“There are no good crops without good seeds. Seeds are the foundation of agri-food systems. We rely on seeds to produce food, feed, fibre, fuel and they contribute to a friendly environment,” emphasized Dr QU Dongyu, Director General, FAO, in his opening remark while inaugurating FAO’s Global Conference on Green Development of Seed Industries held during 4-5 November 2021.
Echoing Dr Dongyu’s views and underlining the role of advanced scientific approaches for development of quality seeds and improved crop varieties, Dr Rajeev Varshney, Research Program Director-Accelerated Crop Improvement, ICRISAT, highlighted ICRISAT’s work in this direction.
During a session he co-chaired on modern plant breeding technologies, Dr Varshney spoke about Fast-forward Breeding and Rapid Delivery Systems for international agriculture.
“Genomics-assisted breeding (GAB) has been contributing in developing many genomics resources and in identification of markers associated with several traits in legume crops. GAB has delivered several improved varieties of peanut (for high nutrition), chickpea (for drought tolerance and fusarium resistant varieties) and pigeonpea, with many more in pipeline,” he said.
“To further accelerate these efforts, fast-forward breeding framework including haplotype-based breeding, genomic prediction in combination with speed breeding needs to be deployed and more importantly, rapid delivery systems should be in place to get the technology and improved seeds to smallholder farmers,” added Dr Varshney, who was a member of the conference’s scientific advisory panel and co-Leads for one of its theme.
Emphasizing the views of representatives from Pan-African Farmers Organization, CGIAR, NARS, seed federations, NGOs and others on demand-driven research and innovation being key to finding proper seed solutions, Ms Beth Bechdol, Deputy Director General, FAO, stressed the role of farmers by saying, “In developing future seed systems farmers must be partners and not beneficiaries.”
The two-day conference aimed to provide a forum for its members, partners, industry, opinion leaders and other stakeholders to engage in focused dialogues on how best to make quality seeds of preferred productive, nutritious and resilient crop varieties available to farmers. Senior government representatives from several FAO member nations, including the US, China, Netherlands, Argentina, South Africa and Egypt participated.
The event also aimed to generate evidence for actions towards the realization of the goals of FAO’s Strategic Framework 2022-31: for the transformation to more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable agri-food systems for better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life, thus contributing to achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially SDGs 1 and 2.
The recording of the session chaired by Dr Varshney is accessible here.