2:33 min Watch

Did you know humans have been breeding plants for roughly 12,000 years? Since the dawn of plant domestication, people started selecting seed from the best plants for planting the next crop.

Plant breeders improve seeds by identifying desired characteristics in specific plant varieties, selecting those and combining them to produce offspring that exhibit those favorable features. Plant breeders use expertise from a variety of scientific disciplines to measure and identify preferred characteristics. This helps them predict which plants will have the greatest potential for genetic improvement.

Thanks to seed improvement, farmers and consumers can count on increased varieties of crops, consistent and reliable harvests, and food that stays fresher longer. The result is increased quality and quantity of our food supply, quality of life, and a more sustainable future - meaning that future generations of farmers and consumers will be able to meet their production and food needs too.

While many plant breeding methods have been developed over the years, the goal of plant breeding remains the same. As our understanding of plants has increased, we have new breeding tools and better understand how the plant operates. Historically, plant breeders focused solely on the observable characteristics of the plant and how those characteristics could be improved, such as increasing yield or creating disease resistance. Breeders' most valuable tools to select improved plants were their sense of sight, taste, and smell. Today, the plant breeder's power of observation is strengthened with an increased understanding of genetics, the capability to sequence plant genomes and the ability to link a specific gene(s) to a specific characteristic. Plant breeders are able to more precisely improve a plant's characteristics by efficiently focusing on the underlying genetics. This means more efficient and sustainable food production with benefits for our planet, our health and our food.