An Introduction to Plant Breeding

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An Introduction to Plant Breeding by Jack Brown and Peter Caligari, Blackwell Publishing Inc. Maiden, MA, 2008. $79.99, 224 pages. ISBN 978-1-4051-3344-9

This new textbook gives an overview of the main concepts and principles of plant breeding. After an introductory chapter, sections cover modes of reproduction, breeding objectives, breeding schemes, genetics and breeding, predictions, selection, alternative techniques, and practical considerations. The text is shorter than some other available plant breeding texts, which has resulted in decisions being made about topics to cover and their depth of coverage. For example, six pages are devoted to breeding for pest and disease resistance, and the role of people, political and economic criteria in determing breeding objectives are discussed in three pages. There is very little coverage, on the other hand, of breeding for abiotic stress. All breeding methods for self-, cross-and asexually propagated plants are discussed in a 24-page chapter.

There are no introductory materials for the use of molecular genetics in breeding, and there is a very short section on this topic. The chapter on prediction includes sections on calculation of heritability, combining ability, and the use of Griffing and Jinks models for prediction of components of heritability. The sections on mutagenesis, interspecific hybridization, and marker assisted selection are short.

The section on plant genetics and their role in plant breeding comes after the breeding schemes chapter. It seems backwards to me, but obviously instructors using this text can change the order of coverage. The chapter on practical considerations is a catch-all. It includes brief comments on field experiment design, a short section on greenhouse management, less than two pages on artificial hybridization, and a short section on procedures for release of new cultivars.

Regardless of the amount of coverage, discussions are usually well done. Figures used throughout the text are quite useful and easy to follow. Each chapter ends with a series of "think questions." These questions are truly ones that will require students to understand and synthesis what they have learned in each chapter and are among the best set of evaluation tools I've encountered in any text.

There are some quirks in the text. For example, the authors create acronyms such as DUS (distinctness, uniformity, and stability) of cultivars, as well as VCU (value for cultivation and use), which are probably not necessary given that the world is awash with acronyms. The section on quantitative trial (sic) loci has, what I assume to be, a typographical error in its title.

There is some unevenness in the expectation of student background. For example, in the modes of reproduction chapter the term "cutting" is defined in a table, while in a two-paragraph section on reproduction by apomixis there are many new terms that are left undefined. While methods for calculation and use of the chi-square test are thoroughly described, there is a figure on degree of skewness of a six loci two-allele system with no dominance, one dominant locus, and additional modes of gene action with little background provided. …