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Special Issue "Plant Breeding for Sustainable Agriculture"

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A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 July 2011)

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Dr. Kevin Murphy

Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, Washington State University, 257W Johnson Hall, PO Box 646420, Pullman WA 99164, USA
Website | E-Mail
Interests: farmer participatory research of organic hop cropping systems in the Yakima Valley; organic wheat breeding; perennial wheat breeding and agronomy

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The science of plant breeding has played a profound role in defining and improving agricultural systems productivity worldwide. The earliest plant breeders
- farmers - domesticated countless wild species and improved these crops through recurrent selection. In the 1960's and 70's, the 'Green Revolution' increased global grain yields of cereal crops to unprecedented levels, primarily through the innovations contributed through the complementary synergistic interactions of plant breeding and agronomy. Though increases in productivity remain paramount, the challenges we face today as an agricultural community reach far beyond improvements in yield.  These challenges include developing varieties with the capacity to achieve high yields in reduced chemical-input systems and with the genetic diversity needed to maintain yield stability in fluctuating climatic conditions. Relatively novel traits that should be targeted to benefit a truly sustainable agriculture include improving weed suppression ability, enhancement of nutritional value, and optimization of plant interactions with microbial communities in the soil, among others.  Farmer participatory breeding strategies in de-centralized and diverse selection environments also have the potential to encourage more renewable and resilient agricultural systems.  This special issue will focus on the contribution of plant breeding to a more sustainable global agriculture through the collaborative lens of a diverse group of economists, sociologists and plant breeders worldwide.

Dr. Kevin Murphy
Guest Editor

Keywords

  • renewable agriculture
  • farming
  • plant breeding
  • participatory breeding
  • nutritional value
  • climate change
  • genetic diversity
  • soil
  • ecology
  • yield stability
  • organic agriculture

Published Papers (12 papers)

