A. Mason: Making new crop species

Bio Information

Annaliese Mason is Professor for Plant Breeding at The University of Bonn. A major research focus of her group is on polyploidy and interspecific hybridisation, including how two different species can come together to form a new, hybrid species. The group aims to use these common evolutionary processes for crop improvement in the Brassica genus and other crop groups. The groups’ research expertise includes genetic and genomic analysis, molecular and classical cytogenetics, and production of novel hybrid material.

Presentation Abstract

In the wild, two or more other species often come together to make a new hybrid species. Such hybrid species are very common and frequently benefit from increased environmental tolerances and vigour relative to their parents. Many of our established crop species also result from this process: examples include wheat, rapeseed, coffee, cotton, and sugarcane. In some crop groups, it may be possible to artificially synthesise new hybrid types and establish these as crops, thus taking advantage of the benefits associated with this process for human agriculture.

Examples include triticale and many citrus fruits; our research group has also successfully produced many new types of hybrids in the Brassica genus (which includes root, stem and leaf vegetables, mustards and oilseeds). However, despite the high potential benefits, breeders are in general reluctant to “start again” with such hybrid types from scratch, due to the significant time investment required to breed elite crop varieties from new crop types. In future, exploitation of novel high-throughput phenotyping, genotyping and “speed breeding” technologies may allow us to “fast track” breeding of new hybrid crops, via targeted selection for agricultural traits.


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