The importance of plant genetic resources for the future of agricultural production and for achieving food security necessitates the study of the factors affecting their most efficient exploitation, particularly in breeding programmes. The established negative correlation between competitive and yielding ability is emerging as an important, yet overlooked cause of seed and variety degradation. Because of this negative correlation, the low yielding, strong competing plants within the variety or the germplasm under study acquire a survival advantage over the high yielding, weak competing plants when propagated under dense stands, leading to a gradual cultivar degeneration and identity loss. Moreover, this gradual degeneration prevents selecting for the positive and novel adaptive variation that is endlessly released by the genome in response to biotic (e.g. mutating pathogens) and abiotic stresses. The application of nonstop selection on individual plants grown in the absence of competition using a novel selection equation demonstrates an effective means to counteract the negative effects and accelerate progress through selection.
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