Excellence in Breeding
The CGIAR Excellence in Breeding Platform (EiB) contributed to the modernization of crop breeding programs that target the Global South.
In 2021, the Platform made significant progress toward accelerating transformative change across CGIAR and National Agricultural Research and Extension Systems (NARES) breeding. EiB worked toward the high-level goals of increased rates of genetic gain and reduced area weighted average age of varieties in farmers’ fields.
To reach these goals, EiB took on leadership, coordination, and support roles to drive adoption and implementation of improvements and best practices.
For the first time in CGIAR history, in 2021 EiB developed a complete portfolio of CGIAR’s 142 breeding pipelines across 22 crops.
For the first time in CGIAR history, in 2021 EiB developed a complete stock-take of CGIAR’s 142 breeding pipelines across 22 crops. Relevant market segments across crops were also defined in a standardized way, including an effort to describe the investment case for each individual pipeline. Together, this information will enable breeding investments to be aligned with potential for impact, readying CGIAR to positively affect millions of people in low- and middle-income countries.
Optimizing breeding programs across CGIAR
In 2021, EiB continued its progress toward the goal of optimizing breeding schemes to improve rates of genetic gain.
To increase genetic gains and variety turnover, the Platform developed innovations in research-related topics and tools, which include simulation, manuals, and other resources that are currently being implemented by breeding programs.
Researchers developed and communicated standardized methods for calculating realized genetic gains across all crops to all CGIAR breeding teams. In addition, each crop was supported to calculate its current and historic rates of realized genetic gains.
Despite COVID-related restrictions on travel, the Platform developed a stronger connection with its stakeholders during 2021. Researchers made progress documenting the breeding schemes from multiple programs and identified many improvements. These were simulated and transformed into recommendations, manuals, research papers, and tools, building on earlier work.
EiB researchers finished implementing better experimental designs in several Centers, including CIP, CIAT, IRRI, and IITA. The Platform helped such programs as IITA-cassava to better allocate their resources and maximize gains. Similarly, IRRI-rice implemented better designs to test more materials and CIP-potato implemented an optimal hybrid breeding strategy to select testers and pool formation.
EiB published three manuals and guidelines to optimize breeding schemes in 2021:
A library of simulation results and discussion of the implications for individual breeding programs is available in the EiB Toolbox. This year’s achievements are expected to lead to greater genetic gains, which will help CGIAR deliver on its outcomes.
The Platform launched CGIAR’s Breeding Informatics Network (BrIN) to enhance biometrics coordination. The network mitigates the risks of haphazard alignments and coordination among biometrics and bioinformatics units, breeding programs, and IT teams. BrIN has already developed systems and resources to harmonize and improve collaborative work, including landscape analysis, centralized project assets, and capacity development.
In 2021, EiB sustained and drove further adoption of shared genotyping services by CGIAR and NARES programs. Building on progress made in 2020, the Platform increased new capacity building efforts, genotyping platforms, and tools to improve partner use. Despite COVID challenges, EiB’s shared genotyping platforms have increasingly been taken up by CGIAR, NARES, and Advanced Research Institutions (ARIs), as demonstrated by the growing number of species and institutions supported.
Through the establishment of TrAiN (Training and Adoption Network), EiB coordinated the adoption of digitization equipment integrated across multiple software systems. TrAiN provided centralized support, coordination, and feedback to EiB, leading to improvements and purchase recommendations.
In 2021, EiB implemented new strategies to accelerate developing and adopting the Enterprise Breeding System (EBS), a data management system. These efforts included an assessment, as well as a new governance structure, management, decision-making roles, and features added to EBS.
The Platform’s development and promotion of a CGIAR/NARES collaborative breeding network was a major milestone in 2021.
The Platform’s development and promotion of a CGIAR/NARES collaborative breeding network was a major milestone in 2021. Various breeding networks initiated efforts to use the framework template for effectively allocating roles, responsibilities, and resources among partners.
EiB’s activities strengthened the breeding operation capacity for CGIAR/NARES through advisory services, equipment provision and capacity building programs. Progress was especially strong in Africa: the Platform completed outstanding phenotyping projects, finalized planning for irrigation infrastructure, and recruited regional breeding operation and mechanization specialists. EiB also launched the Breeding Operation Network for Development (BOND) program to support and connect breeding operation staff from different Centers. BOND’s launch included support programs, webinars, and improvement projects.
In 2021, EiB team significantly contributed to developing One CGIAR initiatives and transitioning to One CGIAR within the Genetic Innovation (GI) Area. The Platform also prepared CGIAR and NARES for the One CGIAR transition by implementing shared approaches, supporting multidisciplinary teams among breeders and other scientists from various disciplines, and prioritizing the high-level aim of replacing currently grown varieties rather than developing conceptual ideotypes.