Silva Dias, J. (2014) Guiding strategies for breeding vegetable cultivars. Agricultural Sciences, 5, 9-32. doi: 10.4236/as.2014.51002.
Vegetables are considered essential for well-balanced diets. The production and marketing of vegetables crops are undergoing continuous change globally. This is mainly due to the growing demands of consumers for safe and healthy vegetables, increased urbanisation of societies, and the growth in scale and influence of supermarkets chains. Horticultural science can respond to many of these challenges through research, breeding and innovation that can seek to gain more efficient methods of crop production, refined post-harvest storage and handling methods, newer and higher value vegetable cultivars and demonstration of their health benefits. Vegetable breeding has to address and satisfy the needs of both the consumer and the producer. Innovation in vegetable breeding depends on specific knowledge, the development and application of new technologies, access to genetic resources, and capital to utilise them. The driving force behind this innovation is acquiring or increasing market share. Access to technology, as well as biodiversity, is essential for the development of new vegetable cultivars. A few multinational corporations, whose vast economic power has effectively marginalized the role of public sector breeding as well as local, small/medium-scale seed companies, dominate the global vegetable seed trade. For most vegetable crops, only a few multinational seed corporations are controlling large part of the world market. This situation makes a growing part of the global vegetable supply dependent on a few seed providers. The multinational seed corporations ensued from merging some small or medium vegetable breeding programs to reduce costs. There may be fewer vegetable breeders in the future and growers will rely on seeds with a narrow genetic base. In order to meet future needs of vegetable breeders it is important that educational programs incorporate rapidly changing new technologies with classical content and methods. Active and positive connections between the private and public breeding sectors and large-scale gene banks are required to avoid a possible conflict involving breeders’ rights, gene preservation and erosion. Horticulturists will need to develop cultural practices and vegetable breeders to breed vegetables for a multifunctional horticulture (diversity, health promotion, post-harvest, year round suply, etc.) and to cope with harsher climate conditions and lower inputs than they have come to expect. Improved production systems that can cope with climate extremes must allow vegetables to produce under high temperatures, greater drought stress, increased soil salinity, and periodic flooding. This will involve a combination of improved vegetable cultivars and modified production systems.