Germplasm Modification and Its Potential for Finding New Sources of Resistance to Diseases


  • Richard E. Litz


In vitro procedures are playing a major role in plant breeding. Embryo rescue, either through the culture of excised embryos derived from incompatible crosses or by means of ovule culture, has been a standard procedure for the introgression of genes conferring disease resistance into economically important plants. Somatic hybridization (i.e., protoplast fusion) has also been demonstrated to have some potential in obtaining hybrids that result from very wide interspecific and intergeneric crosses. Wide crosses have also been achieved by means of in vitro pollination of excised ovaries or ovules. Tissue culture-induced variability in regenerated plant (i.e., somaclonal variation) appears to be an effective way of obtaining undirected genetic change that can enhance disease resistance and yield and alter the growth habit of crops that are normally propagated vegetatively (e.g., potato) or by seed (e.g., tomato). In the near future, the isolation and sequencing of genes that confer resistance to specific plant pathogens will be possible, and transfer of this information between species will become a reality. Key words: plant tissue culture, somatic cell genetics, disease resistance.