Expert response from Edward Souza
Global Director, Wheat Breeding, Bayer
Monday, 12/06/2017 19:05
First of all, to clarify – hybridization is part of conventional breeding and conventional breeding uses hybridization to create new combinations of genes from parent varieties. For example, a disease-resistant wheat variety may be hybridized to a variety that makes flour better suited for making whole wheat bread. This is a common goal of most conventional breeding programs. It typically involves taking pollen from one parent and using it to fertilize another parent. The seed from the hybridization is formed from the pollen and ovule of the two parents. The difference in breeding from a crop reproducing in the field by itself is the mechanical transfer of pollen between parents.
Within Bayer we are breeding with the goal of delivering to farmers the direct seed from the hybridization, often called a “hybrid.” Currently, wheat varieties grown in the U.S. are derived from the progeny (the seeds harvested after many generations). The selection is used to stabilize through inbreeding the new combinations of traits. Bayer would like to use the hybrid seed directly because it has present in the hybrid all of the genes of both parents. Because the positive genes from each parent tend to mask weaker genes in the opposite parent, the hybrid grows faster and is more tolerant of stresses from the weather and diseases. Hybrids are widely used to increase yield for crops like corn and tomato. It is not traditionally used for wheat because hybrid wheat seed is expensive to produce. We are using naturally occurring genes from wheat in new combinations to reduce the cost of producing the hybrid seed. As a result, we will be able to deliver hybrid varieties with disease resistance, baking quality and heat tolerance to farmers in the U.S.
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