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Plant breeding for improving harmony between agriculture, the environment and societies

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  1. Seth C Murray1*, E Charles Brummer2, Wesley T Barber3, Sarah M Collier4, Thomas S Cox5, Randy Johnson6, Richard T Olsen7, Richard C Pratt8, and Ann Marie Thro9 • 1Department of Soil and Crop Science, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX *(sethmurray@tamu.edu); 2Forage Improvement Division, The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, Ardmore, OK; 3Department of Crop Sciences, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL; 4Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY; 5The Land Institute, Salina, KS; 6US Forest Service, US Department of Agriculture, Washington, DC; 7Agricultural Research Service, US National Arboretum, US Department of Agriculture, Beltsville, MD; 8Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM; 9National Institute of Food and Agriculture, US Department of Agriculture, Washington, DC • What is Plant Breeding?: Modern plant breeding is the science of genetically improving plants to achieve goals and better fit production environments. • In Brief • • Plant breeding has led played a vital role into the successful development of crops to meet the food and material needs of society. • • Plant breeders are continually improving the ability of crops to withstand various environmental conditions, including those associated with global climate change. • • Reducing agriculture’s impact on the environment while maintaining sufficient production will require the development of new crops and production practices. • • Partnerships of ecologists, urban planners, and policy makers with public and private plant breeders will be essential for addressing future challenges. • Case Studies • Public plant breeding • *The goal of forages breeding is to produce leaf and stem matter as opposed to grain • *Many forage species are perennial, providing year-round erosion control, improved water infiltration as compared with those from annual cropping systems • *Most forage cultivars have been developed by university or government breeders. • *The forage breeding program at the University of Georgia (UGA) has developed cultivars in several species developed agreements with private-sector commercial partners for seed production and marketing • *UGA developed “JesupMaxQ” tall fescue, a cultivar carrying a non-toxic endophytic fungus greatly improved animal performance weight gain and feed efficiency • *This program developed the first true dual purpose – grazing and hay – alfalfa cultivar, “Alfagraze”, followed by several further improved cultivars. (Bouton 2007). • Plant Breeding Has Allowed Increased Food, Fiber and Fuel Production photo: C. Brummer • Plant breeding and agronomic improvements have greatly increased yields of important crops. Five-year moving averages of US yield were scaled to each crop’s historical minimum were calculated from available data (USDA-NASS 2009). The yield of seven important annual crops shows that yield per unit land has increased from three- to 11-fold, meaning that between one-third and one-eleventh as much land was needed to produce the same amount of food. This increase confounds improvements from breeding and from agronomic practices, which are extremely difficult to separate. Increasing yield per unit land area and yield per unit input (eg water and nutrients) results in greater production to feed a growing human population without increasing the amount of land under cultivation. Plant breeding for improving harmony between agriculture, the environment and societies • Non-profit plant breeding • The Land Institute (Salina, Kansas), focuses on breeding crops to fit systems that mimic the natural ecology of the prairie (Jackson et al. 2009; Glover et al. 2010). • Four specific traits being researched to accomplish this goal are: • (1) perennial structures that allow overwintering of plants to minimize tillage and soil destruction; • (2) deep roots that can access water and nutrients (see figure) • (3) the ability to grow in biculture or polyculture systems that include perennial wheat, intermediate wheatgrass, sorghum, legumes such as Desmanthusillinoiensis, and/or composites such as perennial sunflower; • (4) increasing yield • The use of wild germplasm towards these goals brings desired as well as undesirable traits into breeding populations; therefore, several decades are required to develop acceptable perennial food crops for large-scale production. • Plant Breeding Tools Align With Goals Of Food Production and Ecosystem Service Provision • Goal 1: Breeding to Adapt Plants To The Environment: • * Producing more with Less: Increased production using less land, water, nutrients, labor and fossil fuels results in an increase in efficiency with no tradeoffs. • * Adapting to global