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Role of mutation in plant Breeding

Study of mutations commenced in 1927, when Muller showed in

Drosophila that X-rays are able to induced genetic deviants
indistinguishable from naturally occurring ones. The notable part of this
discovery was the very great increase in mutation rate caused by
irradiation treatment. Shortly afterwards, Stadler, who had been working
on the effect of X-rays in plant, announced that it was possible through
this agency to obtain very high mutation rate in maize and barley. The
possibilities inherent in the ability to produce mutations artificially were
grasped at once by many plant breeders, and a period followed in which
considerable effort was directed toward utilizing the new discovery in
practical breeding. Results were discouraging, however; and except for
sustained effort on the part of a group of plant breeders in Sweden,
attempts to use induced mutations in practical breeding gradually slowed
to virtual standstill.
There were good reasons for the rapid loss of interest on the part of
plant breeders. First, it soon become clear that induced mutations, like
spontaneous ones, were almost always deleterious in their effects on the
phenotype. Second, many of the genes governing characteristics in
which commercial varieties required improvement occurred in one or
another known stock, and large numbers of other desirable
characteristics were known to occur in the rapidly expanding world

collections of germplasm. Plant breeders had more variability at their

disposal than they could accommodate, and too many obvious tasks to
perform in assembling the known desirable gene into new commercial
varieties to be directed very long by a procedure that apparently
produced little constructive variability. Thus most plant breeders choose
to make use of existing variability, rather than depend on haphazard
mutations produced by radiation.

Mutation Breeding
Soon after Mullers discovery of the mutagenic action of X-rays,
Herman Nilsson-Ehle of the Swedish Seed Association at Svalof and one
of his students, Ake Gustafsson, began experiments in mutation breeding
that have been continued to the present. It was soon established that
Stadlers results with barley and maize had general validity with diploid
species. Chlorophyll, mutation arose in greater number in two-rowed
barley following X-ray dosages to seeds. When the dosage approached
the lethal point, mutation rates increased to about thousand times the
spontaneous rate.
Some of the mutant types in barley, particularly the erectoides
mutants, seemed to have useful agricultural properties. When the more
promising of these mutants were tested in field trials (Gustafsson and
Tedin, 1954; Froier, 1954), they generally produced yield about the same
as the mother variety, but a few appeared to be significantly superior.

In addition to barely, the Swedish worker have used mutation

breeding with many other crops (wheat, oats, peas, vetches, soybeans,
lupines, flax oil turnips, oil rape, white mustard, sugar beets, potatoes,
Kentucky bluegrass, timothy, red fescue, apples, pears plums, cherries,
ornamentals, and forest trees). These programs have resulted in two new
varieties: Svalof Primex White Mustard released for commercial
production in 1950, and Regina II Summer oil Rape, released in 1953.
Primex Mustard was selected from a population that was irradiatiated in
1941. It is reported to exceed the parent population by 4 percent in yield
and 2 percent in oil content. However, mustard is highly heterozygous
cross-pollinated species. It is therefore not definite whether the
improvement in yield and oil content is related to the irradiation
treatment, since it could have been due to effective selection for genetic
variability that existed in the original population.
Similar but less extensive mutation-breeding programs have been
conducted at a number of breeding institutes in Europe. Mutationbreeding work on a large scale started in Germany about 1940 (barley,
wheat, oats, lupine, flax, hemp, tomatoes currants, and fruit trees). This
program has apparently production in 1950. Mutation breeding has also
been investigated in France (wheat), Finland (barely, wheat, oats, peas,
red clover), England (barley, wheat, sugar beets, Brussels sprouts, fruit
trees), Holland (tulips, gladioli), and Norway (barley, oats, tomatoes).

Unsolved Problems in Mutation Breeding

There have been enough indications of positive results with

mutation breeding to attest to the potential value of artificially induced
mutations in practical plant breeding. However, many questions remain
to be answered before it can be decided whether mutation breeding will
assume a place as a major plant-breeding method or whether it will fit in
as a minor adjunct to other methods. The most important questions
remaining to be answered are:

Do artificially induced mutations differ in any way from natural

mutations, or do mutagenic agents merely reproduce the same
spectrum of variability that occur naturally? Induced mutations
are the plant breeders one hope for freedom from completed
dependence on nature as the only source of the genetic variants
necessary in plant movement. Hence the answer to this question
is potentially an important one in the long range future of plant


Do mutations with phenotypically constructive expressions
occur often enough to make the search for them profitable and
their incorporation into commercially acceptable varieties
competitive with other methods of breeding? If not, can the
mutation process be brought under experimental control so as
increase the proportion of constructive changes? The key to
these problems appear to lie in understanding of mutation
process itself.







Mutation breeding seems to be especially useful in changing single
simply inherited characteristics in highly developed genic systems.
When dealing with highly developed variety, the breeder is reluctant to
use standard hybridization method because they may disrupt a superior
combination of genes. This situation is often encountered when some
outstanding variety succumbs to a new race of a disease or is inferior in
some specific morphological or physiological attribute. Whether
mutation breeding or the standard backcross technique should use
depend on the two factors:
1. The ease with which the desired improvement can be induced, and
2. The number of deleterious mutants that accompany he specific
mutation for which the breeding program is undertaken.
The point is sometimes made that undesirable alterations in order
characters are easily handled in mutation-breeding programs because the
mutant lines are so similar to the parent variety that a few backcrosses
will restore the desire background genotype. However, marker genes
brought in by a genetically dissimilar parent often allow very effective
selection toward the genotype of

the recurrent parent in standard

backcross programs and more rapid return to the type of the recurrent
parent than otherwise would be possible. It is therefore doubtful whether
the number of backcrosses required to guarantee recovery of the

genotype of the outstanding variety is less in mutation breeding than in

standard backcross breeding.
Mutation breeding appears to have special advantage in adding
specific characteristics to fruit trees and other vegetatively propagated
crops. Varieties in these crops are usually highly heterozygous clones not
especially suited to improvement by the selection of recombinant types
in successive generations following hybridization or amenable to
improvement by backcross breeding.
The disadvantage of mutation breeding are largely associated with the
necessity for testing large second generation populations. The field work
required to achieve some particular improvement is often substantially
greater with mutation breeding than that required in conventional
methods of breeding. As a result the practical use of the method is now
limited to the improvement of a small number of characteristics for
which efficient screening methods have been developed (Konzak, 1956).
In a review on the Swedish work in mutation, MacKey (1956)
concluded: Considering the low fraction of progressive mutations and
considering at least the present limitation in selective mutagenesis, it is
rather obvious that mutation breeding cannot be considered such a
revolutionary tool in crop improvement that it will replace old methods.
It means a definite contribution to our plant breeding methods, but it
should not be over- or underestimate just because it is new.


I am grateful to my supervisor Dr. R. N. Singh For his sincere

support, creative and profound blessing, which helped me a lot in
presenting this seminar.
I am thankful to all those persons, from whose I have gathered a
large amount of information, I am also express my gratitude to all those
who have offered assistance, encouragement and cooperation during the
entire manuscript.

Date : ..............................
Vaisali Singh
M.Sc. IV Sem. (Botany)
Udai Pratap Autonomous Collage




Characteristions of mutation


Types of mutation




Mutation at molecular level


Use of mutation


Practical application of mutation