Several seed samples (hundred of thousands) are stored in the renowned Spitsbergen Seed-Vault and in the nationwide gene-banks to preserve ancient crop varieties and the associated genetic diversity.
Scientists round the world are examining that whether stored seed samples contain desired genes, lost through breeding and selection programs that could counteract climate change. Research led by C. Shen, TUM professor, at the department of plant breeding, has revealed a system to utilize the stored seed genetic potential of older crop varieties, also known as landraces.
Loss of Plant Characteristic Through Crop Breeding
Maize has been cultivated primarily as hybrid varieties in European fields since 1960. Hybrid varieties are bred using a special crop breeding scheme, for example, to achieve high yields per-hectare or low pest susceptibility, pruning is used generally. To grow the best strain, you need a set with characteristics that may be relevant now and in the future. Thus, for breeding programs, crop genetic diversity is a basic requirement.
However, compared to older varieties, landraces, hybrid varieties have only a small set of desired characteristics. Then the primary question that arises here is whether not only undesirable but also useful characteristics have-been lost during the breeding sessions. Consequently, the call for old varieties has newly been revitalized as they are enriched by high bio-diversity and are estimated as a pure source of new crop genetic variation during breeding programs. The plant’s physical appearances demonstrate significant genetic diversity reflecting a variety of desirable genes.
Effect of Climate Change on Cold tolerant varieties
To overcome the effect of climate change on young plants, early development is of significant importance. Drought and heat are the most detrimental conditions for plants such as corn when they ensue through flowering. If the plant can be grown early in the year because it can tolerate cold weather, it will stop flowering when summer temperatures are particularly high. This will reduce damage and yield loss.
Professor Schön and her team tested local varieties for their cold resistance characteristics. To this end, they established a genome-based methodology for detecting useful genetic resources and their targeted use. After preliminary studies, the scientists resolute the genetic diversity between individual cultivars. The scientists have preferred three land-races to grow in different locations with different climates in Europe.
Landraces Advantageous Genes
The primary focus of the research was about identifying the traits associated with early plant-growth, taking the plant’s resistance under consideration, and its growth pattern. Using entire genome scanning molecular techniques they linked the field test data to genes association data with specific traits.
“In this research, the M Mayer and team have shown how genetic diversity can play an important role in crop improvement and yield betterment. The current genetic material lacks the signification diversity for specific traits.”
This research has led the foundation toward the development of climate-adapted hybrid crop varieties for the improvement of agriculture.
Source: Mayer et al 2020.