The plant breeders’ dilemma: sex or no sex?

29 Jun 2020

The ability to switch between sexual and asexual modes of reproduction in plants is being exploited to help some of the world’s poorest crop farmers.

By exploiting quirks in plant reproduction, an international team of researchers funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and headed by Professor Anna Koltunow of The University of Queensland are seeking to improve the bottom line for farmers.

The endgame is to increase yields and hardiness while reducing on-farm costs thereby improving agricultural productivity, profitability and food security.

First in line to benefit are poor smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa who rely on exceptionally drought tolerant and hardy crop species to survive. Of prime importance are sorghum and cowpea, domesticated in Africa, and important subsistence food crops.

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