Chennai: The basis of plant breeding is the availability of trait variation and diversity in different crops, that can be brought together into a variety or hybrid with multiple superior qualities or characteristics.
Plant breeders have been collecting wild variants of different crops for transferring better traits from wild to domesticated varieties. Random genetic variation historically has also been generated by treating seeds with various agents and selecting for plants with superior traits. These breeding methods were limited to plants that could be crossed with each other.
However, genetic modification gave the breeders an opportunity to incorporate genes from different species into the plants, thereby increasing manifold, the available repertoire of genetic variation.
The latest addition to breeder’s toolbox-gene editing, can enable changes similar to previously induced random changes (practiced by breeders in the past), generate variation similar to wild varieties as well as introduce genes in a plant, efficiently and in the most precise manner. The non-specificity and randomness in the previous processes led to a laborious, time-consuming and multi-generation process to select the plant with the required trait. These limitations can be overcome by gene editing, with precise and specific changes being made based on our knowledge of the trait.
Dr Shivendra Bajaj, executive director, Federation of Seed Industry of India (FSII), said, “the technology has a lot of potential- Be it trees, plants with multiple genomes, orphan crops or wild varieties, gene editing has the potential to solve multiple challenges quickly.”