THE PLANT BREEDER
Plant breeding is the science (some amount of art is involved as well) of improving the quality of nutrition or growth characteristics of an existent germplasm to the benefit of humans and/or animals.
WHERE KERNZA GROWS BEST
Due to a process called “vernalization”, this crop needs harsh winters to flower properly the following spring, making anywhere in the Midwest or Eastern US (New York and Pennsylvania) ideal growing regions.
“Everyone wants clean water and nutritious food, and with the climate changing, we need additional food sources. By requiring less water and less pesticide inputs, perennials such as kernza can go where the annuals can’t and produce enough food to sustain a relatively large population.”
HOW MARVIN WORKS
I. put seeds onto white tray
II. insert into machine
III. an image is made of seeds
IV software analyzes image to calculate dimensions
(area, length, width) of each scanned seed.
V. data is summarized
VI. plants with biggest seeds are selected to inter-mate
with each other so their progeny will have larger seeds
PLANT BREEDING IS A SLOW, PAINSTAKING PROCESS: A PERENNIAL WHEAT CALLED “KERNZA”, FOR EXAMPLE, HAS BEEN IN DEVELOPMENT SINCE THE 1980’S. IT TOOK ALMOST THIRTY YEARS FOR THE FIRST VARIETIES TO BECOME COMMERCIALLY AVAILABLE. That time was spent creating populations from the best plants, re-testing their progeny, then evaluating thousands of genotypes over multiple years, across a variety of environments, all with the hope of obtaining a better variety than the one before according to methods that have been practiced for millenia. The seed size and yields of kernza, while improving 10-15% every breeding cycle (2 years for UMN), are still much lower compared to that of wheat, rye, or other winter annual crops.