Advantages & disadvantages of cloning plants

Strawberry image by Minoru from

Cloning is the asexual reproduction of an individual by duplicating its precise genetic blueprint, according to the Cornell Center for Materials Research. This is not just a manmade process: identical twins, for example, are clones, as they share the exact same DNA. Some plants also naturally clone themselves--strawberries, potatoes, onions, sassafras and sumac, for example. People commonly clone plants like cultivated bananas, grapes, oranges, flowers, houseplants and ornamental species.

Disadvantage: Lack of Genetic Diversity

According to the MadSci Network, the primary disadvantage to cloning plants is genetic uniformity. For instance, if a disease or pest devastated a population of cloned plants, all of those plants would be equally effected because they had the same genetic weaknesses. As a whole, a wild population of the same species may be more resistant to these factors.

Disadvantage: Genetic Inflexibility

According to the website Wellsphere, one disadvantage to cloning plants, particularly in mass quantity, is that when genetic diversity is lost, so is a species' genetic flexibility as whole. Varying genetic characteristics amongst individuals allows a species to adapt to new and unpredictable environmental factors over time, such as threatening animal populations, environmental changes, diseases and pests, through naturally occurring genetic mutations or dormant characteristics. These mutations do not occur with cloned plants.

Disadvantage: Sterility

Cloning can lead to sterility, according to Wellsphere. If some factor, such as environmental changes, diseases or pests wiped out an entire population of a cloned plant species, there would be virtually no way to repopulate them.

Advantage: Maintaining the Most Desirable Characteristics

Cloning can predictably maintain the most desirable characteristics in a plant, such as taste, colour, size and resistance to diseases and pests. Breeding plants sexually through seeds does not yield this high degree of predictability. Maintaining desirable characteristics can increase crop yield and quality while reducing the incidences of crop failure.

Advantage: Growing Predictability

Because cloning produces the precise same genetic individual, those plants' growth patterns can be predicted precisely and their needs anticipated for optimum results. This can help increase food supplies and business profits.

Advantage: Less Expensive and Easier Than Seeds

Cloning is less expensive, faster and easier than propagating from seeds for certain plant species, like many house and fruit plants. Weather can also sabotage a seed's ability to propagate due to unfavourable conditions--like wind and storms--which is not a factor in cloning.

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