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Research

Jump to: Review

Open AccessArticle Analysis of Traits Related to Weed Competitiveness in Sweet Corn (Zea mays L.)
Sustainability 2012, 4(4), 543-560; doi:10.3390/su4040543
Received: 27 February 2012 / Accepted: 21 March 2012 / Published: 30 March 2012
Cited by 9 | PDF Full-text (222 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Weed management in sweet corn can be costly; genetic improvements in sweet corn competitiveness may reduce this expense. Competitive ability can exist as weed suppressive ability (WSA), or crop tolerance (CT). Previous studies in corn have found year of hybrid release, maturity, plant
[...] Read more.
Weed management in sweet corn can be costly; genetic improvements in sweet corn competitiveness may reduce this expense. Competitive ability can exist as weed suppressive ability (WSA), or crop tolerance (CT). Previous studies in corn have found year of hybrid release, maturity, plant height, leaf angle and leafiness may affect WSA, while hybrid era, maturity, and plant height may affect CT. However, many of these studies were limited to very few genotypes. The objective of this study was to assess the effects of phenomorphological traits on sweet corn competitiveness and the inheritance of these traits. An incomplete half-diallel from seven historic sweet corn inbred lines of varying morphologies was evaluated in a split-block randomized complete block design in three environments. Forage sorghum was interplanted in half of the blocks to act as a model weed. Significant differences among hybrids were generally found for both phenomorphological traits and traits measuring WSA and CT, such as sorghum biomass and yield stability, respectively. Crop plant height was most predictive of WSA and CT. In this set of genotypes, competitive ability may be passed with reasonable fidelity from parent to offspring, suggesting that sweet corn could be bred for competitive ability. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Plant Breeding for Sustainable Agriculture)
Open AccessArticle Undergraduate Writing Promotes Student’s Understanding of International Sustainable Development in Horticulture
Sustainability 2011, 3(12), 2470-2495; doi:10.3390/su3122470
Received: 24 October 2011 / Revised: 16 November 2011 / Accepted: 18 November 2011 / Published: 14 December 2011
PDF Full-text (370 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Promotion of undergraduate student thinking and learning in the realm of sustainable production is a new focus for horticulture curricula. In a writing intensive course, Greenhouse Management (Hort 3002W; University of Minnesota), students focus their learning of sustainability by writing peer-reviewed, 3-phase ‘Worldwide
[...] Read more.
Promotion of undergraduate student thinking and learning in the realm of sustainable production is a new focus for horticulture curricula. In a writing intensive course, Greenhouse Management (Hort 3002W; University of Minnesota), students focus their learning of sustainability by writing peer-reviewed, 3-phase ‘Worldwide Sustainable Horticultural Crop Production Papers’ on past, present, and future prospects for sustainability. The USA is used as an in-class example throughout the semester while each student focuses their writing on a specific country of their choosing. Their papers focus on eight goals for each country across the three Phases: I—their choice of a country, definition of sustainability, identification of historical production practices, current production statistics; II—current production practices and integration of historical/current practices (ranked strategies); III—finalized sustainable development strategy, design of a future sustainable, controlled-environment production facility. The last two goals (Phase III) provide plant breeders with potential breeding objectives for country-specific cultivar development within a sustainable production framework. Completed papers are web-published for global availability to enable each country’s researchers and policy makers to access sustainable ideas for future development. In 2009–2010, ‘Worldwide Sustainable Horticultural Crop Production Papers’ were published for 41 countries which were downloaded 3900 times in 19 months through April 2011. This large readership indicates such an assignment can generate interest in either undergraduate writing about developing sustainable horticulture and/or the topic area itself, although the exact purpose of the downloads or the location of the users could not be determined. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Plant Breeding for Sustainable Agriculture)
Open AccessArticle Phenotypic Changes in Different Spinach Varieties Grown and Selected under Organic Conditions
Sustainability 2011, 3(9), 1616-1636; doi:10.3390/su3091616
Received: 9 June 2011 / Revised: 17 August 2011 / Accepted: 24 August 2011 / Published: 23 September 2011
Cited by 5 | PDF Full-text (1855 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Organic and low-input agriculture needs flexible varieties that can buffer environmental stress and adapt to the needs of farmers. We implemented an experiment to investigate the evolutionary capacities of a sample of spinach (Spinacia oleracea L.) population varieties for a number of
[...] Read more.
Organic and low-input agriculture needs flexible varieties that can buffer environmental stress and adapt to the needs of farmers. We implemented an experiment to investigate the evolutionary capacities of a sample of spinach (Spinacia oleracea L.) population varieties for a number of phenotypic traits. Three farmers cultivated, selected and multiplied one or several populations over two years on their farms. The third year, the versions of the varieties cultivated and selected by the different farmers were compared to the original seed lots they had been given. After two cycles of cultivation and on-farm mass selection, all the observed varieties showed significant phenotypic changes (differences between the original version and the version cultivated by farmers) for morphological and phenological traits. When the divergence among versions within varieties was studied, the results show that the varieties conserved their identity, except for one variety, which evolved in such a way that it may now be considered two different varieties. The heterogeneity of the population varieties was assessed in comparison with a commercial F1 hybrid used as control, and we found no specific differences in phenotypic diversity between the hybrid and population varieties. The phenotypic changes shown by the population varieties in response to on-farm cultivation and selection could be useful for the development of specific adaptation. These results call into question the current European seed legislation and the requirements of phenotypic stability for conservation varieties. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Plant Breeding for Sustainable Agriculture)
Open AccessArticle Improving Nitrogen Use Efficiency in Crops for Sustainable Agriculture
Sustainability 2011, 3(9), 1452-1485; doi:10.3390/su3091452
Received: 4 May 2011 / Revised: 5 August 2011 / Accepted: 17 August 2011 / Published: 7 September 2011
Cited by 39 | PDF Full-text (797 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
