Skip to main content Accessibility help

Impact of plant breeding on genetic diversity of agricultural crops: searching for molecular evidence

  • Yong-Bi Fu (a1)


There is a long-standing concern that modern plant breeding reduces crop genetic diversity, which may have consequences for the vulnerability of crops to changes in pests, diseases, climate and agricultural practices. Recent molecular assessments of genetic diversity changes in existing genepools of major agricultural crops may shed some light on the impact of plant breeding on crop genetic diversity. Reviewing published assessments revealed different impacts of plant breeding on improved genepools, not only narrowing or widening their genetic base, but also shifting their genetic background. In general, the genome-wide reduction of crop genetic diversity accompanying genetic improvement over time is minor, but allelic reduction at individual chromosomal segments is substantial. More efforts are needed to assess what proportion of lost alleles is associated with undesirable traits.


Corresponding author

*Corresponding author: E-mail:


Hide All
Christiansen, MJ, Andersen, SB and Ortiz, R (2002) Diversity changes in an intensively bred wheat germplasm during the 20th century. Molecular Breeding 9: 111.
Clunier-Ross, T (1995) Mangolds, manure and mixtures: the importance of crop diversity on British farms. The Ecologist 25: 181187.
Cox, TS, Kiang, YT, Gorman, MB, Rodgers, DM (1985) Relationship between coefficient of parentage and genetic similarity indices in soybean. Crop Science 25: 529532.
Cox, TS, Murphy, JP, Rodgers, DM (1986) Changes in genetic diversity in the red and winter wheat regions of the United States. Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences USA 83: 55835586.
De Koeyer, DL, Phillips, RL, Stuthman, DD (1999) Changes in genetic diversity during seven cycles of recurrent selection for grain yield in oat, Avena sativa L. Plant Breeding 118: 3743.
Donini, P, Law, JR, Koebner, RMD, Reeves, JC (2000) Temporal trends in the diversity of UK wheat. Theoretical and Applied Genetics 100: 912917.
Duvick, DN (1984) Genetic diversity in major farm crops on the farm and in reserve. Economic Botany 38: 161178.
Duvick, DN, Smith, JSC, Cooper, M (2004) Long-term selection in a commercial hybrid maize breeding program. Plant Breeding Reviews 24: 109151.
Food and Agricultural Organization (1998) The State of the World's Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. Rome: FAO
Fu, YB (2003) Applications of bulking in molecular characterization of plant germplasm: a critical review. Plant Genetic Resources 1, 161167
Fu, YB, Peterson, GW, Scoles, G, Rossnagel, B, Schoen, DJ, Richards, KW (2003 a) Allelic diversity changes in 96 Canadian oat cultivars released from 1886 to 2001. Crop Science 43: 19891995.
Fu, YB, Rowland, GG, Duguid, SD, Richards, KW (2003 b) RAPD analysis of 54 North American flax cultivars. Crop Science 43, pp. 5101515
Fu, YB, Kibite, S, Richards, KW (2004) Amplified fragment length polymorphism analysis of 96 Canadian oat cultivars released between 1886 and 2001. Canadian Journal of Plant Science 84: 2330.
Fu, YB, Peterson, GW, Richards, KW, Somers, D, DePauw, RM, Clarke, JM (2005) Allelic reduction and genetic shift in the Canadian hard red spring wheat germplasm released from 1845 to 2004. Theoretical and Applied Genetics 110: 15051516.
Fu, YB, Peterson, GW, Yux, J-K, Gao, L, Jia, J, Richards, KW (2006) Impact of plant breeding on genetic diversity of the Canadian hard red spring wheat germplasm as revealed by EST-derived SSR markers. Theoretical and Applied Genetics (in press)
Hazen, SP, Zhu, L, Kim, HS, Tang, G, Ward, RW (2002) Genetic diversity of winter wheat in Shaanxi province, China, and other common wheat germplasm pools. Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution 49: 437445.
Helms, TC, Hallauer, AR, Smith, OS (1989) Genetic drift and selection evaluated from recurrent selection programs in maize. Crop Science 29: 602607.
Hinze, LL, Kresovich, S, Nason, JD, Lamkey, KR (2005) Population genetic diversity in a maize reciprocal recurrent selection program. Crop Science 45: 24352442.
Khan, IA, Awan, FS, Ahmad, A, Fu, YB, Iqbal, A (2005) Genetic diversity of Pakistan wheat germplasm as revealed by RAPD markers. Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution 52: 239244.
Khlestrina, EK, Röder, MS, Efremova, TT, Börner, A, Shumny, VK (2004) The genetic diversity of old and modern Siberian varieties of common spring wheat as determined by microsatellite markers. Plant Breeding 123: 122127.
Koebner, RMD, Donini, P, Reeves, JC, Cooke, RJ, Law, JR (2003) Temporal flux in the morphological and molecular diversity of UK barley. Theoretical and Applied Genetics 106: 550558.
Labate, JA, Lamkey, KR, Lee, M, Woodman, ML (1999) Temporal changes in allele frequencies in two reciprocally selected maize populations. Theoretical and Applied Genetics 99: 11661178.
Le Clerc, V, Bazante, F, Baril, C, Guiard, J, Zhang, D (2005) Assessing temporal changes in genetic diversity of maize varieties using microsatellite markers. Theoretical and Applied Genetics 110: 294302.
Lu, H, Bernardo, R (2001) Molecular marker diversity among current and historical maize inbreds. Theoretical and Applied Genetics 103: 613617.
