Beneficial genetic mutations in agriculture
can turn a profit
You can make money from beneficial genetic mutations in agriculture. The key is to recognize their value and make sure you hang onto it. Then you can breed it up and sell the offspring.
And it's not just farmers and graziers who have gained from beneficial genetic mutations in agriculture. Our whole human society has received the benefit. Mutations have produced by chance some of the most productive animals and plants used today.
A simple example is the Murray Grey breed of beef cattle. This breed resulted from a cow that happened to throw a particularly good line of calves that were visibly different from the calves her sisters produced. Because the farmers were smart enough to see the difference and connect it with the good characteristics of the offspring, they were able to capitalize on the difference by breeding up.
These calves were used as the foundation stock for a new breed of cattle which had some distinctly positive characteristics . Eventually, the breed became popular, particularly in the area near where it had developed and then spread throughout Australia and eventually overseas.
Many varieties of fruit that are common today are the result of a similar process, often one that affected only one branch of a tree.
Another of these beneficial genetic mutations in agriculture is the Granny Smith apple discovered by Granny Smith growing on one of her trees.
Because it was a good dual-purpose apple, it survived. If it had not been a beneficial mutation it probably would have been cut down or grafted to a different variety. Granny Smith apples are excellent eaten fresh and make superb pies, sauces and other dishes that use cooked fruit.
Its consumer appeal as well as good disease and pest resistance and a hardy nature made it a favorite with farmers as well.
Most of the beneficial genetic mutations in agriculture go unnoticed for generations. Many of them are the result of accidental selection pressure applied by farmers which leads to certain varieties of one species being successful enough to produce more offspring and thus coming to dominate the gene pool.
Most of the successful varieties and breeds produced until at least the late 1800s depend heavily on more than one of these beneficial genetic mutations. In agriculture the visible aspects were easy to track even though the actual mutation was not visible. In fact, the breeds may have mainly developed because of physical or visible differences such as
- the white face of Hereford cattle
- the red of one apple,
- the mottled appearance of another apple
- the flavor of a variety of tomato
- the earliness of a variety of flower
- the juiciness and tough skin of a cider apple
- the quality of the wool of the Spanish Merino sheep
- the volume of milk of a Friesian or Holstein cow
- the creaminess of the milk of a Jersey or Guernsey cow
- the smell of a particular type of rose
- one variety's ability to resist insect attack or disease
Visible differences gave the animal or plant a distinctiveness that may have appealed to the farmer or gardener. If they later discovered that there were good characteristics associated with the visible characteristic, then the desirability of the variety was enhanced.
This desirability meant that they could sell the offspring for higher prices. So, over the centuries any difference came to have a value until and unless proven otherwise.
And until relatively recently, we had very little understanding of the idea of mutations, let alone how to capitalize on them. There was so much luck in the old way of breeding plants and animals until the work of Mendel. So, it was hard for farmers to differentiate between the effects of genes and the effects of the environment on an organism.
Beneficial genetic mutations in agriculture made some of our best crops and animals and then we humans cultivated the differences. This has gone on since we were hunter gatherers. And despite the advances in genetics, beneficial genetic mutations in agriculture will remain an important part of the development of our future farm gene pool.
Now as the mysteries of DNA, genomes and genetics generally steadily become clearer, we will probably uncover even more beneficial genetic mutations in agriculture.