What is Plant Biotechnology?

Plant biotechnology that assists in developing new varieties and traits include genetics and genomics, marker-assisted selection, and transgenic crops. These biotechnologies allow researchers to detect and map genes, discover their functions, select for specific genes in genetic resources and breeding, and transfer genes for specific traits into plants where they are needed. Biotechnology offers the possibility of producing, from widely available renewable resources, substances, and compounds essential to life.

Plant biotechnology involves breeding to improve plants for various reasons such as increased yield and quality, heat and drought resistance, resistance to phytopathogens, herbicide and insect resistance, increasing biomass for biofuel production, and enhancing the nutritional quality of the crops. This chapter presents a brief history of breeding, disadvantages of conventional breeding, and advantages of non-conventional breeding techniques such as molecular marker-assisted breeding techniques and molecular farming. Tissue culture, as a form of large-scale plant micropropagation and its advantages along with the future of breeding programs based on high throughput sequencing platform called genomic assisted molecular farming have been also discussed.

Scope of Plant Biotechnology

The term ‘Biotechnology’ was coined in 1917 by a Hungarian Engineer, Karl Ereky, to describe a process for the large-scale production of pigs. The word biotechnology indicates the interaction between the science of biology and technology. Biotechnology has been broadly defined as, ‘the development and utilization of biological processes, forms, and systems for obtaining maximum benefits to human and other forms of life. According to the definition adopted by the European Federation of Biotechnology, created in 1978, ‘Biotechnology makes it possible, through an integrated application of knowledge and techniques of biochemistry, microbiology, genetics, and chemical engi­neering, to draw benefit, at the technological level, from the properties and capacities of microorganisms and cell cultures.

Modern biotechnology enables an organism to produce a new product which the organism does not or cannot produce normally through the incorporation of the tech­nology of ‘Genetic engineering’. The knowledge of totipotency of plant cells, different aspects of plant tissue culture techniques, cell fusion techniques along with the use of rDNA technology has developed a new area of ‘Plant biotechnology’.

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