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Lesson Note

Subject: Agricultural science

Topic: Crop Improvement

Learning Objectives: By the end of the lesson, the learners should be able to:

  1. Explain the term crop improvement,
  2. Briefly give account on the origin of crop improvement,
  3. State the aims of crop improvement.

Lesson Discussions

Crop Improvement

We can not talk about crop improvement without first explaining plant breeding. Plant breeding is a branch of science concerned with crop improvement.

Brief History Of Crop Improvement

The early man was at first a food gatherer. He depended on wild fruits around him, that had food value. This went on for a very long time. The food gathering stage gave way to domestication of plants (crops). At this point, the fruits or crops that had been gathered were planted around human settlements.

Early forms of agriculture were changed by industrial revolution that introduced the use of machines in agriculture. The mode of agriculture at any point in time had been tailored towards meeting the needs of teaming human populations. With the ever increasing population of human race, man can no longer continue to depend on the traditional indigenous varieties of crops for his supply of food and raw materials. This realisation has prompted attempts to produce superior crop varieties that will be high yielding, resistant to prevalent diseases, of desired quality and can adapt to adverse geographical conditions by manipulation of genes.

This challenge (the production of superior crop varieties) has engaged the attention of plant breeders for the past few decades. Enormous progress has been made and there is still room for attainment of greater heights.

Crop improvement can then be defined as the science that deals with the development of new crop varieties with superior quality and quantity.


Aims Of Crop Improvement

  1. To Increase Crop Yield Per Given Area: Some crop varieties that have potentials for high yield are grown so that their output per the factors of production will be maximized. Tenera variety of the oil palm is high yielding and it had displaced the other varieties that are low yielding.
  2. To Improve The Quality Of Produce: Crop varieties that are of better quality have improved market value and attract relatively higher prices. The improved quality relates to desirable taste, shape, colour, oil, fibre, protein, and sugar contents and period of maturity of various crops.
  3. To Improve Crop Resistance To Pest And Pathogens: Some crop varieties are known to be resistant or immune to prevalent peats and disease pathogens. The mechanism of this resistance might be traced to the tough cell walls which physically obstruct some pests and pathogens from penetrating into the crops. Some other crops have toxic exudates or cell saps that kill pests or pathogens. Also, some crop varieties can allow the pathogens to enter into them but will stop them from developing and reproducing.
  4. To Adapt To Adverse Climatic Conditions: Crop breeding adapts exotic crops with desirable traits to adverse climatic and edaphic conditions of their new environment. This is done by crossbreeding such exotic varieties with their local counterparts that had been favourably adapted.
  5. To Improve Harvesting Quality: With cross breeding, the heights of some crops varieties such as Tenera variety of oil palm, will be greatly reduced. Without crop improvement, the tall oil palm trees of the Dura type can only be harvested by climbers with the attendant risk to life. The heights of Tenera variety of oil palm is reduced and it can easily be harvested with Malayan knife.

Done studying? See all previous lessons in Agriculture.

Take a quick test for this lesson

  1. What do you understand by crop improvement?
  2. Briefly give account on how crop improvement came to be.
  3. State and explain the aims of crop improvement.

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