Genetic transformation of major cereal crops

Int J Dev Biol. 2013;57(6-8):495-508. doi: 10.1387/ijdb.130244kw.


Of the more than 50,000 edible plant species in the world, at least 10,000 species are cereal grains. Three major cereal crops, rice (Oryza sativa), maize (Zea mays), and wheat (Triticum sp.), provide two-thirds of the world's food energy intake. Although crop yields have improved tremendously thanks to technological advances in the past 50 years, population increases and climate changes continue to threaten the sustainability of current crop productions. Whereas conventional and marker-assisted breeding programs continue to play a major role in crop improvement, genetic engineering has drawn an intense worldwide interest from the scientific community. In the past decade, genetic transformation technologies have revolutionized agricultural practices and millions of hectares of biotech crops have been cultured. Because of its unique ability to insert well-characterized gene sequences into the plant genome, genetic engineering can also provide effective tools to address fundamental biological questions. This technology is expected to continue to be an indispensable approach for both basic and applied research. Here, we overview briefly the development of the genetic transformation in the top seven cereals, namely maize, rice, wheat, barley (Hordeum vulgare), sorghum (Sorghum sp.), oat (Avena sativa), and millets. The advantages and disadvantages of the two major transformation methods, Agrobacterium tumefaciens-mediated and biolistic methods, are also discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Avena / genetics
  • Biotechnology / methods
  • Crops, Agricultural / genetics*
  • Edible Grain / genetics*
  • Gene Transfer Techniques
  • Genetic Engineering / methods
  • Genetic Markers / genetics
  • Genome, Plant
  • Oryza / genetics
  • Panicum / genetics
  • Phylogeny
  • Seedlings
  • Sorghum / genetics
  • Transformation, Genetic*
  • Triticum / genetics
  • Zea mays / genetics


  • Genetic Markers