By definition, plant breeding is the purposeful manipulation of certain species of plants in order to create desired varieties to achieve specific purposes. The manipulation may be done in several ways.
It can either be by means of controlled pollination or the direct manipulation of the plant’s genes as in genetic engineering. This usually progresses into artificial selection new strains that will eventually lead to domestication.
Plant breeding is a practice in making plants develop better strains for as early as thousands of years ago. It started with plant domestication practices that allowed early humans to produce and grow plants with fewer undesirable traits from wild strains. Many of the crops today were a result of plant domestication during the ancient times.
Classical plant breeding methods make use of deliberate crossbreeding of related plant varieties to produce a new crop that exhibits the desirable properties of both parent plants. This is done in order to introduce a good trait or traits from one plant into another.
There have been several reasons that led to the practice of crossbreeding plants. One of them is to be able to come up with new plant strains with better yield quality. Another objective of crossbreeding is to develop plants to have increased tolerance to different environmental pressures such as high soil salinity or extreme drought conditions.
Crossbreeding of plants has also been a way for breeders to create plants with better resistance to certain diseases. It is a method that can help bring about the development of plant strains with better resistance to pests as well as to bacteria, fungi and viruses. Some plant cross breeders also try to crossbreed plants to make them more tolerant to certain insecticides and herbicides.
Hybridization within a plant species was effectively demonstrated by noted scientists Gregor Mendel and Charles Darwin. This was sometime before World War II. The process was further developed by plant breeders. By the early 1900’s, plant breeders were using Mendel’s findings on the non-random nature of inheritance of plant traits and applied them in developing plants through deliberate pollination in order to predict the outcome of the hybrids.
The early techniques in plant breeding instituted during the early 1900’s were able to allow plant breeders to help increase the yield of some crops, especially in the United States. The early methods in plant breeding eventually spawned to other means of developing better crops in the ensuing years.
The methods used later on led to the development of breeding plants that are distantly related. This, in turn, helped in bringing about the development of the field of genetic engineering that was directly associated with plant breeding.