Plant breeding in the future

Published on
June 8, 2018

‘Successes in the past, food for the future’ is the motto of the Plant Breeding Day on 13 June. WUR, KeyGene and SeedValley are organising an afternoon with speakers, masterclasses, tours and a career event. Below are four statements about plant breeders to give you a chance to prepare for this symposium.

Plant breeders ensure variation in our food

Thanks to plant breeders there are around 15 different types of tomatoes in Dutch supermarkets. Breeders gratefully make use of worldwide genetic variation in wild species and old breeds. Through this variation existing breeds acquire resistance to fungi, grow optimally in Dutch greenhouses and perform well under energy-efficient LED lights. Using computers and information from DNA, modern plant breeders can keep track of hundreds of characteristics in their breeding programmes.

Plant breeders increase food production

With crops such as wheat, rice, corn and potatoes, the quantity of the harvest per hectare is as important as quality. In order to distribute our food proportionally among the global population and to minimise waste, we need only 0.1 hectare of modern wheat breeds to feed one person for an entire year.

Plant breeders strive for sustainability

Resistant breeds ensure income for farmers, sufficient and good-quality food (food security) and there are fewer chemical pesticides required compared to conventional crops. Resistances sometimes last for a very long time. Therefore, resistant breeds are used for the development of new breeds that are also resistant. Once the characteristic is acquired through the right genes in the DNA, it is transmitted for free to subsequent generations.

Plant breeders increase genetic variation

New genetic variations frequently occur spontaneously through mutations. Breeders have been able to develop new breeds thanks to these spontaneous mutations. Because researchers worldwide have mapped the DNA of all kinds of plants and published their findings, plant breeders know which mutations are useful in their breeding programmes. With techniques like CRISPR Cas, exactly those mutations can occur that produce the new variation the plant breeder is looking for.

Join the discussion

At the Plant Breeding Day, speakers and their audience mainly focus on the future, with presentations on such topics as CRISPR Cas, deep learning and virtual reality in plant breeding. Participants share their expectations concerning newly-devised breeding techniques, such as CRISPR Cas, under the guidance of event chair Hidde Boersma, science journalist and documentary filmmaker.

Why is she attending?

During her studies in biology at Wageningen, Hanneke Suijkerbuijk became interested in breeding and did an internship at floriculture breeder Dümmen Orange. “Working in plant breeding sounded very nice,” says Suijkerbuijk. “I’m going to the symposium to gain insight into new and interesting developments in the sector. I’m curious about the deep learning programme component and the virtual reality tours. At the networking event Talk & Toast I look forward to meeting a lot of people from companies and to learn about what knowledge I still need to work in this field.”