Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Four case studies on plant breeding now available online from the Global Partnership Initiative for Plant Breeding Capacity Building (GIPB)

1. Evolving a plant breeding and seed system in sub-Saharan Africa in an era of donor dependence
This report presents a review of the status of plant breeding in sub-Saharan Africa based on the snapshot studies of the production systems of rice, maize,cassava, beans and vegetables in three countries, Ghana, Kenya and Malawi. While detailing the progress that has been made over the years, the report portrays the constrained capacity of the public sector in providing resources for breeding programs. The report also highlights the critical importance of donor funding to agricultural research and development at the national, subregional and continental levels. Quite importantly, it is evident that sub-regional crop breeding networks have proved effective in linking research in international agricultural research centers (IARC) with available capacity in national programmes, a synergistic relationship that has led to the development and release of many improved crop varieties. Regarding the delivery of high quality seeds and planting materials of the improved varieties to growers, the report highlights inherent weaknesses. For instance, in general, the production of foundation seeds is not organized and lacks clear lines of responsibility and adequate investments to ensure sustainability. The emerging increasingly important roles of the private seed companies is envisaged to provide the needed complementarities to the work of the IARCs and thus ensure that new varieties are readily accessed by the growers through a responsive seed system architecture.

2. The Strategic Role of Plant Breeding in Uruguay: Analysis Through an Agricultural Innovation System Framework
This report details the adoption in Uruguay of an Agricultural Innovation System (AIS) in its crop production systems. This was a strategic means for enhancing competitiveness especially given its proximity to, and similarities with, Argentina and Brazil, two countries with relatively larger economies and greater technological advancements. The AIS framework highlights the situation of plant breeding as a major component in the dynamic interplay of the policy and economic environments that enable the contributions of the public and private sectors to agricultural productivity in the country. The report also showcases the leveraging of appropriate agricultural technologies and knowledge in the context of the AIS framework in Uruguay. Rice production, characterized by a farming system that is closely linked to livestock production in a rice-pasture system is presented as an example of the successful integration of crop production within an AIS framework. Other examples of competitive crop production systems functioning within the AIS framework in Uruguay include barley breeding for malt quality and disease resistance in response to the requirements of the malting industry. Wheat production, intended for export in a global market, is also highlighted as another example. The development of new and improved varieties of maize and soybean has been taken over by the private sector with soybean production being largely driven by Argentinian investments for the export market.

3. The Dynamic Tension between Public and Private Plant Breeding in Thailand
This case study reviews the history and current status of plant breeding and seed systems for maize, cassava and rice in Thailand. While the public sector plays a key role in providing human capital and research base, it fails to address the needs of rising competitiveness in the private sector. The private sector focuses on developing breeding programs for hybrid rice, maize and horticultural crops while the public sector continues its research on cassava and Jasmine rice in the rainfed and lowland ecologies. A major portion of Thai investments in agricultural research and development has been in the development of biotechnology capacities especially through university programs. The resulting enhancement in biotechnology applications has however been at the expense of conventional plant breeding. Also, institutional barriers have constrained the establishment of linkages between biotechnology and crop breeding practitioners. Furthermore, with the first and second generations of plant breeders retiring, demand for conventional breeding will remain high in the medium term. As a conclusion, it has been shown that Thailand has a strong potential as a major exporter of certified seed to regional markets. To sustain the impetus and maintain competitiveness, public sector plant breeding strategies must evolve and complement the continually increasing investments in the private sector.

4. Plant Breeding and Seed Systems for Rice, Vegetables, Maize and Pulses in Bangladesh
This case study features the success story of effective plant breeding and seed systems in Bangladesh. The country became nearly self-sufficient in rice production in 1971 as a result of the adoption of high yielding varieties underpinned by flood protection measures, new irrigation techniques, efficient use of fertilizers and the access to rural financial credit schemes. Despite the dominant role of the public sector in agricultural research and development (R&D), private commercial companies are increasingly taking advantage of requisite enabling policy frameworks to invest in both R&D and the production and marketing of agricultural inputs. The multiplication and marketing of some varieties of these staple crops is being undertaken largely by the private sector while it is envisaged that, going by the current trends, the public sector’s roles will increasingly focus on the regulatory aspects of the value chain such as the registration of crop varieties and seed certification. The study also revealed that both private and public organizations in Bangladesh are collaborating with international agricultural research centers, multi-national companies and the emerging economies of China, India and Thailand to access breeding materials, knowledge, technology and, in some cases, released varieties for cultivation in the country.

Story Source:
Plant Breeding News / http://www.fao.org

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