Paper of the Month June 2022

Crucial factors for the feasibility of commercial hybrid breeding in food crops


There is an ongoing societal debate about plant breeding systems and their impact on stakeholders in food systems. Hybrid breeding and hybrid seed have become controversial topics as they are believed to mostly serve high-tech agricultural systems. This article focuses on the perspective of commercial plant breeders when developing new cultivars of food crops. Arguably, hybrid breeding is the most effective breeding system for genetic improvement of crops, enhancing yields, improving product quality and increasing resistance against (a)biotic stresses. Nonetheless, hybrid breeding is not commercially applied in all crops. We analyse how biological and economic factors determine whether a commercial plant breeder opts for the hybrid system or not. We show that the commercial feasibility of hybrid breeding depends on the crop and business case. In conclusion, the commercial application of hybrid breeding in crops seems to be hampered mostly by high costs of seed production. Case studies regarding the hybrid transitions in maize, wheat and potato are included to illustrate these findings.

Emily M. S. ter Steeg , Paul C. Struik , Richard G. F. Visser  and Pim Lindhout  (2022) Nature Plants Volume 8, May 2022: 463-473

Read the full article