Looking in the wrong direction for higher-yielding crop genotypes

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A misunderstanding of evolution via natural selection has led many plant physiologists and genetic engineers to look in the wrong direction for higher-yielding crop genotypes. Large investments in attempts to make ‘better’ plants by improving basic physiological processes are not likely to succeed because natural selection has been optimizing these for millions of years. Increases in yield from plant breeding have usually resulted from decreases, not increases, in plant fitness. Examples include reduced plant height and more vertical root growth in cereals. Plant scientists and breeders should generate hypotheses based on what evolutionary biologists call ‘group selection’, looking for attributes that increase yield in ways that decrease fitness, rather than attempting to improve upon the achievements of natural selection.
Original languageEnglish
JournalTrends in Plant Science
Issue number10
Pages (from-to)927-933
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2019

Bibliographical note

This research was supported by the Natural Science Research Council of Denmark (grant 4181-00064). I thank M. Palmgren for encouraging me to write this paper, W. Wille for the idea behind Figure 1, and A. Cavalieri, J. Henle, S. Knapp, E. von Wettberg and three anonymous reviewers for comments on the manuscript.

ID: 227568102