How Mendel’s peas could change plant breeding in the 21st century

A new approach is proposed to generate a dynamic and evolving gene pool for plant breeders.  If successful, Mendel’s “model” pea plants will help us change the way we breed the world’s major crop plants.  The concept is simple – why not breed plants as if they were animals?  Annual crop plants normally self and set seed before we can measure important traits.  We propose a new model for breeding of selfing plants, where selection occurs during the early selfing generations.  The “plant model” will accelerate plant breeding especially with genomic selection adapted from the “animal model”.

We are undertaking a research project to investigate the ability of the “plant model” to accelerate plant breeding outcomes for complex traits, with low heritability.  The plant model includes limited selfing in the pedigree.  We will use Mendel’s peas to test the plant model, with selection on early generations of selfing for a low heritability trait, namely resistance to black spot disease.  We will test if genomic selection improves the outcome – as has occurred in animal breeding.


  • Hohenlieth, Germany