Rapid advances in molecular biology and functional genomics during the last two decades have created considerable optimism about their potential to increase global food production by raising the yields of major agricultural crops via breeding of new crop varieties. However, yield increases achieved so far have come largely through conventional plant breeding. This brief review outlines reasons why genetic transformations at the sub-cellular level in single plants grown in controlled environments may not necessarily translate in to yield increases of plant populations in the field. Expected advantages of sub-cellular molecular interventions are either dampened or reversed at the plant population level when crop yields are determined. This could happen due to complex interactions, feedbacks and trade-offs across different levels of plant organization at both spatial- and temporal scales, dependence on specific environmental requirements for expression of introduced genes, unrealistic experimental conditions used to generate trascriptomes and mis-matches between strategies required to achieve superior performance in single plants and plant populations. It is argued that an understanding of the physiological basis of yield determination at the plant population/community level, a tight linkage of genetic modifications to specific yield components and a thorough evaluation of feedbacks and trade-offs during up-scaling across different levels of plant organization is needed to harness the undoubted potential of molecular genetics towards crop yield improvement.
How to Cite:
De Costa, W. A. J. M. (2018). Raising crop yields: The missing links from molecular biology to plant breeding. Ceylon Journal of Science, 47(3), 213–220. DOI: http://doi.org/10.4038/cjs.v47i3.7528