Global Genomics-Assisted Breeding Networks
Global genomics-assisted breeding networks are demonstrating tremendous impact.
These networks are leveraging unique capacities to accelerate the response of our National Agricultural Research System (NARS) partners to address their national sorghum and millet plant breeding goals.
These decentralized breeding networks based on the NARS, provide a platform where new waves of early career scientists can integrate their novel genomics tools and training into traditional breeding programs. Four decentralized, yet interdependent, platforms based on NARS capacity is in place in West Africa to provide sorghum breeders with a dynamic interface to respond to end-user trait demand and climate change adaptation. This network has strategically leveraged global genomics capacity with the in-country NARS traditional breeding program. This network has accelerated the pace of developing improved sorghum varieties as well as creating a pipeline for long-term product delivery.
A similar platform is being established along the pearl millet value chain through a research project led by Dr. Ndjido Kane (Director of CERAAS) “The Genetic Enhancement of Pearl Millet for Yield, Biotic and Abiotic Stress Tolerance in West Africa (GENMIL).” This NARS-led platform will enhance material sharing, germplasm evaluation, and the development of a network of breeders with on-farm co-creation breeding processes.
In Haiti, our program has had remarkable success through the creation of a platform that pairs the genomics mapping and bioinformatics capacity of land grant university departments with a traditional small country breeding program. This has been the basis for unique discoveries and a product development capacity to respond to the emerging smallholder demands linked to sugarcane aphid pressure, climate adaptation and end-use requirements in Haiti. The SMIL/USAID support to establish this global genomics-assisted breeding network has resulted in global access to unique sugarcane aphid (SCA)-resistant materials. This has benefited the U.S. sorghum industry, and a “no strings attached” private sector funding was provided by a U.S. seed company to further the SCA science.
This Haiti experience is one example of the SMIL/USAID program’s strategic support to cutting-edge research and a truly global genomics-assisted breeding network that is accelerating genetic exchange for the benefit of our USAID target countries/regions. This has provided tangible global good and key spill-in benefits to U.S. sorghum production.
The cross-continental exchange of genetic information among collaborating universities, research centers and other agricultural institutions is key to accessing the maximum potential of sorghum and millet.
Related SMIL Projects
- A research team supported by the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Sorghum and Millet (SMIL) helped rescue the cereal crop sorghum with fifty years of global research and new technology.
- Globally, there is great interest in applying new genomic technologies to accelerate genetic gains in developing country breeding programs. However, these methods have not been adopted in developing country level National Agricultural Research Institutes (NARI) due a mismatch between available genomic selection approaches and the existing operations of NARI breeding programs.
- The Sorghum Adaptation in West Africa with a Genomics-Enabled Breeding Network (SAWAGEN) is a unique network of national researchers, international collaborators and farmer organizations aimed at leveraging capacity to develop and deliver demand-driven improved varieties to farmers. It is built on four separate platforms – local adaptation breeding, genetic mapping research, physiological mapping research, and broad adaptation breeding – and links researchers across those platforms in a hypothesis-driven, goal-oriented research approach. The SAWAGEN spans Senegal, Burkina Faso, Togo and Niger and reinforces existing regional breeding network initiatives to further accelerate interdisciplinary solutions to key crop improvement challenges across the Sahel.