PLANT BREEDING IN IMPROVING CROP YIELD AND QUALITY IN RECENT DECADES

V. SILVEY
In the 1940s, with food rationing still in force throughout Europe, the task for farmers was primarily to maximise crop and food production. Governments invested in research and development programmes and set up advisory services geared to finding and implementing improved methods of husbandry, efficient mechanisation for farm operations and improved plant varieties to increase production and self-sufficiency. As recently as the 1980s the CAP regime of intervention and price support made a strategy of maximising crop production on the farm profitable without concern about the normal marketing discipline of supply and demand.

Farmers, plant breeders, the seed and supply industry currently operate in an increasingly competitive international market place which demands delivery of reliable supplies, at lower unit cost to satisfy specific end-use quality standards. Government policy reflects consumer concern about the damage to the environment caused directly or indirectly by use of agrochemical sprays and fertilisers and this creates a new set of challenges for the agricultural community.

Plant breeding alone can change the genetic potential of seeds - the farmers' raw material - thereby increasing yield, improving quality and enhancing resistance to disease and other natural hazards.

This paper uses examples drawn from wheat and barley to chart some plant breeding successes in increasing crop quantity and quality in the last forty years to meet changing market demands. It also highlights the importance of the plant breeder in enabling the farmer to combat newly important diseases and to diversify into crops previously unsuitable for the United Kingdom.

SILVEY, V. (1994). PLANT BREEDING IN IMPROVING CROP YIELD AND QUALITY IN RECENT DECADES. Acta Hortic. 355, 19-34
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.1994.355.2
https://doi.org/10.17660/ActaHortic.1994.355.2

Acta Horticulturae