Breeding tool plays a key role in program planning

Dr Clare Mukankusi from CIAT presenting PIP for Common Bean – ESA. Photo: ICRISAT

Region-wise Program Improvement Plans for target crops – groundnut, chickpea, cowpea and common bean – were presented at a recent Tropical Legumes (TL) III Genetic Gains workshop. The workshop used the results of the Breeding Program Assessment Tool (BPAT) as a resource to help guide breeding programs in improving their targeting, speed, scale, efficiency, quality (control, precision, and accuracy) according to each partner’s unique characteristics and resources.

The workshop was attended by key breeding programs of CGIAR centers and select National Agricultural Research System (NARS) partners from eight participating countries. The discussions resulted in partners agreeing on the following:

  • Extensive use of Breeding Management System (BMS)
  • Adoption of more mechanized practices
  • Leveraging capacities of partners
  • Exploring capacities to harness forward breeding
  • Building modern foundation seed stores.

Key traits identified for development included early maturity, foliar fungal disease resistance, drought tolerance, groundnut rosette disease resistance, P-efficiency, tolerance to aflatoxin contamination and nutrient-use efficiency to meet the needs of poor soil fertility in Ghana, Burkina Faso, Tanzania and Uganda.


Dr BB Singh ADG (O&P) ICAR, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Government of India, at the workshop. Photo: ICRISAT

Partners realized the most immediate improvement they can make in their breeding program is increasing the cropping cycle by at least one cycle per year to translate the enhanced breeding efficiency. Materials received from ICRISAT for foliar fungal disease resistance were useful and a few adapted lines were selected and promoted to advanced trials. It was also noted that an internal mechanism in CGIAR centers is required to incentivize breeders for sharing of breeding lines with NARS partners. NARS partners were encouraged to engage and invite objective leaders of TL III to their annual work-planning meetings which may provide guidance on collaborative activities to be carried out.

The common objective presented across the countries was to develop market preferred varieties with drought tolerance, pest and disease resistance and improved nutrition. To achieve this it was recommended to increase number of nurseries, number of crosses, breeding trials and sites.  Partners were of the view that to improve quality, higher precision phenotyping is required. There is a need for measurement of genetic gain, better data capture and seed storage facilities. NARS partners presented the program improvement plan for each legume in a crop by country combination – chickpea in Ethiopia and India; common bean in Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda; groundnut and common beans in Tanzania and Uganda; groundnut and cowpea in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali and Nigeria.

Program Improvement Plans at African Hubs


groundnutTraits of focus are drought resistance, leaf diseases, aflatoxin and rosette. The objective of the Program Improvement Plan is to improve genetic gains, increase genetic effects and minimize environmental error. Prior to BPAT the West and Central Africa (WCA) program relied mostly on Malawi and India programs for
crossing and segregating populations. The actual crossing program started in 2009 with only nine crosses per year. The proposed area of improvement following BPAT for both Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) and WCA hubs are as follows:

  • Increase the crossing capability of the program (up to 250 crosses per year per site) and widening the genetic pool through introductions from the genebank in India
  • Optimization of the selection strategies through Single Seed Descent (SSD), pedigree modification and early generation selection from F2 and F3 generations
  • Testing strategies to optimize target and testing environments including number of test sites in each environment
  • Number of replications and number of years for on-station and on-farm testing
  • Make use of advanced statistical tools (mixed models, spatial analysis) to optimize selection precision
  • Use of marker technologies (currently focus on traits for late leaf spot and rust)
  • Strategic partnerships for winter nurseries at government stations in Malawi (early leaf spot and groundnut rosette disease), Naliendele Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) Tanzania for rust or shuttle breeding between WCA and ESA to speed up generation advance.


cowpeaThe program has been in existence for more than 50 years and Program Improvement Plans for immediate follow-up include:

  • Recruitment of an additional breeder and postdoctoral researchers for molecular breeding and host plant resistance entomologist, etc.
  • Upgradation of facilities for aphid infestation and drought. Improve irrigation systems and screen houses
  • Optimization of breeding workflow to reduce cycle time and increased use of molecular tools in collaboration with University of California Riverside (UCR)
  • Ensure genetic purity and integrity at all stages of the pipeline
  • Farm/plot mechanization.

