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How Mendel’s Discoveries Paved the Way for Modern Plant Breeding

As the global population grows, high-yielding harvests and healthy crops are essential to feed mouths across the world. An answer to this pressing call came a little over 200 years ago in the form of the ‘Father of Genetics’ — also known as Gregor Mendel.

Born in 1822, Mendel conducted his famous crossing experiments with 34 different varieties of peas as he set out to determine if he could create a new variety with these crossings. Through his extensive research, Mendel deducted three different laws: the Law of Segregation, the Law of Independent Assortment and the Law of Dominance. His discoveries opened up a whole new world for not only plant breeding, but also the research into the genetics of animals and humans.

“When you want to make progress in plant breeding, you have to know the inheritance of the genes of the traits that you’re studying, or the genes for the target traits in your breeding program,” explains Marcel Bruins, editor of European Seed and founder of Bruins Seed Consultancy, on the Jan. 11 episode of Seed Speaks. “Without Mendel and that knowledge, breeders would just be making random crosses, selecting for the biggest ears or the nicest plants without really knowing what they’re doing.”

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