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Mixtures of genetically modified wheat lines outperform monocultures


Zeller, Simon L; Kalinina, Olena; Flynn, Dan F B; Schmid, Bernhard (2012). Mixtures of genetically modified wheat lines outperform monocultures. Ecological Applications, 22(6):1817-1826.

Abstract

Biodiversity research shows that diverse plant communities are more stable and productive than monocultures. Similarly, populations in which genotypes with different pathogen resistance are mixed may have lower pathogen levels and thus higher productivity than genetically uniform populations. We used genetically modified (GM) wheat as a model system to test this prediction, because it allowed us to use genotypes that differed only in the trait pathogen resistance but were otherwise identical. We grew three such genotypes or lines in monocultures or two-line mixtures. Phenotypic measurements were taken at the level of individual plants and of entire plots (population level). We found that resistance to mildew increased with both GM richness (0, 1, or 2 Pm3 transgenes with different resistance specificities per plot) and GM concentration (0%, 50%, or 100% of all plants in a plot with a Pm3 transgene). Plots with two transgenes had 34.6% less mildew infection and as a consequence 7.3% higher seed yield than plots with one transgene. We conclude that combining genetic modification with mixed cropping techniques could be a promising approach to increase sustainability and productivity in agricultural systems, as the fitness cost of stacking transgenes within individuals may thus be avoided.

Abstract

Biodiversity research shows that diverse plant communities are more stable and productive than monocultures. Similarly, populations in which genotypes with different pathogen resistance are mixed may have lower pathogen levels and thus higher productivity than genetically uniform populations. We used genetically modified (GM) wheat as a model system to test this prediction, because it allowed us to use genotypes that differed only in the trait pathogen resistance but were otherwise identical. We grew three such genotypes or lines in monocultures or two-line mixtures. Phenotypic measurements were taken at the level of individual plants and of entire plots (population level). We found that resistance to mildew increased with both GM richness (0, 1, or 2 Pm3 transgenes with different resistance specificities per plot) and GM concentration (0%, 50%, or 100% of all plants in a plot with a Pm3 transgene). Plots with two transgenes had 34.6% less mildew infection and as a consequence 7.3% higher seed yield than plots with one transgene. We conclude that combining genetic modification with mixed cropping techniques could be a promising approach to increase sustainability and productivity in agricultural systems, as the fitness cost of stacking transgenes within individuals may thus be avoided.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Language:English
Date:2012
Deposited On:19 Oct 2012 11:08
Last Modified:16 Feb 2018 23:56
Publisher:Ecological Society of America
ISSN:1051-0761
Additional Information:Copyright by the Ecological Society of America
OA Status:Green
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1890/11-0876.1
Official URL:http://dx.doi.org/10.1890/11-0876.1

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