How Does Reading Genes Improve Crops?
With the dawn of agriculture, about 10,000 years ago,
humans began modifying wild plants. Planting seeds from
the most desirable plants is a way of choosing certain
genetic traits over others. Although the transformations
occurred over many centuries, virtually every cultivated
species has been genetically modified from its wild form
through classical plant-breeding techniques. The produce
sold in markets today is very different from its wild
Crop yields have risen dramatically since the advent
of scientific crop selection about a century ago. Cross-breeding
techniques improved the precision with which specific
traits could be selected. Today, DNA sequencing provides
new tools for understanding crop traits and for selecting
desirable traits with even greater efficiency. In other
words, the latest genetic engineering techniques often
provide a better way to carry out many of the crop selections
of the past.
In the following sections we explore the development
of crops, using corn as an example.
From Teosinte to Corn
Increasing Productivity in Corn
Reading Traits in the Corn Genome
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The genes that govern many specific traits have been identified in the maize
In this activity you can explore some of the
genes located on corn's ten chromosomes and see
the effects of those genes.
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