Inappropriate plant breeding

The conflict between the two schools of genetics, the Mendelians and the biometricians, smouldered for decades following the scientific resolution of this dispute in the 1920s. During this period of conflict, the members of the Mendelian school of genetics exhibited an adamantine refusal to even recognise, let alone investigate, horizontal resistance. This represents the main failure of twentieth century plant breeding, to be set against its many successes.

The pressure to meet the ever-increasing demand for food may have contributed to the insistence on the use of single-gene resistances during the twentieth century. However, as we have seen, this type of resistance provided a short-term solution only. In the long-term, it was severely damaging because its use resulted in serious losses of horizontal resistance. The problems that this insistence on the use of vertical resistance has caused have already been listed (see 5.5), and need not be repeated here.

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