Highlighting the focused drive to modernize its crop breeding programs, ICRISAT is setting up three Advanced Regional Crop Improvement Hubs in India, Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) and Western and Central Africa (WCA). This includes new roles and appointments designed to push this effort.
These changes are among others – digitalization of breeding programs, mechanization/automation of seed inventory systems, greater role of genomics and data analytics for selection accuracy, infrastructure and technology development etc. – aimed at streamlining crop improvement operations for enhancing productivity and accelerating varietal development.
Among the new staff positions is a Product Placement Lead, who will work closely with scientists from various research programs at ICRISAT as well as with national and private partners to understand key seed variety/hybrid product needs to further refine product profiles.
Dr Ashok Kumar, previously Principal Scientist, Sorghum Breeding, is now the Product Placement Lead for Asia. He will also be responsible for establishing structured multi-location testing networks at partner sites in Asia. In association with the local Breeding Lead and the Excellence in Breeding Platform, he will set up processes for advancing suitable products through the various stages and gates.
Considering the importance of biofortified crops in combating malnutrition in the drylands, biofortification will now form an integral part of the pearl millet breeding program. This mainstreaming of biofortified pearl millet material will be headed by Dr SK Gupta, Principal Scientist, Pearl Millet Breeding, and the work will be done in collaboration with HarvestPlus. Dr Gupta will develop and execute a strategy to integrate the iron- and zinc-biofortified material with the main breeding program and allow wider access of biofortified pearl millet to the partners. He will be working with
Dr M Govindaraj, Senior Scientist, Sorghum Breeding; Dr Harish Gandhi, Regional Breeding Lead, Asia; and Dr Jan Debaene, Global Head, Breeding. In his earlier role, Dr Govindaraj led the ICRISAT-HarvestPlus pearl millet program and developed a pipeline of biofortified pearl millet breeding material and hybrids.