The Swiss plant breeding sector – a spatial, temporal and thematic analysis

The spectrum of crop species grown within Switzerland as well as their agricultural performance is changing over time. Traditionally, cereal, horticultural and forage production play a major role in Swiss agriculture, and it is crucial to maintain the productivity of these crops under future socio-economic and environmental conditions. However, to focus on only these economically important crops might prevent the realisation of beneficial options that neglected and underutilised crop species offer for Switzerland. Continuous improvement of crops is achieved through plant breeding. Plant breeding is crucial to producing novel varieties that are superior in traits such as yield, quality and resistance to diseases and environmental stresses. Technical developments in farming, food processing and breeding affect the relation between plant breeding possibilities and desired traits — and so does the global nature of the agro-food sector. It is difficult to predict how the requirements and the focus of Swiss plant breeding efforts will develop in the coming decades. Yet, the Swiss Government can influence plant breeding activities by structural adjustments, development programmes and state funding to launch and maintain breeding programmes for well-chosen crops. Such activities could help improve sustainability, consumer satisfaction and economic success in Switzerland and would further strengthen the position of the country within the world food system.

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