Sara Ross

Plant Breeding

Farmer and mother of four Sara Ross shares her thoughts on plant breeding innovation with help from a fellow mom – and plant breeder – Jessie Alt. Watch as they discuss their perspectives on this exciting agricultural development.

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What is plant breeding?

Since plants were first domesticated, gardeners, farmers and plant scientists have been observing, selecting and breeding for their most desirable traits. In the past, this involved looking at a plant’s observable advantages – like growth, disease resistance and taste – then selecting and planting the seeds from those plants. Over time, this resulted in better, stronger plants, which breeders continued to improve over time.

  1. American Seed Trade Association, https://seedinginnovation.org

What is plant breeding innovation?

Today, the strategies breeders use to create better plant varieties, known collectively as plant breeding innovation, are based on those same ideas, but are even more time and resource efficient. Plant breeding innovation uses genome sequencing to focus on the genetic factors that produce the best plants, and it allows breeders to reach the same endpoint as through more traditional plant breeding methods, but with greater precision and efficiency.

What is gene editing?

Gene editing technology, such as CRISPR/Cas9, allows for the alteration of genes within a number of organisms – including plants. Using genetic markers, breeders can now identify the genetic material responsible for the most desirable plant characteristics, as well as those responsible for undesirable plant characteristics. Breeders are then able to edit or delete specific parts of a plant’s genome in order to create plants that, for example, require less water and crop protection products to produce.

  1. American Seed Trade Association, https://seedinginnovation.org

Where is plant breeding innovation being used now?

Consumers may soon benefit from a number of plant breeding innovations, such as button mushrooms that don’t brown and corn that requires less water to produce. While it’s easy to confuse the crops produced using plant breeding innovation with GMOs foods, they are not the same thing. Unlike GMOs, there are no products of gene editing on the market today.

  1. American Seed Trade Association, https://seedinginnovation.org
  2. Penn State University, http://news.psu.edu/story/405406/2016/04/19/research/gene-edited-mushroom-created-penn-state-researcher-changing-gmo

Why is plant breeding innovation necessary?

Changes in the earth’s climate, along with new pests and diseases, represent a potential threat to our food supply. For that reason, among others, farmers are focused on continuous improvement and new technologies that allow them to produce more with less. Plant breeding innovation is one example of agricultural progress that has benefits for farmers, consumers and the environment, too.

  1. American Seed Trade Association, https://seedinginnovation.org

Are foods produced through plant breeding innovation safe?

Before foods produced using plant breeding innovation come to market, they undergo extensive testing that begins very early on in the breeding process. Using time-tested, proven procedures, scientists and researchers are able to create new plant varieties that are safe for farmers to grow and for consumers to eat.

  1. American Seed Trade Association, https://seedinginnovation.org