Mount Vernon Northwestern Washington Research and Extension Center

Plant Breeding

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Participatory Plant Breeding

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Evolutionary Participatory Plant Breeding. 2005: Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems. This paper outlines an evolutionary participatory breeding (EPB) method that emphasizes the utilization of natural selection in combination with site-specific farmer selection in early segregating generations of a heterogeneous crop population.  EPB is based on a mass selection technique used by farmers for over 10,000 years of crop improvement and is an effective breeding method for both traditional and modern farmers growing self-pollinating crop species.

Participatory Approaches to Low-Input Breeding. 2007: Euphytica. This review article synthesizes the available literature on participatory plant breeding that utilizes decentralized selection to develop regionally adapted varieties.

Organic Plant Breeding

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Need for Organic Plant Breeding. 2007: Field Crops Research. Using wheat as a model crop species, this paper shows that poorly adapted cultivars are partially responsible for the lower yields often found in organic farming systems when compared with conventional farming systems. With crop cultivars bred in and adapted to the unique conditions inherent in organic systems, organic agriculture will be better able to realize its full potential as a high-yielding alternative to conventional agriculture.

Perennial Wheat Breeding

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The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN estimates that in the next 10 years developing nations will increase their wheat production by 20%. This increase will accelerate the rate and magnitude of many global agroecological problems, especially soil erosion, unless alternative, sustainable cropping systems are developed and implemented. In the USA, soil has been eroded at about 17 times the rate at which it forms; 90% of US cropland is currently losing soil above the sustainable rate. Soil erosion rates in Asia, Africa and South America are estimated to be about twice as high as in the USA. Throughout the world 18.4 tons/hectare (8.2 tons/acre) of topsoil are lost on average every year. Perennial grasses have long been recognized for their ability to survive in low-fertility environments, to minimize erosion, to out-compete noxious weeds and to reclaim dry or saline soils. Our work with perennial wheat breeding proactively seeks to avoid many of the problems that are universally associated with annual small grain, rain-fed cropping systems. These issues, in addition to soil erosion, include high fertilizer and chemical inputs resulting in riparian contamination and hypoxic zones, inefficient water use in an era when drought devastates a considerable portion of global agriculture annually, and the historically low nutritional value of cereal crops leading to micronutrient deficiencies in over 40% of the world’s population. These issues are widely recognized as the greatest impediments to the long-term sustainability of agricultural ecosystems worldwide. We believe that the development of perennial wheat is a novel solution to long-standing global problems associated with current wheat production.


Murphy, K., L. Hoagland, P.G. Reeves, B. Baik, S.S. Jones (2009). Nutritional and quality characteristics expressed in 31 perennial wheat breeding lines. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems24(4): 285-292.

Murphy, K., S.R. Lyon, K.A. Balow, S.S. Jones (2008). Post-sexual cycle regrowth and grain yield in Thinopyrum elongatum x Triticum aestivum amphiploids. Plant Breeding. 64:709-718.

Li, H.J., M. Arterburn, S.S. Jones and T.D. Murray (2005). Resistance to eyespot of wheat, caused by Tapesia yallundae, derived from Thinopyrum intermedium homoeologous group 4 chromosome. Theoretical and Applied Genetics 111: 932-940.

Lammer, D., Cai, Xiwen, Arterburn, M., Chatelain, J., Murray, T.D., and Jones, S.S. (2004). A single chromosome addition from perennial Thinopyrum elongatum confers a polycarpic, perennial habit to annual wheat. Journal of Experimental Botany 55: 1715-1720.

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