Improving Yield and Yield Stability in Winter Rye by Hybrid Breeding
Rye is the only cross-pollinating small-grain cereal. The unique reproduction biology results in an exceptional complexity concerning genetic improvement of rye by breeding. Rye is a close relative of wheat and has a strong adaptation potential that refers to its mating system, making this overlooked cereal readily adjustable to a changing environment. Rye breeding addresses the emerging challenges of food security associated with climate change. The systematic identification, management, and use of its valuable natural diversity became a feasible option in outbreeding rye only following the establishment of hybrid breeding late in the 20th century. In this article, we review the most recent technological advances to improve yield and yield stability in winter rye. Based on recently released reference genome sequences, SMART breeding approaches are described to counterbalance undesired linkage drag effects of major restorer genes on grain yield. We present the development of gibberellin-sensitive semidwarf hybrids as a novel plant breeding innovation based on an approach that is different from current methods of increasing productivity in rye and wheat. Breeding of new rye cultivars with improved performance and resilience is indispensable for a renaissance of this healthy minor cereal as a homogeneous commodity with cultural relevance in Europe that allows for comparatively smooth but substantial complementation of wheat with ryebased diets, supporting the necessary restoration of the balance between human action and nature.