U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service, Lincoln, Nebraska


Date of this Version



In: Forages: The Science of Grassland Agriculture, 6th Edition


U.S. government work


Plant breeding is human-directed evolution. This process developed all major crops and their respective races, strains, or cultivars. Although humans have successfully manipulated the genetic resources of plants for several thousand years, the science of genetics and breeding was not developed until the 20th century. Breeding work on a few forage crops began in the early part of the 20th century (Wilkins and Humphreys, 2003) and was focused mainly on developing strains that had improved establishment, persistence, forage yields, and improved insect and disease resistance. These remain essential attributes of cultivated forages (Burton, 1986). In the last 40 yr, objectives have expanded to include improving forage digestibiliry and removing or reducing antiqualiry factors.