Speed Breeding; a Powerful Tool to Boost Drought Research and Key Against Future Starvation

Updated on December 31, 2018
Safa Khalid profile image

Safa Khalid is a researcher in the fields of Genomics, Bioinformatics of Plants and Animals. She has vast experience in writing.

Speed Breeding

It is said that the “Speed” kills, but in terms of well-fed future and better plant’s productivity to survive drought conditions, then Speed is the key solution. The climate change and the growing human population have increased questions to future global food security. The improvement rate of many of the important crops is extremely slow, due to the long generation times. It’s time to introduce a revolutionized plant breeding technique that will accelerate the rate of healthier and genetically modified crop development.

Why we need “Speed Breeding”?

It takes many years for most of the crops to breed new and advanced cultivars. After which comes duration of crossing and parent lines. Nearly, around 4–6 generations of inbreeding are typically required to develop genetically stable lines for evaluation of agronomic traits and yield. This is extremely time-consuming for field-grown crops that which have only 1–2 generations per year.

In order to maintain the stability and productivity level of crops, there is a dire need to fasten the research and increase the rate of various product development. The applied research programs are mostly based upon the generation times of plant species, thus creating a need for modern breeding methods to accelerate plant development.


A universal protocol for all plant species and traits is not possible because plant species and even the cultivars within the species are diverse in response to their photoperiod. Therefore, a simple protocol for building low-cost speed breeding cabinet with controlled lighting and humidity monitoring, suitable for small-scale research projects is described here. The aim is to accelerate the process of breeding new varieties and combat upcoming challenges.

A glasshouse is a preferred point for speed breeding because plant populations can be grown year-round. This process involves a large investment in space and time inside the greenhouse. The protocols include extension in photoperiod using supplementary lightening, temperature control to enable rapid generation and advancement in glasshouses with sodium vapour amps. To go in depth of the methods, spring wheat and barley sown at different plant densities in a glasshouse fitted with LED supplementary lighting are evaluated. In order to evaluate time saving property of SB program, the physiological, morphological and yield parameters of plants are compared under normal and speed development processes.

To evaluate speed breeding method, cereal species, standard genotypes of spring bread durum wheat (T. durum), barley (H. vulgare), wheat (T. aestivum), and the model grass Brachypodium distachyon are grown in a controlled environment room with extended photoperiod (22 hours light/2 hours dark). A light/dark period was chosen over a continuous photoperiod to support the functional expression of circadian clock genes 3. This growth rate was compared with that of plants in glasshouses with no supplementary light or heating during the spring and early summer. Plants were grown under speed breeding produced flowering in approximately half the time of those from glasshouse conditions. The viability of harvested seeds appeared to be unaffected by speed breeding, with similar seed germination rates observed for all species. Moreover, crosses made between wheat cultivars under speed breeding conditions produced viable seeds, including crosses between tetraploid and hexaploid wheat.


Safa Khalid

BS Bioinformatics

University of Agriculture, Faisalabad

Samsam Haider

MSc. (Hons) Agricultural Extension

University of Agriculture, Faisalabad

© 2018 Safa Khalid


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    • Samsam Haider profile image

      Samsam Haider 

      18 months ago from Pakistan

      Thank you Miss Safa :-)

    • Guckenberger profile image

      Alexander James Guckenberger 

      18 months ago from Maryland, United States of America

      This is an important topic.


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