp, S.; Kovacs, G.; Murphy, K.; Wolfe, M.S. Evolutionary Plant Breeding in Cereals—Into a New Era. Sustainability 2011, 3, 1944-1971.

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