Common Bean

beanThe common bean program intends to address three pipelines:

  • Drought, low phosphorus (P) and low nitrogen (N) tolerance
  • High mineral iron (Fe) and zinc (Zn) lines
  • Insect pests bean stem maggot and bruchids, and disease resistance (angular leaf spot, common bacterial blight and bean common mosaic virus)

The other key traits include cooking time and yield.

Program Improvement Plans for immediate follow-up includes

  • Speed – aiming at four generations per year in Uganda – SSD for fast generation advance, plot mechanization including planters and harvesters
  • Increase number of crosses to 100 per year; handle up to 5,000 – 10,000 lines per year; use BMS and molecular tools
  • Quality phenotyping
    • Uniformity of fields
  • DNA marker technology
    • Use the CGIAR common genotyping facility at ICRISAT or Intertek genotyping platform
    • Better use of data in decision making
  • Improve irrigation facility (solar powered)
  • Already using electronic data capture tools; increase use of automated data collection.


untitled-2For chickpea, key challenges include Fusarium wilt, ascochyta and pod borers. The program in Ethiopia has a target to increase production by 50% by 2020.  Researchers will focus on working with partners to identify quantitative trait loci (QTL) for the meeting the challenges mentioned above. Program Improvement Plans to address these constraints include the following:

  • Increase the crossing capability of the program (up to 50 crosses per year) and widening the genetic pool by requesting new germplasm from the genebank in India
  • Use SSD for fast generation advance, aim at 2-3 generations per year
  • Use BMS and molecular tools
  • Quality phenotyping
  • Uniformity of fields
  • Use electronic data capture tools; increase use of automated data collection.

Way forward

All partners expressed satisfaction that the BPAT exercise added value to their programs. Dr Jeff Ehlers, Senior Program Officer, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, commented that BPAT can be used in an advocacy role: pushing national programs and CGIAR centers to deliver more efficiently.

Dr David Bergvinson, Director General, ICRISAT, said that BPAT assessment should be extended to other locations as well. Dr Moses Siambi, Regional Director- ESA, emphasized on the need to increase production and productivity of the four key legumes under TL III in order to meet the high demand in project focus geographies. “With our integrated efforts we not only need to enable smallholders to move from subsistence farming to marketable surplus production but also ensure better nutrition and health,” he said.

Dr Ehlers commended the partners’ effort for bringing in a real change in mindset and thinking of NARS and other partners and he also appreciated the visible efforts of incorporating the outcomes of the BPAT for improving the breeding programs. He also suggested the need to have the benchmark studies and document the reports on the genetic gains in key breeding programs.

Dr Rajeev Varshney, Research Program Director – Genetic Gains, ICRISAT, encouraged the partners to utilize the ICRISAT genotyping platform/high throughput phenotyping and genotyping facility. He urged the Crop Improvement Breeding and Genetic Gains units of ICRISAT to work closely for better integration of the breeding activities and genomics.

The workshop on ‘Increasing the Genetic Gains of Project Partner Breeding Programs’ was held from 1-2 September at Nairobi, Kenya.

Project: Tropical Legumes III

Investor: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Partners: CIAT, IITA, and NARS partners from sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

CGIAR Research Program: Grain Legumes

This work contributes to UN Sustainable Development Goal  

1 Response

  1. Pingback : BPAT review of ICRISAT breeding programs – BPAT

Leave a Reply

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

You are donating to : $50 for 50 campaign

How much would you like to donate?
Would you like to make regular donations? I would like to make donation(s)
How many times would you like this to recur? (including this payment) *
Name *
Last Name *
Email *
Additional Note