Chapter 25. Pre-breeding Strategies
In general terms, pre-breeding links needed traits to new varieties and encompasses activities from discovery research, exploration of gene banks, phenomics, genomics and breeding. How does pre-breeding given its importance differ from varietal-based breeding? Why is pre-breeding important? Pre-breeding identifies trait or trait combinations to help boost yield, protect it from biotic or abiotic stress, and enhance nutritional or quality characteristics of grain. Sources of new traits/alleles are typically found in germplasm banks, and include the following categories of ‘exotic’ material: obsolete varieties, landraces, products of interspecific hybridization within the Triticeae such as chromosome translocation lines, primary synthetic genotypes and their derivatives, and related species mainly from the primary or secondary gene pools (Genus: Triticum and Aegilops). Genetic and/or phenotyping tools are used to incorporate novel alleles/traits into elite varieties. While pre-breeding is mainly associated with use of exotics, unconventional crosses or selection methodologies aimed to accumulate novel combinations of alleles or traits into good genetic backgrounds may also be considered pre-breeding. In the current chapter, we focus on pre-breeding involving research-based screening of genetic resources, strategic crossing to combine complementary traits/alleles and progeny selection using phenomic and genomic selection, aiming to bring new functional diversity into use for development of elite cultivars.