10,000 years ago people in central Mexico started to domesticize corn. They were the first geneticists picking the genes in crops they liked to determine what they would plant the following season. Geneticists and breeders continue to do this today. At Cornell they are researching which genes are responsible for better nutrition, pest resistance and other characteristics to influence how they breed plants to increase crop productivity.
“when you talk about plant genetics, it really is all about sex” – Ed Buckler
In the past fifty years, corn yields have increased by a factor of eight while lagging behind in the developing world. In Africa there are many unique environments and crops need to be developed for each area. Cassava, a staple food crop in tropical parts of Africa, hasn’t been breed in the same way as corn. At Cornell scientists led by Ed Buckler, a USDA-ARS geneticist, plan to work with scientists in Uganda and other nations with tropical regions in order to sequence Cassava DNA and breed more productive crops.
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