In this review, we present the recent developments and future prospects of improving nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) in crops using various complementary approaches. These include conventional breeding and molecular genetics, in addition to alternative farming techniques based on no-till continuous cover cropping cultures
[...] Read more.
In this review, we present the recent developments and future prospects of improving nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) in crops using various complementary approaches. These include conventional breeding and molecular genetics, in addition to alternative farming techniques based on no-till continuous cover cropping cultures and/or organic nitrogen (N) nutrition. Whatever the mode of N fertilization, an increased knowledge of the mechanisms controlling plant N economy is essential for improving NUE and for reducing excessive input of fertilizers, while maintaining an acceptable yield and sufficient profit margin for the farmers. Using plants grown under agronomic conditions, with different tillage conditions, in pure or associated cultures, at low and high N mineral fertilizer input, or using organic fertilization, it is now possible to develop further whole plant agronomic and physiological studies. These can be combined with gene, protein and metabolite profiling to build up a comprehensive picture depicting the different steps of N uptake, assimilation and recycling to produce either biomass in vegetative organs or proteins in storage organs. We provide a critical overview as to how our understanding of the agro-ecophysiological, physiological and molecular controls of N assimilation in crops, under varying environmental conditions, has been improved. We have used combined approaches, based on agronomic studies, whole plant physiology, quantitative genetics, forward and reverse genetics and the emerging systems biology. Long-term sustainability may require a gradual transition from synthetic N inputs to legume-based crop rotation, including continuous cover cropping systems, where these may be possible in certain areas of the world, depending on climatic conditions. Current knowledge and prospects for future agronomic development and application for breeding crops adapted to lower mineral fertilizer input and to alternative farming techniques are explored, whilst taking into account the constraints of both the current world economic situation and the environment.  Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Plant Breeding for Sustainable Agriculture)
Open AccessArticle Undergraduate Sustainable Learning: Effects of Sustainable Soilless Media on Production and Sensory Evaluation of Cucumbers, Basil, Parsley, and Lettuce
Sustainability 2011, 3(9), 1381-1398; doi:10.3390/su3091381
Received: 31 July 2011 / Accepted: 17 August 2011 / Published: 29 August 2011
PDF Full-text (392 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Modern greenhouse production has been ~100% reliant on fossil fuels for all inputs (glazing, heating, fertilization, lighting, post-harvest). Recent innovations may reduce fossil fuel dependence but their effectiveness may not be thoroughly tested. To promote education in sustainable production, undergraduate students in Greenhouse
[...] Read more.
Modern greenhouse production has been ~100% reliant on fossil fuels for all inputs (glazing, heating, fertilization, lighting, post-harvest). Recent innovations may reduce fossil fuel dependence but their effectiveness may not be thoroughly tested. To promote education in sustainable production, undergraduate students in Greenhouse Management class (Hort 3002W; University of Minnesota) tested the effectiveness of two organic or ‘sustainable’ soilless media (Sunshine Natural and Organic Growing Mix, Sungro Metro-Mix Special Blend) with a control (Sunshine LC8 Professional) for crop production (height, leaf/flower number, yield) and sensory evaluations (appearance, texture, taste, purchase) of cucumbers (‘Big Burpless Hybrid’, ‘Sweet Burpless Hybrid’), basil (‘Opal Purple’, ‘Redleaf’), parsley (‘Green River’, ‘Extra Curled Dwarf’, ‘Hamburg’), and lettuce (Flying Saucer ‘Green’, ‘Red’). Significant differences between sustainable vs. control soils occurred for plant growth, depending on vegetative or reproductive traits, crops, and cultivars. These differences occasionally disappeared for sensory evaluation of edible components. In most crops, however, cultivars were highly significant factors. Undergraduate research can be used to provide directionality for future vegetable and herb plant breeding to focus on creating cultivars with increased yield and high consumer acceptance when grown in sustainable greenhouse soilless mixes. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Plant Breeding for Sustainable Agriculture)
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Open AccessArticle Collaborative Plant Breeding for Organic Agricultural Systems in Developed Countries
Sustainability 2011, 3(8), 1206-1223; doi:10.3390/su3081206
Received: 31 May 2011 / Revised: 19 July 2011 / Accepted: 27 July 2011 / Published: 10 August 2011
Cited by 15 | PDF Full-text (2648 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Because organic systems present complex environmental stress, plant breeders may either target very focused regions for different varieties, or create heterogeneous populations which can then evolve specific adaptation through on-farm cultivation and selection. This often leads to participatory plant breeding (PPB) strategies which
[...] Read more.
Because organic systems present complex environmental stress, plant breeders may either target very focused regions for different varieties, or create heterogeneous populations which can then evolve specific adaptation through on-farm cultivation and selection. This often leads to participatory plant breeding (PPB) strategies which take advantage of the specific knowledge of farmers. Participatory selection requires increased commitment and engagement on the part of the farmers and researchers. Projects may begin as researcher initiatives with farmer participation or farmer initiatives with researcher participation and over time evolve into true collaborations. These projects are difficult to plan in advance because by nature they change to respond to the priorities and interests of the collaborators. Projects need to provide relevant information and analysis in a time-frame that is meaningful for farmers, while remaining scientifically rigorous and innovative. This paper presents two specific studies: the first was a researcher-designed experiment that assessed the potential adaptation of landraces to organic systems through on-farm cultivation and farmer selection. The second is a farmer-led plant breeding project to select bread wheat for organic systems in France. Over the course of these two projects, many discussions among farmers, researchers and farmers associations led to the development of methods that fit the objectives of those involved. This type of project is no longer researcher-led or farmer-led but instead an equal collaboration. Results from the two research projects and the strategy developed for an ongoing collaborative plant breeding project are discussed. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Plant Breeding for Sustainable Agriculture)
