||A general model of annual costs and lagged annual returns from a plant breeding program is developed to estimate the threshold sizes of a crop industry at which different breeding programs could be economically justified, or, alternatively, the threshold rate of yield improvement needed to justify a given level of breeding expenditure. Based on average parameter values, the critical level of production needed from a target environment to justify a full wheat breeding program was 322,000 t, and the production level at which a crossing program became more profitable than a selection program was over 1.5 million tons. Examination of threshold rates of yield improvement required to justify a given expenditure on plant breeding indicated that, for some regions and countries, high rates of improvement were likely to be required to justify the expenditure on breeding. Results of the analysis emphasize the need for countries with small wheat industries to establish cooperative regional breeding programs or to seek input from the international agricultural research centers. However, the sensitivity of the results to the values of the parameters, and their relation to each other, emphasize the need to use data specific to a particular region or country to make the analysis a useful tool for decision making.