What is crop breeding?
Crop breeding is the art and science of improving important agricultural plants for the benefit of humankind. Crop breeders work to make our food, fiber, forage, and industrial crops more productive and nutritious. Crops provide for an expanding global population with increasing dietary expectations. Environmental protection is also improved by the work of crop breeders.
Plant breeding has been practiced by farmers since the dawn of agriculture, as they selected plants for larger seeds, more tasty fruits, and other valuable traits. Today, both farmers and scientists work to breed plants.
How does this affect me?
Sweeter corn, apples with a longer shelf life, and popcorn that pops better were all developed by crop breeders. But it’s not just consumer preference that breeders work for. They breed for plant growing conditions found throughout the world! Traits that have been improved by crop breeding include:
Average corn yields in the U.S. have increased almost ten times over the past 80 years, as have rice, potatoes, and sorghum
Yield (increasing how much is safely grown on the same amount of land; an example here and here)
Resistance to pests and diseases (read here)
Adaptation to environmental stresses such as heat, drought, frost, and salty soils (more here)
Nutritional value (more about that here)
Ease of harvest (an example here)
Efficiency of breeding techniques (read more here)
Taste, color, and texture (an example here)