January 2015
By Trista Crossley

Thomas Clemente, a professor of biotechnology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), closed out the 2014 Tri-State Grain Growers Convention with a simple message about crop improvement: it’s all about genetic diversity.

“We need to improve upon genetic diversity, and historically, how did we improve genetic diversity? Through conventional crop breeding,” he said. “Whatever the traits are within a wheat population, that’s what we were restricted to. A soybean population? That’s what we were restricted to. A corn population? That’s what we were restricted to. But with the tools of biotechnology, it is now unlimited.”

Clemente called biotechnology a complement to traditional plant breeding, explaining that it doesn’t speed up the process of developing a new variety, it just provides breeders with more access to genetic diversity. One gene, one protein is a simple concept that’s at the heart of genetic engineering, he said, crediting that idea to George W. Beadle, a corn geneticist who won a nobel prize for the discovery.

Read more in Wheatlife.

Washington State University