Open AccessArticle Adaptability of Wheat Cultivars to a Late-Planted No-Till Fallow Production System
Sustainability 2011, 3(8), 1224-1233; doi:10.3390/su3081224
Received: 12 July 2011 / Revised: 3 August 2011 / Accepted: 3 August 2011 / Published: 10 August 2011
Cited by 8 | PDF Full-text (252 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
In Washington, over fifty percent of the wheat produced under rainfed conditions receives less than 300 mm of annual precipitation. Hence, a winter wheat-summer fallow cropping system has been adopted to obtain adequate moisture for winter wheat production. Current tilled fallow systems are
[...] Read more.
In Washington, over fifty percent of the wheat produced under rainfed conditions receives less than 300 mm of annual precipitation. Hence, a winter wheat-summer fallow cropping system has been adopted to obtain adequate moisture for winter wheat production. Current tilled fallow systems are exposed to significant soil degradation from wind and water erosion. As a result, late-planted no-till fallow systems are being evaluated to mitigate erosion concerns. The objective of this study was to evaluate current cultivars under late-planted no-till fallow systems to identify whether current breeding schemes in tilled fallow systems could select productive cultivars in late-planted no-till fallow systems. Thirty cultivars were planted in a split-plot design with fallow type as the main plot and genotype as the sub-plot. Fallow types evaluated were a tilled fallow system and a late planted no-till fallow system. Data were collected on heading date, plant height, grain volume weight, grain yield, and grain protein content. Analysis of variance was conducted on data across locations. Results were significant for all traits except for grain protein content. The late-planted no-till fallow system headed 16 days later was 5 cm shorter, yielded 36% less, and had a grain volume weight 3% less than the tilled fallow system. The lower yield and grain volume weight potential is hypothesized to be due to the 16 day delay in heading date leading to warmer temperatures during grain fill and a shorter duration. In order to breed wheat to be highly productive under a late-planted no-till fallow system, directly selecting in this system for early spring growth and earlier heading dates will be essential. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Plant Breeding for Sustainable Agriculture)
Open AccessArticle Structuring an Efficient Organic Wheat Breeding Program
Sustainability 2011, 3(8), 1190-1205; doi:10.3390/su3081190
Received: 8 June 2011 / Revised: 26 July 2011 / Accepted: 2 August 2011 / Published: 5 August 2011
Cited by 12 | PDF Full-text (2335 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Our long-term goal is to develop wheat cultivars that will improve the profitability and competitiveness of organic producers in Nebraska and the Northern Great Plains. Our approach is to select in early generations for highly heritable traits that are needed for both organic
[...] Read more.
Our long-term goal is to develop wheat cultivars that will improve the profitability and competitiveness of organic producers in Nebraska and the Northern Great Plains. Our approach is to select in early generations for highly heritable traits that are needed for both organic and conventional production (another breeding goal), followed by a targeted organic breeding effort with testing at two organic locations (each in a different ecological region) beginning with the F6 generation. Yield analyses from replicated trials at two organic breeding sites and 7 conventional breeding sites from F6 through F12 nurseries revealed, using analyses of variance, biplots, and comparisons of selected lines that it is inappropriate to use data from conventional testing for making germplasm selections for organic production. Selecting and testing lines under organic production practices in different ecological regions was also needed and cultivar selections for organic production were different than those for conventional production. Modifications to this breeding protocol may include growing early generation bulks in an organic cropping system. In the future, our selection efforts should also focus on using state-of-the-art, non-transgenic breeding technologies (genomic selection, marker-assisted breeding, and high throughput phenotyping) to synergistically improve organic and conventional wheat breeding. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Plant Breeding for Sustainable Agriculture)
Open AccessArticle The Soil Microbial Community and Grain Micronutrient Concentration of Historical and Modern Hard Red Spring Wheat Cultivars Grown Organically and Conventionally in the Black Soil Zone of the Canadian Prairies
Sustainability 2011, 3(3), 500-517; doi:10.3390/su3030500
Received: 6 January 2011 / Revised: 26 February 2011 / Accepted: 2 March 2011 / Published: 4 March 2011
Cited by 6 | PDF Full-text (314 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Micronutrient deficiencies in the diet of many people are common and wheat is a staple food crop, providing a carbohydrate and micronutrient source to a large percentage of the world’s population. We conducted a field study to compare five Canadian red spring wheat
[...] Read more.
Micronutrient deficiencies in the diet of many people are common and wheat is a staple food crop, providing a carbohydrate and micronutrient source to a large percentage of the world’s population. We conducted a field study to compare five Canadian red spring wheat cultivars (released over the last century) grown under organic and conventional management systems for yield, grain micronutrient concentration, and soil phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA) profile. The organic system had higher grain Zn, Fe, Mg and K levels, but lower Se and Cu levels. There was no trend in the results to suggest that modern western Canadian hard red spring cultivars have lower grain micronutrient content than historical cultivars. Wheat cultivar choice is important for maximizing grain nutrient levels, which was influenced by management system. It is evident that the emphasis on elevated grain quality in the western Canadian hard red spring class has resulted in the retention of micronutrient quality characters. Three fungal PLFAs were indicators for the organic system, and all three of these indicators were positively correlated with grain Cu concentration. In the organic system, percent arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi were negatively correlated with grain Zn and Fe concentrations, and positively correlated with grain Mn, Cu, K concentrations and grain yield. The organic system had higher levels of fungi in the soil, including arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. Organic management practices appear to result in elevated levels of grain micronutrient concentration. The hard red spring breeding effort in and for the black soil zone of the northern Great Plains also appears to have led to no diminishment of grain micronutrient concentration. It is evident that both the agronomic system and breeding strategies in this region can be exploited for future increases in grain micronutrient concentration. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Plant Breeding for Sustainable Agriculture)

