Breeding Major Cereal Grains through the Lens of Nutrition Sensitivity

Shu Yu, Li Tian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Cereal grains are the common food staples that collectively provide over 50% of dietary calories and proteins for the world's population. Although the Green Revolution has greatly increased the yield of commercial cereal crops, they often lack nutrients essential for human health in the edible tissues. In developing nutrition-sensitive agriculture, the nutritional quality of cereal grains has been a major target for improvement using breeding and biotechnology approaches. This review examines recent progress on biofortification of micronutrients (provitamin A and folates) and an essential amino acid (lysine) in three major cereal grains, wheat, rice, and maize, through plant breeding. In addition, how natural variations, induced mutations, and the advanced genome-editing technologies can be applied to improving the nutrient content and stability in these cereal grains are discussed. High-yield cereal crops pyramided with improved (micro)nutrient contents hold great promise to meet the increasing demand of nutritionally limited populations and to contribute to achieving sustainable nutrition security. Fortification and biofortification of staple food crops are positioned at the point of entry to nutrition-sensitive agriculture. This review highlights the resources that can be utilized for nutrient biofortification of major cereal grains through plant breeding, a complementary approach to genetic engineering. Application of advanced technologies to facilitate and expedite the biofortification process is also discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalMolecular Plant
StateAccepted/In press - 2017


  • Cereal grains
  • Folates
  • Lysine
  • Nutrition sensitive
  • Plant breeding
  • Provitamin A

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Plant Science


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