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Genome. 2010 Nov;53(11):982-91. doi: 10.1139/G10-081.

Generating and maintaining diversity at the elite level in crop breeding.

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Department of Plant Agriculture, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, N1G2W1, Canada.


Most breeding programs develop elite genotypes that are well adapted to the normal range of environmental conditions in the target production region. These elite lines have similar essential alleles for desirable end use characteristics, agronomics, disease resistance, and adaptation in the target region. The genetic makeup of these elite lines is complex. Intermating among the elite lines will often produce new variability through recombination with minimal risk of introducing new undesirable features, and is the source of most new cultivars. Eventually, this variation will be exhausted and new alleles must be introduced into the elite breeding population. Introducing desirable alleles from exotic germplasm may "pollute" the elite gene pool with undesirable alleles. Exotic germplasm may also disrupt essential allele combinations for adaptation, quality, and agronomic performance. New desirable alleles from exotic germplasm can be introgressed into an elite population in a systematic way through limited backcrossing with a minimal disturbance to the finely tuned elite background. Combining recurrent selection within elite germplasm with a systematic introgression from exotic germplasm in the recurrent introgressive population enrichment (RIPE) system has created an open-ended, continually improving, and sustainable elite population breeding system, which is simple, effective, and a regular source of new cultivars.

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