An Overview of Crop Improvement: Chairman’s Introduction
Plant breeding is really older than sedentary agriculture. This statement is based on the fact that non shattering plant types that produced quite well in single-crop stands must have been available to these early farmers. Such strains were selected from among the natural variants that nature provided. What is astound-ing, however, is the fact that the plant breeding technology used by those early farmers to select crop genotypes for sedentary agriculture 10,000 to 12,000 years ago was still in use with few refinements until 1900--i.e., just 80 years ago. A number of researchers such as Camerarius, Weissman, De Vries, etc. made many discoveries about sex and heredity in plants before 1900, but it was the rediscovery of Mendel’s Laws of Heredity in 1901 that ushered in the idea that humankind could recombine genes from natural sources into combinations that were desired for agricultural or horticultural production, but could not be found in natural populations.