Empowering young scientists with new skills to develop genomic-assisted climate-resilient crops

A recent training course sought to enable young scientists, professors and breeders in the area of genomics-assisted crop breeding for climate-resilient agriculture. The participants were from partner institutes both from the public and private sector.

“It is the need of the hour to embrace, adopt and integrate genomics technologies along with other modern science tools and practices such as big data, precision agriculture, remote sensing, etc. to cope with impact of climate change resulting into extreme weather conditions and affecting crop production and productivity”, said Prof Praveen Rao, Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jayashankar Telangana State Agricultural University, Chief Guest at the training course  inaugural event.

Dr Rajeev Varshney, Director- Research Program Genetic Gains, and Principal Investigator of AdaptNET project at ICRISAT, said, “Availability of genomics tools and technologies is not a challenge anymore, but the crop breeder should be empowered with scientific acumen to decide which tools to use and integrate in their crop improvement program to accelerate development and delivery of climate-resilient crops.”

“Such training courses help to collate and adopt modern day tools available with different partners in the interest of developing climate-resilient crops and in addressing the issue of food and nutrition security,” said Dr Peter Carberry, Director General, ICRISAT. He also delivered an engaging science talk on “Realism in managing climate change and variability and role of crop improvement”, and gave five takeaway points:

  • Agriculture’s narrative is one of success
  • Future challenge must be met with research as a major source of innovation
  • Smallholder farmers and consumers need to benefit from innovation
  • Risk-mitigation practices, tools and policies necessary along the full agrifood system
  • With South-South collaboration, India’s success should be leveraged in Africa.

“New technologies have the potential to supplement and boost conventional plant breeding,” said Dr PK Gupta, Honorary Emeritus Professor, CCSU Meerut & INSA Honorary Scientist, delivering the keynote lecture “Climate Resilient Crops for food & Nutrition Security in Post-Genomics Era: A Challenge”.

A one-day international workshop was conducted as part of the training course with a panel discussion on “Way forward for climate-resilient agriculture”, chaired by Prof Swapan Datta, Ex-Vice Chancellor, Visva-Bharati University and former, DDG- CCS, Indian Council of Agricultural Research, Govt of India. Summarizing the deliberations of the panel discussions, Dr Datta said, “A smart decision needs to be made by our crop breeders for developing climate-smart crops while ensuring that we minimize the cost of R&D, time of delivery and increased genetic gains.”

Deliberations were led by eminent panelists including Dr NP Singh, Director, ICAR-Indian Council of Pulses Research; Dr T Radhakrishnan, Director, Directorate of Groundnut Research; Dr Tara Satyavathi, Project Coordinator, All India Coordinated Research Project on Pearl Millet, and Dr.Rajeev Varshney.

Q&A Session during Dr Peter Carberry’s presentation. Photo: B Anjaiah

Dr Yogendra S Verma, President, R&D, Kaveri Seed Co Pvt Ltd, expressed confidence that the training would empower breeders with new knowledge and skills to ultimately improve breeding programs and help develop climate-resilient, market-ready crops.

The week-long “Fifteenth Training Course and International Workshop on Next Generation Genomics for Developing Climate Resilient Agriculture”, was organized by ICRISAT’s Center of Excellence in Genomics and Systems Biology (CEGSB) and supported by project co-PIs Ms Anu Chitikineni and Mr Nilesh Mishra, as part of the AdaptNET project funded by the European Union’s Erasmus+ program.

More than 60 participants from AdaptNET partner institutes and Kaveri Seed Company Limited, India attended this training course held from 10-15 February 2020. National and international invited speakers including Prof Eric von Wettberg, The University of Vermont, USA; Dr Bunyamin Tar’an, University of Saskatchewan, Canada; Dr Lee Hickey, The University of Queensland, Australia; and Dr Yusaku Uga, NARO, Japan.

Project: AdaptNET “Strengthening education, research and innovation for climate-smart crops in India” an ERASMUS+ CAPACITY BUILDING project

Funder: ERASMUS+ program of the European Union

Partners: The Agricultural University of Athens, Greece coordinates this project with seven other executing partners (Assam Agriculture University; Tezpur University; University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad; ICRISAT; Academy of Athens; University of Milano and Polytechnic University of Marche) and two associated partners (SPREADNE and Ecosystems).

CGIAR Research Program: Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals

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