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Crop breeding

Crop performance is primarily determined by two factors: Crop improvement occurs when a plant breeder alter the genetic composition of a variety to enhance or decrease expression of important crop characteristics. Improvement can rely on classical recombination breeding techniques, or molecular techniques for specific goals.

The targeted improvements are usually in relation to the output potential of the grain (i.e., high and stable yield) or to minimize yield losses or reduce production costs (due to disease, lodging…). In grain production, such as wheat, other characteristics, such as milling quality and bread making quality (protein content, protein quality and alpha-amylase activity) are also considered. Other improvements are related to the growing awareness and concern about food safety among consumers, composition and contamination of crop products. Examples of such a concern are the ones related to fungal diseases : fungal pathogens, such as Fusarium spp attack wheat and cause the disease known as Fusarium head blight or Fusarium ear blight. These pathogens have both the capacity to cause significant grain yield losses but can also produce highly-dangerous mycotoxins in grains. Some projects are focussed on the breeding of new wheat varieties that are genetically resistant to these pathogens.