Modern plant breeding, based on advances in the scientific understanding of genetics and plant physiology, has made possible significant, life-saving increases in crop yields. Major crop improvements have been achieved by adoption of hybrid seeds and introgression of desired traits from more distant, “wild” members of the families of modern agricultural crops.
Through breeding, crops can be improved for increased yield, better nutritional value and in the end enhanced food functionality.
New agritech tools that are lately being widely implemented, such as sensors, robots and drones, dodge agriculture’s acute challenges as they rely on the existing plant genetics, with their inherit drawbacks, that influence output. Additionally, these agritech tools are unable to provide robust solutions for climate and economic fluctuations and improvement on dietary composition.
Only genetic enhancement of crops provide a long term solution to the changing world.
Conventional breeding methods have significant limitations. Breeders have focused the bulk of their attention on those varieties which express most clearly major desired agricultural characteristics. As a result, scientists and plant breeders are now looking into “bringing back” important traits which were lost because of this focus on a limited group of varieties. Distant ”relatives” from the families of modern agricultural crops can serve as a source of these lost traits to increase the genetic diversity. However, while crossing agricultural crops with wild relatives is a popular and well proven way to re-introduce desired traits, the process is long, cumbersome, expensive and accompanies with high uncertainty.
In recent years a new way to overcome the aforementioned breeding bottlenecks is the use of New Breeding Technologies (NBT).
NBT are biotechnological tools, of which the most prominent is CRISPR-Cas9, that enable faster and more accurate ways to breed for better genetics, unleashing the hidden potential of crops in the most effective way.
NBT are at the forefront of crop science for developing improved varieties with better traits.
NBT are being adopted worldwide, but at a slow pace. Innovative solutions that can ease the integration of NBT, such as robust transformation technologies, will hasten its adoption thus leading to rapid and cost effective introductions of new and better varieties.
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