Smallholders could reproduce the seed from the hybrid plants themselves and benefit from high yields.
© flickr/ Sarahhoa


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Plant breeders call the phenomenon of the progeny generations producing a superior yield compared to that of parent plants the heterosis effect. In subsequent generations, this effect is lost again. However, it can be conserved with the aid of apomixis.

Rice reproduces sexually. However, this sexual reproduction, in which the chromosome sets are first halved and then newly combined (also referred to as meiosis), results in the loss of the heterosis effect, which occurs in hybrid breeding. Hybrids are plants that emerge from the cross-breeding of parents that have been allowed to fertilise themselves over several generations in order to enhance desired features. For example, in-breeding of two such parent lines can lead to progeny that produces higher yields. However, this surplus yield goes lost on the way to the next generation. Therefore, hybrid seed loses its advantage in the course of reproduction.

Learning from nature

What would happen if the properties of the hybrid generation could be conserved? Plant breeder Venkatesan Sundaresan at Davis University in California asked himself this question and had a look at nature to get an answer. For example, dandelions and blackberries make do without meiosis and reproduce asexually.

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