Theoretical and Applied Genetics

, Volume 129, Issue 12, pp 2267–2280 | Cite as

From Mendel’s discovery on pea to today’s plant genetics and breeding

Commemorating the 150th anniversary of the reading of Mendel’s discovery
  • Petr SmýkalEmail author
  • Rajeev K. Varshney
  • Vikas K. Singh
  • Clarice J. Coyne
  • Claire Domoney
  • Eduard Kejnovský
  • Thomas Warkentin
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. From phenotype to genotype - Celebrating 150 years of Mendelian genetics in plant breeding research. Hermann Buerstmayr, Johann Vollmann


Key message

This work discusses several selected topics of plant genetics and breeding in relation to the 150th anniversary of the seminal work of Gregor Johann Mendel.


In 2015, we celebrated the 150th anniversary of the presentation of the seminal work of Gregor Johann Mendel. While Darwin’s theory of evolution was based on differential survival and differential reproductive success, Mendel’s theory of heredity relies on equality and stability throughout all stages of the life cycle. Darwin’s concepts were continuous variation and “soft” heredity; Mendel espoused discontinuous variation and “hard” heredity. Thus, the combination of Mendelian genetics with Darwin’s theory of natural selection was the process that resulted in the modern synthesis of evolutionary biology. Although biology, genetics, and genomics have been revolutionized in recent years, modern genetics will forever rely on simple principles founded on pea breeding using seven single gene characters. Purposeful use of mutants to study gene function is one of the essential tools of modern genetics. Today, over 100 plant species genomes have been sequenced. Mapping populations and their use in segregation of molecular markers and marker–trait association to map and isolate genes, were developed on the basis of Mendel's work. Genome-wide or genomic selection is a recent approach for the development of improved breeding lines. The analysis of complex traits has been enhanced by high-throughput phenotyping and developments in statistical and modeling methods for the analysis of phenotypic data. Introgression of novel alleles from landraces and wild relatives widens genetic diversity and improves traits; transgenic methodologies allow for the introduction of novel genes from diverse sources, and gene editing approaches offer possibilities to manipulate gene in a precise manner.


Quantitative Trait Locus Common Bean Genomic Selection Genetically Modify Crop Cluster Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeat 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This research was supported by the Czech Science Foundation (Grant 15-02891S to E.K. and 14-11782S to P.S.) and Palacký University Grant IGA 2015_1 and IGA 2016_1 to P.S. Various colleagues are acknowledged for their fruitful discussions on the earlier versions of the manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Petr Smýkal
    • 1
    Email author
  • Rajeev K. Varshney
    • 2
  • Vikas K. Singh
    • 2
  • Clarice J. Coyne
    • 3
  • Claire Domoney
    • 4
  • Eduard Kejnovský
    • 5
  • Thomas Warkentin
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of Botany, Faculty of SciencesPalacký University in OlomoucOlomoucCzech Republic
  2. 2.International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT)HyderabadIndia
  3. 3.USDA-ARSWashington State UniversityPullmanUSA
  4. 4.John Innes CentreNorwichUK
  5. 5.Department of Plant Developmental Genetics, Institute of BiophysicsCzech Academy of SciencesBrnoCzech Republic
  6. 6.Crop Development CentreUniversity of SaskatchewanSaskatoonCanada

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