The Importance of Haiti
The SMIL project team in Haiti developed a genomics-assisted breeding program that is now producing benefits for smallholder farmers in Haiti and benefits for the US sorghum industry.
Sorghum is grown by 32.5% of the smallholder farmers in Haiti and represents the 2nd largest cereal crop acreage. It is the main cereal crop grown during the autumn season and is essential to households’ food security as it is the only cereal in Haiti harvested during the dry season. Sorghum is the preferred cereal crop in the drought prone sub-humid or semi-arid regions.
What started as a project focused on genomics-assisted sorghum breeding has evolved into a larger project in Haiti, focused on durable adaptation to sugarcane aphid and drought for smallholder sorghum breeders. The project in Haiti aims to develop genomic approaches in partnership with the National Agricultural Research System (NARS). Specifically, improved genomic-assisted selection approaches are being deployed to address several key constraints for dual-purpose sorghum used by smallholder farmers.
This network made available globally important genetic markers that identify host-plant tolerance to the sugarcane aphid. Building upon this advance, our global research network developed new aphid resistance marker technology to further reduce aphid damage and mitigate the possibility that the RMES1 gene is overcome by the aphid. This technology has generated important spillover benefits to the US private sector and to other breeding programs in Latin America and beyond.
SMIL in Haiti
Pyramiding the greenbug resistance in Haiti, we were able to identify genes that are responsible for sugarcane aphid tolerance. So we did it, and that is extremely rewarding that we're able to harvest the state-of-the-art techniques that we use routinely in high-income countries and within agribusiness, and apply them to these conditions, which are not optimal for everybody. By creating this network and these partnerships, everybody is engaged and everybody holds each other accountable.