MadSci Network: Botany

Re: What are some good things and bad things about plant cloning?

Date: Wed Feb 20 20:17:41 2002
Posted By: David Hershey, Faculty, Botany, NA
Area of science: Botany
ID: 1014243593.Bt

The major disadvantage of plant cloning is it provides complete genetic 
uniformity. Thus, if the all the trees in a forest plantation are the same 
clone, they are all equally suspectible to the same diseases and insects. Of 
course, a disease can also virtually wipe out a wild population of plants, 
which do have genetic diversity, as happened for American elm to Dutch elm 
disease and American chestnut to chestnut blight.

Advantages of plant cloning include:

1. A superior cultivated variety or cultivar can be rapidly duplicated. For 
example, a cultivar that has greater yield can increase profits and food 
supply, disease or pest resistant clones can prevent crop failures and reduce 
pesticide use. Every homeowner can have a "copy" of a clone for the best type 
of flower, tree, shrub, houseplant, etc.

2. Cloning is a way to keep a particular plant cultivar in existence basically 
forever. Plant cultivars that originated hundreds of years ago are still in 
wide use. 

3. The cloning technique, grafting, can combine genetically different root and 
shoot systems to make a plant superior to either plant alone.

4. Cloning via tissue culture can also be used to rid plants of harmful viruses 
and other diseases. 

5. Cloning is often much more rapid than normal sexual reproduction via seeds.

6. Cloning is often cheaper than normal reproduction via seeds for some crops, 
such as houseplants and fruit trees.

7. Seed production is often at the mercy of the weather for successful 
pollination. Cloning does not depend on pollination.

8. Plants that cannot produce seeds and otherwise could not reproduce 
themselves, such as seedless grapes and seedless navel oranges, and cultivated 
bananas, which would not survive unless cloned.

9. Some seeds are difficult to obtain or germinate so cloning is a preferable 

10. Cloning fruit and nut trees can overcome juvnility problems that some seed-
propagated plants have. The juvenile period may last 5 to 20 years during which 
trees cannot flower or fruit. 

11. The uniformity of cloned plants is often desired as in hedges, orchards, 
rows of trees in landscaped areas where each should appear identical, etc. 
Noncloned plants often may vary widely in rate of growth and appearance.


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