Unlocking the full potential of genetics gains

Participants in group discussion on strategies to integrate across programs. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

Participants in group discussion on strategies to integrate across programs. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

Strategies to integrate activities across research programs, and promoting collaboration and integration among scientists, were some of the key aspects discussed during the recently held Planning and Strategy Meeting of the Genetic Gains Research Program. This objective was to harness synergies for efficient use of resources, and assess needs and opportunities to develop a road map for the Genetic Gains Research Program in collaboration with other research programs.

The three regional programs – Western and Central Africa; Eastern and Southern Africa and Asia –highlighted how they can contribute by identifying 3-5 research focus areas planned by theme and crop wise research activities. Every region emphasized on strengthening the data management strategy.

Proceedings and revised work plans of the scientists would be developed based on the discussions of this meeting. It was also decided to go for joint proposal development and funding opportunities.

Dr David Bergvinson, Director General, ICRISAT, addressing the gathering via videoconferencing from Seattle, emphasized on the need to figure out a mechanism to unlock the full potential of the Genetic Gains Research Program that went beyond traditional yield improvement and trait identification, to identifying better markets and improved nutrition for smallholder farmers.

An overview of the Genetics Gains Research Program provided the participants an insight into different activities across the themes namely: Genebank, Genomics and Trait Discovery, Cell, Molecular Biology and Genetic Engineering, Pre-breeding, Forward Breeding, Seed Systems and Statistics, Bioinformatics and Data Management. This enabled participants across regions have a better understanding and look for opportunities to integrate and share resources. It was decided that each theme will work in close coordination with the regional programs.

Participants from across the regions were split into two groups, Cereals and Legumes, to brainstorm on how a particular theme will contribute towards enhancing genetic gains. The groups identified the following: key research areas for each theme, focus traits and gaps, long- and short-term goals and approaches for better integration across themes and research programs.

For ICRISAT mandate crops the following were identified as opportunities to bridge the gaps: disease resistance; drought resistance; iron/zinc enhancement; fodder quality; adaptation to low levels of soil Phosphorous; nutritional quality traits; mechanical harvesting; oil content; etc.

Other common issues identified across the regions were primarily in seed systems: low participation of private sector; a need to understand the functioning of the informal seed systems; low seed replacement rate, etc.

The 2-day meeting held during 25-26 May at ICRISAT-India was attended by more than 80 participants from across the regions.

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