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Plant Breeding

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Plant Breeding - Lesson Summary

India is an agricultural country with 62 per cent of people engaged in agriculture for their livelihood. With the passage of time and an increase in population, the demand for food has risen extensively. Earlier, this was tackled through traditional farming and better management practices.

However, it resulted in a very small increase in yield. It was only during the 1960s that the Green Revolution brought about a drastic increase in the production of high-yielding, disease-resistant crops like wheat and rice by employing plant breeding techniques. Plant breeding involves crossing between plants with desired characters to produce offspring that possess the superior characters of both their parents.
 
The first step in plant breeding is the collection of germplasm of a particular crop that is intended for breeding. The second step is the selection of superior parents. Here, two plants with the different desired characters are selected then, they are made to self-cross to get a pure line of those varieties. The third step is cross-hybridisation of the superior parents. This is done by collecting the pollen grains of one parent plant and placing them on the stigma of the other parent plant.

The fourth step is the selection of superior hybrids. The hybrid is then allowed to self-pollinate till it forms a pure line of homozygous plants. The final step is the evaluation of the hybrid for the characters gained. This is done by first cultivating the hybrid in a research field under ideal conditions. Later, they are cultivated in farmers’ fields at different locations for three growing seasons. This helps in comparing the performance of the hybrid against the best crop cultivar available in that area. In this way, plant breeding has increased the yield of many crops including wheat, rice, sugarcane and millet. The Green Revolution is a result of using various plant breeding techniques to boost agriculture. During this period, there was a dramatic increase in the production of wheat from 11 to 75 million tonnes and rice from 35 to 89.5 million tonnes. The increase in production was credited to the semi-dwarf varieties of wheat and rice that were developed.

The semi-dwarf wheat variety was first developed by Nobel laureate Norman E Borlaug. Sonalika and Kalyan sona and rice hybrids such as Jaya and Ratna were developed in India. The hybrid obtained had both the characters of its parents such as a very thick stem with higher sugar content and the ability to grow in northern parts of India. In this manner, through various plant-breeding techniques, many high-yielding crops were developed that helped boost Indian agriculture.

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