climate change and breeding for abiotic and biotic stress tolerance: To continue with the crops we have, let alone improve further improve them, we must select for new tolerance. • Goal 2: Breeding plants to improve the environment:Currently agricultural systems rank low among systems for providing ecosystems services (Costanza et al. 1997) but this can be altered though breeding. • * Breeding alternative crops and crops for new uses: Crops for soil improvement and removing toxic chemicals (phyotremediation), crops for perennial agriculture systems , and biofuels. • * Breeding for local adaptation: Tailor plants for individual landscapes. • * Breeding for optimum cropping systems: Crops need to be selected to fit into alternative systems of production such as alternate crop rotations, planting densities, and tillage systems (no –till) • * Breeding for new agricultural paradigms: Perennial polyculture systems (see non-profit plant breeding box) will require extensive breeding. • * Breeding for specific ecosystem services: Urban trees can be bred for services such as stormwater management, evapotranspirational cooling, and improved air quality. Likewise crops can be bred for winter cover and soil erosion preventions. • Private plant breeding • *The ability to maintain high yields under low water stress is one component of broadly defined “drought tolerance”. • *Corn is the most productive grain crop and has the highest US acreage thus it is an important target for improvement. • *Because the corn industry is well developed and highly and profitable most of the commercial breeding and seed production is in the private sector. • *Pioneer Hi-Bred International is using native diversity in corn, combined with advanced measurement technologies and statistical analyses, to develop corn lines that better resist periods of drought. • *The increasing cost of water to farmers places a value on corn cultivars that are more tolerant to drought conditions, and the value of these drought-tolerant cultivars will be captured by the private seed sector, farmers, and society. photo: J. Glover/ TLI Photo: Stephen Smith / Pioneer Hi-Bred International • PerennialZea, and high biomass maize at Texas A&M • ▪ Perennial relatives of corn Zeaperennis and Zeadipploperennis regrow year after year and can add benefits to the agroecosystem. • ▪ Cellulosic Biomass is a promising source of energy production but little breeding or genetics has been conducted to improve total Zea biomass production under low input conditions. • ▪ Texas A&M is focusing on improving five core traits for increased biomass yield in dedicated biomass Zea: perennialism, tillering, regrowth, extreme height and extreme photoperiodism. • What is Needed? • Need 1: Partnerships with diverse disciplines and stakeholders: Plant breeders understand how to improve plants but not necessarily the traits that are valued by others. • * Understanding ecosystems valuation goals: What value is placed on which traits to improve environment or life quality? There may be tradeoffs in early cycles of breeding so quantifying value is important. • * Adapting to global climate change and breeding for abiotic and biotic stress tolerance: Awareness of forecasting models for anticipatory breeding of future climates and stresses . • Need 2: Time • * Breeding is a long term proposition : It takes anywhere from 5 to 50 years to breed a new cultivar and test it for release. This depends both on the crop and on the trait (s) of interest. • Need 3: Support for public sector breeding • * Projects must be supported over the longterm : Research timelines are generally short in the private sector and in most competitive grants. Other mechanisms to support longterm breeding objectives are needed. Exotic photoperiod sensitive plants produce more early season biomass Perennial Zea can preserve soil and tolerate more stress A rammet from a perennial plant has deep roots and early emergence in spring • Acknowledgements • This poster is based on our recently published paper: Brummer, E.C., Wesley T Barber, Sarah M Collier, Thomas S Cox, Randy Johnson, Seth C Murray*, Richard T Olsen, Richard C Pratt, and Ann Marie Thro. 2011. Plant breeding for harmony between agriculture and the environment. Frontiers in Ecology and the Enviornment. doi:10.1890/100225 Published online 15 Sept. 2011 and in print in December. • Additional Funding provided by Texas AgriLife Research. • Literature Cited • Bouton J. 2007. The economic benefits of forage improvement in the United States. Euphytica 154: 263–70. • Costanza R, d’Arge R, de Groot R, Farber S, Grasso M, Hannon B, Limburg K, Naeem S, O’Neill RV, Paruelo J, Raskin RG, Sutton P, and van den Belt M. 1997. The value of the world’s ecosystem services and natural capital. Nature 387: 253–260. • USDA-NASS (US Department of Agriculture-National Agricultural Statistics Service). 2009. www.nass.usda.gov. Viewed 3 Jun 2011.