A new milestone in data-driven breeding

File photo

File photo

Performance data on genotypes has been utilized to make crop selection and advancement decisions at ICRISAT’s first Product Advancement Meeting, heralding a significant step forward in data-driven breeding.

Cross-functional crop teams based in Asia, Eastern and Southern Africa and West and Central Africa participated in the hybrid meeting organized on the 9th of December.

Chairing the session, Dr Arvind Kumar, Deputy Director General – Research, ICRISAT, described it as historic day for breeding program modernization as the Product Advancement Meetings facilitate rigorous assessment of the breeding program’s progress while enabling data-based decisions in advancing products. It is feasible to assess the rates of genetic gain from various pipelines in a systematic way and take measures to enhance it further, he said.

Dr Rajeev Varshney, Research Program Director – Accelerated Crop Improvement, ICRISAT, commended the efforts of Dr Ashok Kumar, Product Placement Lead – Asia and the entire Crop breeding team for internalizing the breeding program modernization and making efforts to integrate precision genetic and genomic tools, analytical methods to increase efficiencies and genetic gains. He called for the precise management of data and the storing of results for ease of retrieving in the future.

ICRISAT has embarked on the journey of breeding program modernization, particularly in the design, development and dissemination of demand-driven improved products. The Stage-Gate model was introduced as a technique to help create more value. It improves an organization’s ability to convert innovative ideas into practical applications and new products using a roadmap comprising of various interventions/deliverables (stages). The Stage-Gate process encompasses all the interventions (stages) and control points (gates) in the product design, discovery, product development, product testing and validation and commercialization.

Targeted Product Profiles were developed by involving stakeholders and breeding schemes have been developed andoptimized based on the profiles. Breeding schemes workflows are based on the size of the relevant market segment and product profile attributes. The product prototypes are tested in multi-environment trials (METs) in Target Population of Environments (TPEs) and data from METs are considered in advancement decisions.

With the first Product Advancement Meeting successfully held, the objectives of subsequent meetings will be to:

  • Review the process into population improvements and the variety development process
  • Make decisions based on early stage testing data
  • Ensure the provision of cross-functional inputs, market-facing metrics and technical breeding metrics
  • Assess current breeding program performance and define goals for the subsequent year
  • Identify products to be advanced to the national variety testing stage in which to progress to release and delivery

New products that meet the metrics identified in product profiles are advanced to national variety testing or recycled as parents in breeding programs.

In her remarks, Dr Janila Pasupuleti, Cluster Leader – Crop Breeding, ICRISAT, applauded the cross-functional teams for rapidly adapting to new ways operatingand optimizing breeding pipelines to match product profile attributes while developing improved products. She called for openness to not only embrace new technologies but to facilitate continuous learning that could contribute to high-performing breeding programs.

Dr Ashok Kumar in his presentation indicated that during the 2020 rainy season, multi-environment testing was carried out involving 240 Stage 1 and 2 trials comprising 83 experiments conducted in 72 environments in Asia. The trials were designed with the help of Data Management and Analytical Support (DMAS) team.Field books along with seed materials were shipped to partners with support from the Crop Improvement Operations Team (CIOT).  The MET partners were supplied with moisture meters, weighting balances and tablets for efficient data collection. The trials were monitored from time to time with data obtained from partners. Following quality checks, the DMAS team analyzed the data and shared results for review by the breeding team.

The results from groundnut and pigeonpea multi-environment trials showed improved products with significantly higher yields compared to best checks. A selection index was developed in groundnut to select the lines for the next stage and products were identified using selection indices. The results indicated that the predicted genetic gains in these two breeding programs ranged from 0.4 to 1.5 in different breeding pipelines for yield, and more than 1.5% for shelling percentage and ? hundred seed weight in groundnut.  Standard operating procedures were developed for conducting both the multi-environment trials and the management of MET data to serve as ready reference.

In his concluding remarks, Dr Arvind Kumar sought the institutionalization of the MET process for assessment of genetic gains and to empower partners to improve the rigour in data collection for effective decision-making.

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