There is acute demand for more productive and nutritious crops in the developing world, as agrifood systems are strained by climate change and face rapidly increasing demographic pressure, as well as soil and natural resource degradation. Crop improvement can play a key role in addressing these challenges if breeding cycles can be drastically shortened and genetic gains (improvements in key variety characteristics) markedly increased through deployment of new technologies and breeding schemes.
Currently, some CGIAR and partner breeding programs and components of programs are lagging in the agile and cost-efficient deployment of effective technologies and practices in the breeding process. This negatively affects penetrance, uptake, and deployment of enabling technologies and methods, impacting breeding optimization and genetic gains, and ultimately farmers’ access to the best adapted, most nutritious and productive crop varieties.
This Initiative aims to define and provide access to best practices, enabling resources, and implementation support to increase the return on investment in breeding programs’ operations for their stakeholders.
Through the supported and scaled implementation of tried and tested innovations, this Initiative seeks to enable breeding programs to deliver better performing varieties to replace the obsolete ones in farmers’ fields at a faster rate and lower cost.
This will be achieved through:
- Operation of the Initiative across commodities, enabling capacity exchange among CGIAR and partner scientists to support the rapid evaluation, adaptation, and application of breeding innovations.
- Removing silos, promoting and enhancing cross-disciplinary exchange while securing a critical mass of knowledge and capacity within disciplines across the CGIAR-partner network.
- Dynamic and robust disciplinary groups, enabling innovation and implementation, as well as the recruitment and retention of excellence, fostering the next generation of leaders in crop improvement science and operations within CGIAR.
- Emphasis on the coordination and deployment of quality core services, from global to local level, enabling more effective and efficient incorporation of new technologies and methods simultaneously in multiple crops and pipelines.
- Building new connections among staff, creating a sense of shared ownership among all participants and fostering a culture of operational excellence and continuous improvement.
Proposed 3-year outcomes include:
- Breeding programs routinely and rapidly capture data, perform high quality streamlined analyses, and deploy appropriate visualization tools to make effective, data-driven breeding decisions. Data use is extended to routinely generate metrics of program effectiveness and health, guiding investment decisions and the planning and execution of continuous improvement plans.
- Breeders leverage scientific innovation to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of germplasm development. The continued definition and business case-based refinement of best practices together with access to enabling tools, services, and technical backstopping accelerates and scales the development, identification, and implementation of high value innovations across CGIAR-NARS (national agricultural research systems) networks.
- Breeding pipelines increase efficiency and effectiveness of product delivery through access to and use of germplasm hubs securing the generation of high quality, true-to-type source germplasm.
- Breeders improve the efficiency and effectiveness of germplasm evaluation within their pipelines through access to and use of harmonized, standardized trialing support services appropriate for the set of farms and future seasons in which the varieties they produce will be grown.
|POVERTY REDUCTION, LIVELIHOODS & JOBS
Facilitating a more efficient generation of highly productive, more resilient crop varieties ensures that poor smallholder farmers can increase production in the context of pest and disease pressure and climate change, mitigating the risk of crop losses and securing their investment.
|NUTRITION, HEALTH & FOOD SECURITY
Breeding programs increase their efficiency to deliver more productive and nutrient-dense crops, contributing to improved regional nutrition and health, especially for women and children, and improving lifespan.
|GENDER EQUALITY, YOUTH & SOCIAL INCLUSION
Efficient generation of gender-aware varieties increases wealth and nutrition of disadvantaged communities. Capacity reorganization and career specialization in the CGIAR-NARS network creates new work opportunities in the technology sector for more people, including women, youth, and disadvantaged minorities.
|CLIMATE ADAPTATION & MITIGATION
Accelerated genetic gains, or crop improvement, enables breeding programs to efficiently respond to climate change pressures, including through resistance to pests and diseases exacerbated by changing conditions. Increased productivity under adverse conditions ultimately contributes to feeding more people while reducing per capita resource use.
|ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH & BIODIVERSITY
Higher productivity and crop resilience enabled by improved genetics limit the expansion of agricultural land in regions with high demographic pressure and dwindling natural resources. Higher responsiveness to nutrient applications leads to healthier soils and reduced waterway contamination.
Header photo: Felistus Chipungu, an orange-fleshed sweet potato breeder and scientist with the International Potato Center (CIP), working at a CIP facility in Blantyre, Malawi. Photo by C. de Bode/CGIAR.