Plant breeding has been practiced for thousands of years, since near the beginning of human civilization. It is practiced worldwide by individuals such as gardeners and farmers, and by professional plant breeders employed by organizations such as government institutions, universities, crop-specific industry associations or research centers.
International development agencies believe that breeding new crops is important for ensuring food security by developing new varieties that are higher yielding, disease resistant, drought tolerant or regionally adapted to different environments and growing conditions.
Plant breeding started with sedentary agriculture and particularly the domestication of the first agricultural plants, a practice which is estimated to date back 9,000 to 11,000 years. Initially early farmers simply selected food plants with particular desirable characteristics, and employed these as progenitors for subsequent generations, resulting in an accumulation of valuable traits over time.
Gregor Mendel's experiments with plant hybridization led to his establishing laws of inheritance. Once this work became well known, it formed the basis of the new science of genetics, which stimulated research by many plant scientists dedicated to improving crop production through plant breeding.
Modern plant breeding is applied genetics, but its scientific basis is broader, covering molecular biology, cytology, systematics, physiology, pathology, entomology, chemistry, and statistics (biometrics). It has also developed its own technology.