Progressions of Plant Breeding

Plant breeding and seed selection has been part of agriculture since farming began. Choosing the strongest varieties to provide the highest yield and be more resilient is testament to how crop production has progressed for centuries.

plant research

Breeding techniques vary between crop species, but the scientific principles of plant breeding remain true to Mendel’s first discovery that selected parent plants can be cross-pollinated to combine desired characteristics.

Pedigree, hybrid, and doubled haploid breeding methods have all been adopted to develop species that offer better resistance to climate, disease, and pest threats.

This has helped to increase yields giving farmers a better return for the land they plant.

farmer with crops in hand

BSPB was formed in 1986 following a merger of The Plant Royalty Bureau and the BAPB. Working on behalf of breeders, we began to work more closely with the agricultural industry and began farm saved seed payments in 1996 to provide more recognition and investment for their work.

Selective breeding can be segmented into:


Pedigree plant breeding requires crossing carefully chosen parent plants and then selecting the best plants from the resulting offspring to be grown on for further selection. The best character traits to address disease and pest resistance, improve yield and account for the climate the plant is grown in are all considered. Repeating this process over a number of years results in the best plants being selected for seed multiplication and the entry into official trials.

Hybrid breeding exploits the performance boost derived in a single season from the first cross between two carefully selected parent lines. This breeding method is widely used to produce commercial varieties of field vegetables, sugar beet, maize, oilseed rape, and winter barley. Hybrid crops are derived from an established and well-proven breeding method used in the agriculture, horticulture, and ornamental sectors.

Since being introduced nearly 100 years ago, hybrid crops have come to dominate commercial production in many important crop species. The development of hybrid crops has been one of the major factors behind a dramatic increase in global crop yields. This improvement is achieved through breeding two inbred parent lines, which upon crossing delivers heterosis, or ‘hybrid vigour’.



Enhanced breeding incorporates among others, parallel selection, single seed descent, doubled haploid breeding and mini-tuber breeding. Parallel selection allows two generations to be produced each year whilst single seed decent enables large numbers to be cultivated in artificial growth rooms, with two or more generations produced per year. Doubled haploid breeding allows breeders to produce true breeding seed of a variety within a single generation. Using mini-tuber breeding in potatoes speeds up the slow multiplication process by producing miniature plants under greenhouse conditions.

Embryo rescue and assisted pollination allow breeders to expand the range of available characters by making crosses between plants which would not normally produce viable offspring.

Genomic science has transformed breeders’ understanding of the function and location of individual genes or combinations of genes, and the speed with which genetic variation can be analysed. This can be seen in marker-assisted selection which uses high-throughput DNA screening technology to determine at an early stage whether desired traits are present in a new variety.