Increasing crop yields to ensure food security is a major challenge. Mutagenesis is an important tool in crop improvement and is free of the regulatory restrictions imposed on genetically modified organisms. The forward genetic approach enables the identification of improved or novel phenotypes that can be exploited in conventional breeding programmes. Powerful reverse genetic strategies that allow the detection of induced point mutations in individuals of the mutagenized populations can address the major challenge of linking sequence information to the biological function of genes and can also identify novel variation for plant breeding. This review briefly discusses recent advances in the detection of mutants and the potential of mutagenesis for crop improvement.