Recently, some calculations I was struggling with took me back to literature published in the 1950’s in my search for help. Either I had forgotten, or I never knew in the first place, but from my search, I noted that many of the genetic principles that we plant breeders use on a daily basis actually originate from studies on farm animals. And this reminded me of Prof Carel Roux who tried to teach us population genetics in our second year at varsity. His level of understanding of statistics was far greater than we could ever imagine, so we settled for understanding just a few principles instead. During a discussion with him on whether to choose plant breeding or animal breeding as a main field of study, he defaulted back to basic principles, saying “breeding comes down to bringing a sperm cell and an ovule together – whether it’s in plants or animals is, to a great extent, irrelevant”. Perhaps a little over-simplified, but it has always stuck with me. And so when breeding decisions start to get too difficult, I always try to fall back upon basic principles – many times we make things more complicated that what they are, or need to be. 

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