PROGRESS IN FP4: Variety and Hybrid Development – 2021

An estimated 43% of area of 9 GLDC crop in 13 target countries was grown to improved varieties, of which 20.5 million ha was under improved GLDC crop varieties where an estimated 21.9 million smallholder farmers adopted improved GLDC crops in the target countries. The estimated number of farm households that have adopted improved GLDC varieties exceeds the target for 2022 by about 13 million. Commercialization of biofortified cultivars of sorghum, pearl millet, lentil, and groundnut during 2018-2020, and the positive response from the public and private sector stakeholders for scaling up provided impetus to development of biofortified varieties of these GLDC crops. ICRISAT was awarded the 2021 Africa Food Prize for work that has improved food security across 13 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, and recognized ICRISAT led collaborations between 2007-2019 that helped over 25 million smallholder farmers become more resilient to climate change.

The GLDC cultivar development, testing and release focused on design of the Target Product Profiles (TPP) for specific market segments, and deployment of innovations in cultivar development and testing to enhance the rate of genetic gain. Partnership with small- and medium-seed companies and public sector enabled delivery of the improved seed of GLDC crops in target countries.  The Hybrid Parent Research Consortia (HPRCs) and Crop Network Groups (CNGs) played a major role in stakeholder engagement for GLDC crops in Asia and Africa.

The GLDC cultivars combined production, market and consumer traits that contribute to nutritional security, climate resilience, drive new value chains, promote employment opportunities among the youth and women, and environmental sustainability. Five biotic and abiotic stress tolerant cultivars of groundnut (2) [UG 116 (ICGV 03063), Kalinga Groundnut 101 (ICGV 02266)], and chickpea (3) [NBeG 857 (ICCV 13117), GJGK 1617 (ICCV 15303), and GLK 17301 (ICCV 171301)] were commercialized in 2021 in India, and a medium maturing pigeonpea cultivar [Ashenafi (ICEAP 00554)] was released in Ethiopia by Arba Minch Agricultural Research Centre. Besides, 10 dwarf sorghum cultivars were integrated in crop-livestock production system in WCA.

To enhance the rate of genetic gain and enhanced operational efficiency in GLDC crops, several innovation were deployed in crop breeding and testing pipelines that  include; (1) scaling up of speed breeding at ICRISAT and ICARDA for chickpea and lentil to reduce the breeding cycle time, (2) market segmentation of GLDC crops was done to design Target Product Profiles (TPP), (3) the breeding and testing pipelines organized in stage-gate system at IITA engaging multi-disciplinary teams, (4) establishment of product manager’s roles to institutionalized Multi-Environment Testing (MET) by combining advanced analytical tools for data analysis and decision making, (5) deployment of seed-chip genotyping in groundnut (ICRISAT) and chickpea (ICARDA) to enhance the operational efficiency by circumventing the need to collect leaf samples and plant tagging, and (6) CT-imaging tools for gain physical quality assessment.  Preliminary analysis of 240 Stage 1 and 2 trials at ICRISAT conducted in 72 environments in India and Myanmar revealed a genetic gain of 0.4 to 1.5 for yield in different breeding pipelines. Crop wise and market segment wise selection index was developed to select the lines for next stage. To improve the quality of testing, 34 tablets for data recording, 37 weighing balances, and 10 moisture meters were supplied to partners in Asia.

A workshop was organised on Demand Driven and Gender Responsive product profile development for groundnut, pearl millet and sorghum during 21-25 June 2021 to help gain an depth understanding of the target customers, production constraints and opportunities that diverse types of farmers face, and those that may develop in the future.

In partnership with the AVISA project funded by BMGF and implemented by three CG centers (ICRISAT, IITA and CIAT) and seven NARS programs (Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali and Nigeria) under the leadership of ICRISAT, 942 demonstrations, 101 field days, 29 agricultural shows/seed fairs, 64 TV/Radio shows and distributed a total of 79785 small seed packs and 710 ISSFM kits of improved varieties of GLDC crops. These awareness creation and promotional activities enabled the project to reach about 16.5 million farmers in seven countries during 2021. This co-investment by the CRP-GLDC and AVISA resulted in the production of 444.9 ton of Breeder Seeds, 6,424.6 ton of Foundation Seeds and 66,359.9 ton of Certified/QDS Seeds through innovative seed production and delivery models through active participation of women and youth together with private sector seed companies.

In Tanzania, women participation in the production and delivery of seed of sorghum and groundnut cultivars was enhanced by targeting women-led seed enterprises, women seed producer groups (supported through business plan development), new business linkages, business de-risking and awareness creation activities, deliberate outreach to women with quality seed through small seed pack, participation in technology demonstrations and field days. Further, on farm trials under the Pan African Soybean Trials were done in Rwanda, Ghana and Uganda where a total of 6,000 small seed packs for the Pan African Variety trials and 2 ton of Foundation seed were distributed to the Private Seed companies.

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