Speed Breeding Lets Us Develop Six Generations of Crops Instead of Two Each Year

Combining speed breeding with gene editing and other technologies is the best way to improve crops. This will make it easier to increase crop yields to feed more people. Although we already have test fields with two to three times the yield of crops. So getting another double would be to feed more than 20 billion people.

They trick the crops into flowering early by using blue and red LED lights for 22 hours a day and keeping temperatures between 62 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit. They can grow up to six generations of wheat, barley, chickpeas and canola in a year instead of only one or two crops each year using old farming methods.

Benjamin Stich, a plant geneticist at the Heinrich Heine University of Düsseldorf, Germany and his team are developing a technique called genomic prediction to fast-track the identification of tubers with desirable traits. The researchers take what they know about how various genes influence growth and yield. They input that data into computer models and extract predictions about which plants will have the best combination of genes and yield in the field.

“We can now predict many traits simultaneously, with high reliability,” Dr. Stich said. His team has used the technique to successfully predict tubers’ susceptibility to potato blight, as well as their starch content, yield and time to maturity.

With cheaper, more powerful technology, opportunities are opening up to improve crops around the world. Dr. Hickey’s team plans to train plant breeders in India, Zimbabwe and Mali over the next couple years through a collaboration with the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics and grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Nature Biotechnology – Breeding crops to feed 10 billion

Nature Protocols -Speed breeding in growth chambers and glasshouses for crop breeding and model plant research

‘Speed breeding’ (SB) shortens the breeding cycle and accelerates crop research through rapid generation advancement. SB can be carried out in numerous ways, one of which involves extending the duration of plants’ daily exposure to light, combined with early seed harvest, to cycle quickly from seed to seed, thereby reducing the generation times for some long-day (LD) or day-neutral crops. In this protocol, we present glasshouse and growth chamber–based SB approaches with supporting data from experimentation with several crops. We describe the conditions that promote the rapid growth of bread wheat, durum wheat, barley, oat, various Brassica species, chickpea, pea, grass pea, quinoa and Brachypodium distachyon. Points of flexibility within the protocols are highlighted, including how plant density can be increased to efficiently scale up plant numbers for single-seed descent (SSD). In addition, instructions are provided on how to perform SB on a small scale in a benchtop growth cabinet, enabling optimization of parameters at a low cost.

15 thoughts on “Speed Breeding Lets Us Develop Six Generations of Crops Instead of Two Each Year”

  1. This isn’t meant for producing food, but for breeding and testing new varieties that have better productivity, more resistances et cetera.

  2. I’m aware (got chemistry background). But good note and link for other readers.
    Also, it’s stereochemistry (typo?).

  3. > We seem to be the only species that has to provide resources to defend itself against its own

    Territorial disputes, breeding rights disputes, and cannibalism are pretty common in nature. So there are plenty of species that need to defend against their own, as well as allocate resources for that. The difference is they don’t plan for it. It’s either instinctive or physiological.

  4. That is life everything has to provide resources to defend itself. We seem to be the only species that has to provide resources to defend itself against its own and other species.

  5. The question is, would six seasons pay for the expenswive seeds and all the machinery and hydro. People always get get excited about fancy abilities and forget about cost.

  6. The interests of all things money goes before all other concerns; it’s the will of the electorate.

  7. “Partially” is a trick to make you think it is better than hydrogenated. But they are exactly the same thing. It is impossible to get it fully hydrogenated…so it is all “partially”. And that unsaturated part can be a trans conformation rather than the natural cis conformation.

  8. Theoretically, “hydrogenated” means the double bonds are removed, so there shouldn’t be trans fat in there. Or if partially hydrogenated, there should be less, but maybe not all gone. Unless the hydrogenation process somehow introduces trans-fats as a byproduct, which shouldn’t happen. Theoretically.

    But as they say, in theory, theory and practice are the same; in practice, they are not.

  9. To avoid trans fats, don’t eat anything that says “vegetable shortening”, “hydrogenated”, or “partially hydrogenated” on the ingredients label. And supplement takers avoid Conjugated linoleic acid…that is animal derived trans fat. It may be “natural”, but that does not mean it is good.
    Baked goods commonly have trans fat. The worst offender is fast food “buttermilk biscuits”. Cookies, pie crust, popcorn topping, artificial creamer, crackers, chips, puffs, some cakes (the frosting), microwave popcorn, margarine, and many fried foods (depending on the oil used, temperature, and how long that oil has been used).
    If you eat these things butter or lard is preferable but still not great.


    There is no requirement for or safe level of trans fat. Bad stuff.

    Oh, and even though I have listed things related to popcorn, popcorn itself is very healthy…better than normal corn. But you have to be smart about what oil you use and avoid the yellow theater popcorn and microwave popcorn.


    This actual manufacturing ban date: June 18, 2019, the “extended compliance date”, did not even make the news. So you got it here first/only. Though the slaughter will continue for another year and a half as they sell whatever they have stockpiled.

  10. In the future, it will probably considered a luxury to eat food that was 100% grown. Most will probably be 10-15% grown, the rest synthesized sugar, oils, and protein…but it will probably be healthier.
    Why would it be healthier? Plants especially, have toxins in them that the plants produce. These are generally less in our domesticated plants, but plants have these things as a defense against being eaten. But these toxins can build up especially if you don’t have a lot of variety in your diet. The animals we eat also can build up toxins, though these are from what they eat rather than internally made…with the exception of some trans fat.

    Speaking of trans fat. I am just horrified by the FDAs very very slow action banning this poison. Everyone knew this was bad for decades. They themselves had incontrovertible proof in 2013. Admitted it in 2015 and said there was going to be a ban, but they just let food makers keep making this for years to prevent any possible inconvenience.

    I mention this now, because this is the last day they are actually allowed to make the crap…but they are giving them another year and a half to sell it.
    If this makes up 2% of your calories, you have a 24% increased risk of a heart attack. An increased risk of a very common thing adds up to a lot of corpses. Something between 11k and 50k Americans are being killed by this stuff every year. But they have handed over these lives with full knowledge for at least 6.5 years. 325K sacrificed.

  11. I don’t think the planet will ever run out of food under normal circumstances. Who knows, in the future we may have the ability to build our food molecule by molecule.

  12. Optimising for cycle time might mean the seeds are somewhat nutritionally deficient though, but acceptable since they are being specially handled for replanting purposes?

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