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Doctoral thesis2011Open access

Surfing the genepool : the effective and efficient use of plant genetic resources

Mackay, Michael


Humankind has been left a wealth of plant genetic diversity; a gift of nature, evolution and domestication over many millennia. Until recent times we have used these plant genetic resources (PGR) in harmony with our environment. The 20th Century brought many changes to the world including new frontiers in science and agriculture. Plant breeding, as we know it today, began in 1900 with the rediscovery of Mendel’s laws of inheritance published in 1866, following his experiments on plant hybridization. Early plant breeders were quick to take advantage of landraces originating from different regions and hybridized them to aggregate more agronomically important traits into widely adapted modern cultivars. Nickolai Ivanovich Vavilov (1887-1943) was among the first scientists to recognize the distribution of plant characteristics was not random, but related to ecological and other environmental parameters. By the mid 20th Century PGR were being widely collected and conserved in ex situ genebanks. The use of PGR in breeding was largely based on information sourced from other researchers and genebanks. Breeders specifically asked for evaluation data to effectively use genebank accessions. The Focused Identification of Germplasm Strategy (FIGS) emerged as an approach to target accessions more likely to possess specific genetic variation sought by breeders. FIGS involves gathering available information and knowledge to facilitate the identification of candidate accessions. GIS, statistical and modeling techniques can then be used to select the candidates for evaluation based on understanding the trait by environment relationships. This study concludes that rational approaches, such as FIGS, deliver more effective and efficient utilization of PGR by identifying ‘best bet’ subsets of accessions to address contemporary plant breeding challenges requiring novel genetic variation for adaptive traits.


plant genetic resources; genetic variation; land varieties; gene banks

Published in

Acta Universitatis Agriculturae Sueciae
2011, number: 2011:90
ISBN: 978-91-576-7634-4
Publisher: Department of Plant Breeding and Biotechnology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Genetics and Breeding

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