Dr Govindaraj guiding other sorghum researchers through the field. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

Sorghum scientists from public and private sectors across India gather to share insights on modern breeding technologies

Dr Govindaraj guiding other sorghum researchers through the field. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

Dr Govindaraj guiding other sorghum researchers through the field. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

Continuing a long-standing partnership with sorghum scientists across institutes in India, a long-overdue field day showcased elite breeding lines, varieties, hybrids and hybrid parental lines of sorghum at ICRISAT Hyderabad. Proceeding with all necessary precautions in place as per our COVID-19 guidelines, participants shared valuable insights on the progressive evolution in sorghum breeding with modern tools and technologies that enabled better efficiencies in breeding and selection.

Welcoming sorghum researchers from the public and private sectors across the country, Dr Harish Gandhi, Theme Lead, Crop Improvement, and Interim Global Head–Breeding, highlighted inclusion of new areas in sorghum research agendas. Citing the implementation of focused product profiles as high priority for ICRISAT’s breeding program, he said that apart from being considered a food grain, sorghum should be looked at for other uses too e.g. fodder, brewery etc.

Several partners and participants joined the event virtually. Among them was Dr Vilas Tonapi, Director, Indian Institute of Millets Research (IIMR), who emphasized a holistic and focused approach to mitigate the issues in sorghum e.g. grain mold in rainy season sorghum, which has led to the decline in the sorghum rainy season area; grain quality in new hybrids/varieties in postrainy sorghum to improve the acceptability by farmers, etc. Besides, he underlined the importance of growing forage and biofuel segments in the rainy and postrainy seasons. He also appreciated ICRISAT for using new diverse germplasm lines in hybrid parental line development and its diversification.

Dr Arvind Kumar, Deputy Director-General Research, ICRISAT, said, “This sorghum field day is the first official event that we’ve held after starting 100% work back in the workplace.” Hailing the public-private partnership breeding approach, he congratulated the sorghum team and partners, and hoped for continued collaboration to make a difference in delivering breeding traits germplasm and more int eh future.

Dr M Govindaraj, Senior Scientist, Sorghum Breeding,  led the group to postrainy breeding fields, presenting field plans and pipeline materials at various generations (~2000) and their trait specificity to participants to enable them to make appropriate selections. He emphasized the new method (chemically induced male sterility) that his team is validating to estimate the combining ability of sorghum B-line breeding pipelines and drone phenotyping with the support of the Excellence in Breeding Platform (EiB) through Dr Vincent Vadez (IRD, France).  He recalled how in 2020, with great support from Dr Peter Carberry, then-Director General, CIOT staff, and other Theme Leads, critical breeding materials were harvested during the lockdown period and were now being displayed.

Participants of the sorghum field day on the last day. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

Participants of the sorghum field day on the last day. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

Dr Rajan Sharma, Cereal Pathologist, ICRISAT, briefed the participants on sorghum pathology screening, while Dr Jaba Jagadeesh Scientist, Integrated Crop Management, ICRISAT showed them around the insect pest screening facility. Dr Vetriventhan, Senior Scientist, Genebank, ICRISAT, explained sorghum germplasm diversity and elite germplasm, while the high-throughput early drought screening (LeasyScan) facility was explained by Drs Sunita and Sivashakti, Crop Physiologists, ICRISAT.

The Sorghum Scientists Field day was conducted support from the Sorghum Hybrid Parents Research Consortium (SHPRC), on 8 and 11 March 2021. A total of 23 scientists from the public and private sectors attended this meet which included 16 on-field participants and seven virtual participants. Due to current restrictions on travel owing to the ongoing pandemic, several other researchers from out of town were unable to attend in person.

Click here to watch a video on https://youtu.be/ub1e5ig23pY

Partners: Indian Institute of Millets Research (IIMR); Professor Jayashankar Telangana State Agricultural University (PJTSAU); Hytech Seeds Pvt Ltd; Classic Seeds Pvt Ltd; Super Seeds Pvt Ltd; UPL India Ltd; Rasi Seeds; KD Seeds; and ICRISAT.

For more on our work in sorghum, please click here

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