Evolutionary plant breeding in cereals-into a new era

Thomas F. Döring, Samuel Knapp, Geza Kovacs, Kevin Murphy, Martin S. Wolfe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

52 Citations (Scopus)


In evolutionary plant breeding, crop populations with a high level of genetic diversity are subjected to the forces of natural selection. In a cycle of sowing and re-sowing seed from the plant population year after year, those plants favored under prevailing growing conditions are expected to contribute more seed to the next generation than plants with lower fitness. Thus, evolving crop populations have the capability of adapting to the conditions under which they are grown. Here we review the current state of research in evolutionary plant breeding and concentrate on the ability of evolving plant populations to deal with stressful, variable, and unpredictable environments. This resilience of evolving plant populations is seen as a major advantage under the predicted threats faced by agriculture such as global climate change. We have conducted an analysis of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of this breeding approach and suggest how its concept can be broadened and expanded. Given the current legal restrictions for realizing the potential of evolutionary plant breeding, we call for a change in legislation to allow evolving crop populations to enter agricultural practice on a larger scale

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1944-1971
Number of pages28
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • Competition
  • Composite cross populations
  • Diversity
  • Farm-saved seed
  • Resilience

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law

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  • Cite this

    Döring, T. F., Knapp, S., Kovacs, G., Murphy, K., & Wolfe, M. S. (2011). Evolutionary plant breeding in cereals-into a new era. Sustainability, 3(10), 1944-1971. https://doi.org/10.3390/su3101944