Review

Jump to: Research

Open AccessReview Evolutionary Plant Breeding in Cereals—Into a New Era
Sustainability 2011, 3(10), 1944-1971; doi:10.3390/su3101944
Received: 23 August 2011 / Revised: 30 September 2011 / Accepted: 9 October 2011 / Published: 17 October 2011
Cited by 25 | PDF Full-text (277 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
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
[...] Read more.
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. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Plant Breeding for Sustainable Agriculture)
Open AccessReview Crop Breeding for Low Input Agriculture: A Sustainable Response to Feed a Growing World Population
Sustainability 2011, 3(10), 1742-1772; doi:10.3390/su3101742
Received: 1 July 2011 / Revised: 26 August 2011 / Accepted: 9 September 2011 / Published: 6 October 2011
Cited by 11 | PDF Full-text (337 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
World population is projected to reach its maximum (~10 billion people) by the year 2050. This 45% increase of the current world population (approaching seven billion people) will boost the demand for food and raw materials. However, we live in a historical moment
[...] Read more.
World population is projected to reach its maximum (~10 billion people) by the year 2050. This 45% increase of the current world population (approaching seven billion people) will boost the demand for food and raw materials. However, we live in a historical moment when supply of phosphate, water, and oil are at their peaks. Modern agriculture is fundamentally based on varieties bred for high performance under high input systems (fertilizers, water, oil, pesticides), which generally do not perform well under low-input situations. We propose a shift of research goals and plant breeding objectives from high-performance agriculture at high-energy input to those with an improved rationalization between yield and energy input. Crop breeding programs that are more focused on nutrient economy and local environmental fitness will help reduce energy demands for crop production while still providing adequate amounts of high quality food as global resources decline and population is projected to increase. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Plant Breeding for Sustainable Agriculture)
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Open AccessReview Open-Pollinated vs. Hybrid Maize Cultivars
Sustainability 2011, 3(9), 1531-1554; doi:10.3390/su3091531
Received: 30 May 2011 / Revised: 25 August 2011 / Accepted: 30 August 2011 / Published: 22 September 2011
Cited by 6 | PDF Full-text (990 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The history of maize breeding methods in the USA is reviewed to examine the question of types of maize cultivars in sustainable agriculture. The yield potential of OP cultivars was much higher than national average yields prior to 1930, but hybrid cultivars today
[...] Read more.
The history of maize breeding methods in the USA is reviewed to examine the question of types of maize cultivars in sustainable agriculture. The yield potential of OP cultivars was much higher than national average yields prior to 1930, but hybrid cultivars today often out-yield OP cultivars by 50–100% or more. However, rates of gain for yield using recurrent selection on populations appear equal to that recorded for commercial hybrid breeding. The inbred-hybrid method, while successful, was not “the only sound basis” for maize improvement, as evidenced by later experiences in the United States and worldwide. It appears that maize breeders have practiced objective science and achieved concrete goals, although personal interests and goals clearly direct the work at times. As society looks for tools for sustainability based on achieving multiple goals, a special dedication to scientific validation and broad objectivity may be required. The potential for OP cultivars today is evaluated and research questions are identified. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Plant Breeding for Sustainable Agriculture)

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