PROGRESS IN FP4: Variety and Hybrid Development – 2018

This Flagship seeks to establish multi-location testing sites, enhance the rate of genetic gain in crop breeding and testing pipelines, modernize the CGIAR and National Agricultural Research and Extension System (NARES) crop breeding programs and replicate successful seed systems such as those of pearl millet in India and cowpea in Nigeria to achieve two Flagship level outcomes. These include: (1) new varieties and allied innovations improving productivity and production, agribusiness and stabilize food supply, and (2) robust and responsive global to national breeding systems produce and deliver novel varieties and allied innovations at appropriate scale and scope. These outcomes contribute to two Program level outcomes: (1) expanded, resilient, and inclusive production, value chain, trading, and consumption of nutritious grain legumes and dryland cereals in target countries, and (2) improved capacity and inclusivity of agri-food system stakeholders to collaboratively develop innovations that respond to the needs of the women, men, and youth in GLDC-based livelihoods and value chains.

Multi-location testing and national testing were carried out to commercialize 73 cultivars: chickpea (11), pigeonpea (3), groundnut (25), cowpea (2), soybean (6), lentil (4), sorghum (6), pearl millet (10) and finger millet (6) breeding lines that were developed under Phase 1 of the CRP in 16 countries of SA and SSA ( The commercialization of new cultivars and their adoption contributes to expanded, resilient and inclusive production, value addition, trading and consumption of nutritious grain legumes and dryland cereals in the target countries. Engagement with the private seed sector, including small- and medium-seed companies through Crop Network Groups (CNGs) were enhanced to deliver seeds of new varieties to farmers and achieve expanded production of climate resilient and nutritious GLDC crops. A CNG is a Platform for Crop Product Design, development, testing and delivery involving multi-disciplinary engagement by NARS, CGIAR, NGOs, Advanced Research Institutes (ARIs), private seed and processing sectors, etc. The platform also meets the continuous capacity building needs and technical support to enhance the genetic gain and operational efficiencies of crop breeding programs, and is thus important for modernizing crop breeding programs of the CGIAR and NARS. CNGs collaboratively develop innovations through engagement of agri-food system stakeholders of GLDC crop commodities.

To enhance genetic gains, crop breeding programs are implementing efficient nursery management and multi-location testing to make advancement decisions. Pan-African multi-location testing by IITA and Soybean Innovation Lab (SIL), and Sorghum and Groundnut varietal trials in WCA by Innovation and Varietal Improvement in West Africa (IAVAO) network are some examples of the multi-location testing by CNGs.

Crop biofortification has been mainstreamed in some crop breeding programs that significantly contribute to the Program level outcome on increased consumption of nutritious GLDC crops. Biofortified cultivars of sorghum, pearl millet, finger millet and lentil are being commercialized. Biofortified varieties in sorghum (Parbhani Shakti in India), lentil (Barimasur 9 in Bangladesh and Khajuro Masuro 4 in Nepal), and pearl millet (EUFM 403 in Kenya) were released during 2018.

Crop cultivar segmentation to meet specific markets and/or nutrition needs are opening up opportunities for entrepreneurship among youth and women.  Value addition of biofortified lentils is driving women enterprises in Ethiopia and soybean variety Favour with its high protein content is driving youth and women enterprises to supply to school feeding programs in Uganda. Similarly, machine harvestable chickpea and lentils offer youth enterprise opportunities to use machines. Varieties such as that of high oleic groundnut that meet the needs of specific processing industry and now in national testing in India, are preferred by industry for its increased shelf-life. These benefits will drive new value chains and strengthen seed systems to meet the seed needs of these specific cultivars.

Improved genetics for climate resilience is a key delivery that contributes to the Program Outcome of expanded and resilient production of grain legumes and dryland cereals. Adaptation to water deficit stress is the most important adaptation trait targeted for eight crop commodities and heat tolerance is critical for expanding production across seasons, and emerging areas such as off-season pearl millet cultivation in WCA and SA that exposes the crop to high temperature at flowering. Heat tolerance in chickpea and pearl millet breeding pipelines was mainstreamed in South Asia for specific target sites, and breeding for low nutrient adaptation was targeted in crops like cowpea and groundnut. Early maturity as a mechanism to escape water deficit stress was targeted in GLDC crop commodities. Hence, super-early pigeonpea cultivars and early-maturing (60 days) cowpea cultivars are currently being tested. Genotypes with high transpiration efficiency (TE) under high vapor pressure deficit (VPD) in sorghum were used for developing drought-tolerant sorghum hybrids with high biomass yields.

This Flagship collaborated with Flagship 5 to deploy diagnostic SNP markers. This included rust resistance in soybean, aphid and bacterial blight resistance in cowpea, one of the FAD2B mutant alleles conferring high oleic trait in groundnut, two major QTLs conferring resistance to late leaf spot and rust diseases in groundnut, and hybrid purity testing in pigeonpea. The Soybean Innovation Lab, University of California (for cowpea) and University of Georgia (for the FAD2B mutant allele in groundnut) have made valuable contributions in deploying diagnostic markers in these crops. Flagship 4 is also collaborating with Flagships 1 and 2 to design Crop Product Profiles, and the inputs from Flagship 1 on drivers of adoption will enable Flagship 4 to engage with stakeholders to deliver improved genetics of GLDC crops. Genomic selection model using rad-GBS and y-GBS for use in hybrid pearl millet with Flagship 5 has been initiated.

While there have been no major course corrections, the crop breeding program needed better phenotyping tools for diseases, quality traits, and low nutrient efficiency. Hotspot screening for diseases failed sometimes, warranting precise screening methods under field or controlled conditions at the crop breeding stations.  As fodder quality is a key trait in most Product Profiles of GLDC crops, a collaboration with ILRI was initiated to systematically deploy fodder quality testing in breeding and testing pipelines of sorghum, pearl millet, finger millet and groundnut. The groundnut breeding program at Mali set up NIRS for quality assessment and the cowpea program in Nigeria identified a hotspot at the NARES site to test for P-efficiency.

Adoption and impacts of improved chickpea varieties in Myanmar

ICRISAT and the Department of Agricultural Research (DAR), Myanmar, have had strong collaborations in chickpea breeding.  All but one variety released in Myanmar are from breeding materials supplied by ICRISAT. The data provided by the Department of Agriculture (DOA) suggests that 96% of the chickpea area in 2017-18 was under the five improved varieties developed through ICRISAT-DAR partnership research. These varieties and their share in coverage are:  Yezin 3 (ICCV 2) – 36%; Yezin 4 (ICCV 82028) – 14%; Yezin 6 (ICCV 92944) – 28%; Yezin 8 (ICCV 97314) – 17% and Yezin 11 (ICCV 01309) – 1%. Myanmar has witnessed a chickpea revolution during the past two decades as production increased nearly eightfold (from 67,000 tons in 1998 to 527,000 tons in 2017) due to 300% increase in area (101,000 to 376,000 ha) and doubling of productivity (660 to 1,400 kg/ha). The country is now the third largest producer of chickpea after India and Australia, with most of the area under improved varieties produced through DAR-ICRISAT collaboration. Consequently, Myanmar has emerged as a major exporter of chickpea.

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