An opportunity to see plant breeding history

Francis Lupton with the first UK semi-dwarf wheats, from JIC
The John Innes Centre in Norwich, England, is celebrating what would have been the centenary of the Plant Breeding Insitute, established in 1912 at Trumpington outside Cambridge. And they’re doing it with a one-day conference — tomorrow! — that looks jolly interesting.

Even more interesting, frankly, is a living exhibition

… made up of some of the 130 varieties that, over the last century have driven UK agriculture. ‘Yeoman’ wheat, introduced in 1916, was a landmark variety, showing that high-yielding, good baking-quality wheat could be bred and successfully grown in Britain. ‘Proctor’ barley led to a tripling of UK barley production. ‘Maris Piper’ potatoes were introduced in 1963 to be resistant to nematodes and are still a leading potato variety today. By the time of its privatization almost 9 in 10 of the varieties of cereal crops being grown in the UK had been developed by PBI.

That will surely be a sight to see. I wonder, though, whether the John Innes Centre could be persuaded to have some of the resultant crops analyzed for their nutrient content. Varieties bred at different times, and grown side by side under experimental conditions, are sorely needed to investigate declines in nutrition.

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