Hybrid wheat: past, present and future.
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Key message The review outlines past failures, present status and future prospects of hybrid wheat, and includes information on CMS/CHA/transgenic approaches for male sterility, heterotic groups and cost-effective hybrid seed production. Hybrid varieties give increased yield and improved grain quality in both cross- and self-pollinated crops. However, hybrid varieties in self-pollinated crops (particularly cereals) have not been very successful, except for hybrid rice in China. In case of hybrid wheat, despite the earlier failures, renewed efforts in recent years have been made and hybrid varieties with desirable attributes have been produced and marketed in some European countries. This review builds upon previous reviews, with a new outlook and improved knowledge base, not covered in earlier reviews. New technologies have been described, which include the Hordeum chilense-based CMS-fertility restorer system, chromosomal XYZ-4E-ms system and the following transgenic technologies: (1) conditional male sterility involving use of tapetum-specific expression of a gene that converts a pro-toxin into a phytotoxin causing male sterility; (2) barnase-barstar SeedLink system of Bayer CropScience; (3) split-barnase system that obviates the need of a barstar-based male restorer line; and (4) seed production technology of DuPont-Pioneer that makes use of transgenes in production of male-sterile lines, but gives hybrid seed with no transgenes. This review also includes a brief account of studies for discovery of heterotic QTL, genomic prediction of hybrid vigour and the development of heterotic groups/patterns and their importance in hybrid wheat production. The problem of high cost of hybrid seed due to required high seed rate in wheat relative to hybrid rice has also been addressed. The review concludes with a brief account of the current efforts and future possibilities in making hybrid wheat a commercial success.
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