To better accomplish its mission by providing improved crop varieties to smallholder farmers, ICRISAT is overhauling its breeding program with regional crop improvement hubs, improved inventory processes, new facilities and capacity building to make them more rapid, efficient and productive.
Crop breeding remains a key means of providing improved crop varieties to farmers across the world for better food and nutrition security. Especially, smallholder farmers in the drylands face unprecedented challenges today – increasing temperatures, decreasing yields, pest and disease outbreaks, unpredictable weather and so on. In this scenario, crop improvement programs serving smallholders in vulnerable regions need to improve the rate of genetic gain for staple crops in those regions.
At ICRISAT, crop scientists have always strived towards delivering higher genetic gains from the institute’s mandate crops – sorghum, pearl millet, finger millet, groundnut, chickpea and pigeonpea – through traditional breeding methods as well as by using modern technologies to achieve faster genetic gains.
Today, as global development partners and donors are looking towards organizations such as ICRISAT to help improve food security, it is even more critical to modernize breeding programs with improvements in product profiling, technology, capacity building and more.
With new infrastructure, experienced and dedicated personnel, data-driven digital platforms, molecular tools, changes are already in place in ICRISAT’s Asia and Africa breeding programs.
- Regional Crop Improvement Hubs in India, Zimbabwe and Mali – each with its own integrated Crop Improvement Operations Team
- A new facility for Rapid Generation Advancement in crops
- Process improvements in seed inventory systems, multi-location trials and in other steps in the breeding pipeline
- Capacity building of staff in tools/techniques, product profile development, data management, etc.
- Optimized breeding schemes.
There is much more to be done, though, and the possibilities are exciting. Continued support from donors and partners can help deliver great benefits in the form of demand-driven crop varieties that are high-yielding, climate-smart and nutritious.
Click here for a glance at the key milestones on ICRISAT’s journey towards upgrading of the breeding programs.