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Killian Melsen, Mark van de Wouw, and Ryan Contreras

The promising possibilities of mutation breeding in ornamental plants have led to a great interest in effective mutagenic treatment protocols for various species. This review discusses mutagenic treatments of a large number of ornamental genera, the advantages and disadvantages of various techniques, and the possibilities of improving the associated protocols. A number of nontargeted mutagenesis methods are available, ranging from chemical treatment with alkylating agents to irradiation with X-rays, gamma rays, and neutron or heavy ion beams at various doses. These are all relatively inexpensive and have been proven to be effective mutagens in a large number of diverse species. Genetic engineering, however, remains mostly impractical for many ornamental breeding operations because of the high cost and lack of knowledge necessary to successfully transform and regenerate ornamental crops. Of the available nontargeted mutagens, irradiation with gamma rays is still the most popular. It provides high consistency compared with chemical mutagens, albeit at a seemingly lower mutagenic efficiency. Changes in the radiation dose rate may increase the efficiency, although chronic irradiation over a longer period causes fewer deleterious mutations than the commonly used acute irradiation protocols. Heavy ion beam irradiation may also provide highly consistent mutation induction at higher efficiencies because of the high particle energy associated with these treatments. There are also opportunities to improve chemical mutagenesis. Although the required knowledge of specific gene functions in many ornamentals is still lacking, combination mutagenesis with ethyl methanesulfontate with genetic screening in a process known as TILLING (Targeting Induced Local Lesions IN Genomes) may lead to a powerful mutation breeding tool in the future. Mutation breeding is still very useful, and many opportunities are available to improve the existing methods.