Genetic gain essential for accelerating crop improvement in developing countries

Participants of the Trait Pipeline workshop. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

“It is important to harness the synergies of different science disciplines, in order to help resource-poor farmers benefit from crop improvement programs,” ICRISAT Director General Dr William Dar said.

Speaking at the “Trait Pipeline” workshop organized by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with ICRISAT, Dr Dar stressed on the need to have stronger trait and breeding pipelines in all the CGIAR centers to realize the genetic gain in crop improvement that will benefit smallholder farmers in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

The workshop was targeted at current and potential partners of the Gates Foundation who have been engaged in developing or exploiting marker-assisted selection systems for abiotic and biotic stress tolerance in staple food crops. It sought to provide insights on constraints and possible solutions which will help in setting the objectives of Gates Foundation-funded research initiatives in agriculture.

Dr Swapan Datta, Deputy Director General (Crop Science), Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), while appreciating the efforts of the foundation, encouraged more investments in agriculture for the benefit poor farmers. “National programs like the ICAR are thankful to the foundation and CGIAR centers like ICRISAT for their investment and hard work,” he said.

Dr Rajeev Varshney, Research Program Director – Grain Legumes, ICRISAT, and co-organizer of the workshop, emphasized on the need for regional genotyping and decision support providing hubs in order to use genomics tools in accelerated crop improvement. He also urged all research organizations to accelerate the process of setting up high throughput phenotyping platforms.

The event focused on updating participants on best practices in mapping, developing production markers, and deploying large-effect QTL affecting, biotic and abiotic stress tolerance; outlining best practices in managing native trait pipelines, from donor identification through to marker-assisted backcrossing and forward breeding with tightly linked or gene-based markers; ensuring that products reach farmers as quickly as possible and identifying reasons for the relative slowness of breeder-ready marker development and deployment; and proposing solutions, both from the scientific and management/logistical standpoints.

The workshop, held at the ICRISAT headquarters on 22 February, was attended by 44 scientists from six CGIAR research organizations namely: ICRISAT (India & Kenya), International Rice Research Institute (IRRI; Philippines and India), International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA; Nigeria), International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT; Mexico and India), International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT; Columbia), Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice; Nigeria); and other research organizations such as ICAR, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO; Australia), National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI; Nigeria) and Kansas State University (KSU; USA) along with the Generation Challenge Programme – Integrated Breeding Platform (GCP-IBP; Mexico) and the Gates Foundation.

Source: ICRISAT Happenings