Seeking varieties for more sustainable cereal production

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationFeatured article

Abstract

Agriculture across the world faces the challenge of increasing crop production to feed a growing population, whilst at the same time sustain the environment and natural resources. The premise behind my study award from the Farmers Club Charitable Trust was that plant breeders are the key players in meeting this challenge – not only in improving yield and food supply, but also for delivering new varieties with wider social and environmental benefits.

A broad view for introducing wider sustainability criteria into new crops can be summarised as requirements for
• adaptation to climate change
• more resilient crops to ensure food security
• plant traits to reduce harmful environmental impacts of farming
The most important resources available to a breeder’s success are new sources of genetic material and the ‘core’ environments in which they select and test their varieties. Genetic improvements come from crossing of elite parents or other plant types such as old varieties, ‘exotic’ varieties or landraces. Extra genetic variation comes from seed banks and through the use of new genetic technologies to enhance diversity in desirable traits. Breeders have their own strategies to identify the best selection sites. The location of core sites has a big impact on a breeder’s success in achieving wide adaptation and maintaining competiveness in the market place.

Keywords

  • Cereals
  • Varieties
  • Sustainable
  • Production
  • Europe
  • Climate change
  • Environment

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