Maccaferri, M, Sanguineti, MC, Donini, P, Tuberosa, R (2003) Microsatellite analysis reveals a progressive widening of the genetic basis in the elite durum wheat germplasm. Theoretical and Applied Genetics 107: 783797.
Manifesto, MM, Schlatter, AR, Hopp, HE, Suárez, EYS, Dubcovsky, JD (2001) Quantitative evaluation of genetic diversity in wheat germplasm using molecular markers. Crop Science 41: 682690.
Mohammadi, SA, Prasanna, BM (2003) Analyses of genetic diversity in crop plants—salient statistical tools and considerations. Crop Science 43: 12351248.
National Academy of Sciences (1972) Genetic Vulnerability of Major Crops, Washington, DC: National Academy of Sciences.
Nybom, H (2004) Comparison of different nuclear DNA markers for estimating intraspecific genetic diversity in plants. Molecular Ecology 13: 11431155.
Ortiz, R, Lund, B, Anderson, S-B (2003) Breeding gain and changes in morphotype of Nordic spring wheat (1901–1993) under contrasting environments. Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution 50: 455459.
Parker, GD, Fox, PN, Langridge, P, Chalmers, K, Whan, B, Ganter, PF (2002) Genetic diversity within Australian wheat breeding programs based on molecular and pedigree data. Euphytica 124: 293306.
Reeves, JC, Chiapparino, E, Donini, P, Ganal, M, Guiard, J, Hamrit, S, Heckenberger, M, Huang, XQ, van Kaauwen, M, Kochieva, E, Koebner, R, Law, JR, Lea, V, Le Clerc, V, van der Lee, T, Leigh, F, van der Linden, G, Malysheva, L, Melchinger, AE, Orford, S, Reif, JC, Röder, M, Schulman, A, Vosman, B, van de Wiel, C, Wolf, M and Zhang, D (2004) Changes over time in genetic diversity of four European crops—a report from the Gediflux Framework 5 project. In:Vollmann, J, Grausgruber, H, Ruckenbauer, P(eds) Genetic Variation for Plant Breeding. Proceedings of the 17th EUCARPIA General Congress, 8–11 September 2004 Tulln, AustriaViennaBOKU-University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences.
Reif, JC, Zhang, P, Dreisigacker, S, Warburton, ML, van Ginkel, M, Hoisington, D, Bohn, M and Melchinger, AE (2005 a) Wheat genetic diversity trends during domestication and breeding. Theoretical and Applied Genetics 110: 859864.
Reif, JC, Hamrit, S, Heckenberger, M, Schipprack, W, Maurer, HP, Bohn, M and Melchinger, AE (2005 b) Trends in genetic diversity among European maize cultivars and their parental components during the past 50 years. Theoretical and Applied Genetics 111: 838845.
Rodgers, DM, Murphy, JP and Frey, KJ (1983) Impact of plant breeding on the grain yield and genetic diversity of spring oats. Crop Science 23: 737740.
Roussel, V, Koenig, J, Bechert, M and Balfourier, F (2004) Molecular diversity in French bread wheat accessions related to temporal trends and breeding programmes. Theoretical and Applied Genetics 108: 920930.
Roussel, V, Leisova, L, Exbrayat, F, Stehno, Z and Balfourier, F (2005) SSR allelic diversity changes in 480 European bread wheat varieties released from 1840 to 2000. Theoretical and Applied Genetics 111: 162170.
Russell, JR, Ellis, RP, Thomas, WTB, Waugh, R, Provan, J, Booth, A, Fuller, J, Lawrence, P, Young, G and Powell, W (2000) A retrospective analysis of spring barley germplasm development from ‘foundation genotypes’ to currently successful cultivars. Molecular Breeding 6: 553568.
Smith, JSC, Duvick, DN, Smith, OS, Cooper, M and Feng, L (2004) Changes in pedigree backgrounds of Pioneer brand maize hybrids widely grown from 1930 to 1999. Crop Science 44: 19351946.
Soleimani, VD, Baum, BR and Johnson, DA (2002) AFLP and pedigree-based genetic diversity estimates in modern cultivars of durum wheat [Triticum turgidum L. subsp. durum (Desf.) Husn.]. Theoretical and Applied Genetics 104: 350357.
Swanson, T (1996) Global values of biological diversity: the public interest in the conservation of plant genetic resources for agriculture. Plant Genetic Resources Newsletter 105: 17.
Tanksley, SD and McCouch, SR (1997) Seed banks and molecular maps: unlocking genetic potential from the wild. Science 277: 10631066.
Tian, QZ, Zhou, RH and Jia, JZ (2005) Genetic diversity trend of common wheat ( Triticum aestivum L.) in China revealed with AFLP markers. Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution 52: 325331.
Tripp, R (1996) Biodiversity and modern crop varieties: sharpening the debate. Agriculture and Human Values 13: 4863.
Ullstrup, AJ (1972) The impacts of the southern corn leaf blight epidemics of 1970 – 1971. Annual Reviews of Phytopathology 10: 3750.
van Beuningen, LT and Busch, RH (1997) Genetic diversity among North American spring wheat cultivars: I. Analysis of the coefficient of parentage matrix. Crop Science 37: 570579.
van Esbroech, GA, Bowman, DT, Calhoun, DS and May, OL (1998) Changes in the genetic diversity of cotton in the USA from 1970 to 1995. Crop Science 38: 3337.
Vellve, R (1993) The decline of diversity in European agriculture. The Ecologist 23: 6469.
Witcombe, JR (1999) Does plant breeding lead to a loss of genetic diversity? In:Wood, D and Lenné, JM (eds) Agrobiodiversity Characterization, Utilization and Management, Wallingford: CAB International, pp. 245272.
Yu, J, Bernardo, R (2004) Changes in genetic variance during advanced cycle breeding in maize. Crop Science 44: 405410.


Impact of plant breeding on genetic diversity of agricultural crops: searching for molecular evidence

  • Yong-Bi Fu (a1)


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed