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Apomixis technology development—virgin births in farmers' fields?


Apomixis is the process of asexual reproduction through seed, in the absence of meiosis and fertilization, generating clonal progeny of maternal origin. Major benefits to agriculture could result from harnessing apomixis in crop plants. Although >400 apomictic plant species are known, apomixis is rare among crop plants, and the transfer of apomixis to crop varieties by conventional breeding has been largely unsuccessful. Because apomictic and sexual pathways are closely related, de novo engineering of apomixis might be achieved in sexually reproducing crops. Early consideration of issues relating to biosafety and intellectual property (IP) management can facilitate the acceptance and deployment of apomixis technology in agriculture.

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Figure 1: Schematic of sexual and apomictic developmental pathways.

Bob Crimi

Figure 2: Seed abortion as a result of interploidy crosses.


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Correspondence to Ueli Grossniklaus.

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Spillane, C., Curtis, M. & Grossniklaus, U. Apomixis technology development—virgin births in farmers' fields?. Nat Biotechnol 22, 687–691 (2004).

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