J. Silva Dias, E.J. Ryder
Breeding is probably nearly as old as agriculture itself, carried out by sharpeyed farmers who saw differences among the plants they were growing and chose the best plants in order to make the next crop better than the last. Progress has been continual. Early vegetable breeders developed landrace cultivars by selection of favorable variations in horticultural traits, yield, and resistance to diseases and other problems. New methods were developed, including hybridization techniques, culminating with the use of recently developed molecular tools, all leading to our modern sophisticated cultivars. In recent times, there have been challenges and new trends in the breeding domain, some laudable, others discouraging and distressing. These include: i) an unrelenting movement away from well supported public breeding institutions to a breeding world dominated by private entities; ii) an increase in size of the companies in the private sector, with emphasis on the major vegetable crops; and iii) greater emphasis on protection of cultivars by seed companies, including plant cultivar protection, patenting, and development of F1 hybrids.
This paper discusses these challenges and trends and suggests ways to reemphasize the best aspects of each. Public sector breeding, particularly regarding vegetables, must be strengthened through increased taxpayer support and perhaps partnerships with private industry. Smaller seed companies, which are usually specialized in few vegetable crops, must be supported, possibly through autonomous affiliation with the larger companies. Breeding of vegetables and other minor crops must continue as a viable endeavor. Protective measures, especially patenting, must be moderated to eliminate coverage so broad that it stifles innovation. And in the farming domain, poverty among subsistence farmers and their consumers continues to exist and they must be aided by governments, international non-government organizations, and seed companies.
Silva Dias, J. and Ryder, E.J. (2012). THE IMPACT OF PLANT BREEDING ON THE WORLD VEGETABLE INDUSTRY. Acta Hortic. 935, 13-22
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2012.935.1
plant breeding, patenting, cultivar protection, diversity

Acta Horticulturae