Jaroslav DoleželJaroslav Doležel is a senior researcher at the Center for Plant Structural and Functional Genomics of the Institute of Experimental Botany in Olomouc and professor of molecular biology and genetics at the Palacký University in Olomouc. His research focuses on the organization, function and evolution of plant genomes. He is engaged in the transfer of molecular methods into breeding and coordinates one of the programs of the Strategy AV21 of the Czech Academy of Sciences, "Foods for the Future".


Leveraging Mother Nature’s inventions to breed custom-designed crops


Crop breeding depends on genes and their alleles that control traits beneficial to humans. Although new gene variants do occur spontaneously, they appear at extremely low frequency to be useful in breeding crops with novel traits. If desired variants are not present in wild relatives and thus cannot be introduced by cross-breeding, the option, until recently, has been either to induce them using physical or chemical mutagenesis, or to transfer them from other organisms. While the former approach suffers from low efficacy and impossibility to target mutations to a particular genome locus, the latter one met a strong public opposition, even though it exploits a naturally evolved biological mechanism. Fortunately, the discovery of a naturally occurring mechanism that bacteria use as an immune defense offered a powerful alternative. Although the application of the CRISPR-Cas system may require protocol optimization for particular species, breeding custom-designed crops is becoming a reality.