Group fitness more important than individual fitness for high-yielding crops, study shows

| October 11, 2017

Survival of the fittest is a fundamental concept in Darwin's theory of natural selection which drives evolution.

However, when it comes to agriculture and plant breeding, the traits which make a single plant individual a good competitor and increases its fitness as an individual is not necessarily the same characteristics that increase the total yield of a group of plants on the field.

These are the findings in a new study from Copenhagen University just published in the journal Ecology [read the full study here]. Jacob Weiner, Professor in plant ecology, is responsible for new research within the area Evolutionary Agroecology or as it is also known, Darwinian Agriculture.

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The new principles should encourage selecting new plant breeds based on the characteristics of group selection, a phenomenon which is only rarely observed in nature.

Much plant breeding and especially genetic engineering is aimed at creating "better" plants, e.g. plants with more effective photosynthesis or that grow faster. According to evolutionary thinking, these efforts are not likely to succeed, because natural selection has been optimizing these attributes for millions of years.

"We can only better than natural selection if we try to do something natural selection will not do, such as breed unselfish plants" says Weiner.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis. Read full, original post: Evolutionary crop research: Ego-plants give lower yield

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