Apomixis: new horizons in plant breeding


Abstract: Apomixis is seed formation without fertilization, commonly observed in wild plant species. It has the advantages of clonal reproduction and propagation by seeds. Although it has a complex inheritance, genes controlling apomictic reproduction are being identified. Transfer of apomixis to crop species through wide crosses has not been successful so far, but transgenic technology offers a more powerful way to introgress apomixis into crop species. When crop species acquire this trait, superior genotypes, including hybrids, will be fixed and seeds will be multiplied without segregation of superior gene combinations. In addition, it will make hybrid production possible in all crops, lower the costs of hybrid seed, allow farmers to produce their own seed, eliminate crop losses due to pollination failures, and shorten the time to improve new varieties since the breeding will generally be completed by a single cross. In clonally propagated crops, apomixis will eliminate expensive and difficult tissue culture procedures needed for rapid and disease-free multiplication, make storage of planting material easy, and allow the crop to be saved and used as planting material (e.g., potato tubers). Although there are some concerns about biological safety of apomictic crops, they can be easily resolved by refining the apomixis technology. Therefore, it seems that apomixis is about to change the face of plant breeding forever.

Keywords: Apospory, diplospory, clonal propagation, conditional apomixis, hybrid seeds, plant breeding

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