Author: Martin A. J. Parry, and Malcolm J. Hawkesford
The balance between the supply and demand of the major food crops is fragile, fueling concerns for long-term global food security. The rising population, increasing wealth and a proliferation of non-food uses (e.g. bioenergy) has led to growing demands on agriculture, while increased production is limited by greater urbanization, and the degradation of land. Furthermore, global climate change with increasing temperatures and lower, more erratic rainfall is projected to decrease agricultural yields. There is a predicted need to increase food production by at least 70% by 2050 and therefore an urgent need to develop novel and integrated approaches, incorporating high-throughput phenotyping that will both increase production per unit area and simultaneously improve the resource use efficiency of crops. Yield potential, yield stability, nutrient and water use are all complex multigenic traits and while there is genetic variability, their complexity makes such traits difficult to breed for directly. Nevertheless molecular plant breeding has the potential to deliver substantial improvements, once the component traits and the genes underlying these traits have been identified. In addition, interactions between the individual traits must also be taken into account, a demand that is difficult to fulfill with traditional screening approaches. Identified traits will be incorporated into new cultivars using conventional or biotechnological tools. In order to better understand the relationship between genotype, component traits, and environment over time, a multidisciplinary approach must be adopted to both understand the underlying processes and identify candidate genes, QTLs and traits that can be used to develop improved crops.
Parry MAJ, Hawkesford MJ (2012) An integrated approach to crop genetic improvement. J. Integr. Plant Biol. 54(4), 250–259.