The 5Gs of genomics are vital to accelerate crop breeding

ICRISAT scientist joins in for webinar series

Genomics-assisted crop breeding technology can help advance crop improvement at an accelerated pace to ensure food security for a growing population and changing climate. This was emphasized during an online lecture: ‘5Gs for Climate Smart Agriculture’ during a recent webinar series.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has brought most activities to a standstill, efforts towards lifelong learning and knowledge sharing still goes on, thanks to accessible and affordable internet and telecommunication technologies. The above presentation by Dr Rajeev K Varshney, Research Program Director Genetic Gains, ICRISAT, was part of a webinar series on ‘Applications of Omics in climate smart agriculture’.

Correlating crop improvement technology to other modern technologies, Dr Varshney began by citing the rapid growth in the past few decades in mobile technology, going from from 1G (2.4 kbps, 1980) to 5G (10 Gbps, 2020) ultimately covering 66% of the total world population.

A similar acceleration in the pace of crop improvement is needed to meet the future demand to feed the ever-growing population. Food security has become a major challenge in the wake of climate change and burgeoning world population. Therefore, it is imperative to use advanced technologies in breeding as 5G is being used in cellular technologies.

Dr Varshney shared success stories from ICRISAT and its partner institutes on the release of 5 improved crop varieties as a result of genomics-assisted breeding. These varieties included: Chickpea: Geletu in Ethiopia and Pusa (BMG) 10216 and Super Annigeri-1 in India and Groundnut: 2 High oleic groundnut varieties.

Dr Varshney based his presentation on a recently published paper in Current Opinion in Plant Biology Journal on “5G for crop genetic improvement” (Current Opinion in Plant Biology 2020, 56:190–196, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pbi.2019.12.004), by him and his team from ICRISAT CEGSB together with partners. He highlighted the role of 5Gs: Genomes, Germplasm, Genes, Genomic breeding and Gene editing and their seamless integration into crop improvement programs to enhance the crop yield to feed the increasing population.

Dr Varshney delivering online lecture during webinar organized by MPKV, Rahuri. Photo: CEGSB

Dr Varshney delivering online lecture during webinar organized by MPKV, Rahuri. Photo: CEGSB

The key takeaway of the lecture was that a comprehensively applied ‘5G’ breeding plan can enhance the precision, efficiency and effectiveness of breeding programs to develop climate-resilient, high-yielding and nutritious varieties, while delivering a high rate of genetic gain, including in developing countries where these gains are most needed.

Dr Varshney’s lecture was part of the webinar series ‘Applications of Omics in climate smart agriculture’, organized by ICAR-National Agricultural Higher Education Project (NAHEP), Centre for Advanced Agricultural Science and Technology (CAAST) for Climate Smart Agriculture and Water Management (CSAWM), Mahatma Phule Krishi Vidyapeeth, Rahuri, during 30 April 30–2 May 2020. Dr Varshney’s lecture was attended by over 700 participants spanning across India and from abroad. It was followed by a valedictory session attended by Chief Guest, Dr TR Sharma, Deputy Director General (Crop Science), ICAR, who appreciated the efforts of Dr K P Viswanatha, Vice Chancellor, MPKV, Rahuri, for training next-generations scientists, even during the lockdown period. He highlighted the role and evolution of genomic sequencing technologies for crop improvement.

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