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Integrated crop breeding

The Integrated crop breeding Theme focuses on the integration of molecular breeding technologies into the breeding programmes led by our country and CGIAR partners. It reflects the evolution of GCP’s focus: from developing genomic and molecular breeding tools – which was the main emphasis during Phase I – to the application of those genomic tools to accelerate the development of improved varieties, which is the new focus of Phase II. All new Theme 2 activities initiated in 2010 are part of the Research Initiative (RI) projects which are reported on separately in the RI section, but Theme 2 also regroups ongoing projects initiated in Phase I under former Subprogramme 3 (SP3; Trait capture for crop improvement) and former Subprogramme 1 (SP1; Crop genetic diversity). This regrouping of the two Subprogrammes into a single Theme reflects the continuity between them, with germplasm characterisation flowing naturally into molecular breeding applications. Theme 2 closely interacts with Theme 1 (Comparative and applied genomics) as this theme continues to develop genomic tools of importance to integrated breeding, and with Theme 3 (Crop information systems) which focuses on developing informatics tools that will enable the large scale implementation of integrated crop breeding. Theme 2 also works closely with Themes 4 and 5 (Capacity building and Product delivery, respectively) because it is critical that Theme 2 technologies and procedures be widely shared with country programmes and other R&D partners equipped with the skills and infrastructure to use them.

Main achievements in 2010
In 2010, near-isogenic lines (NILs) harbouring different AltSB alleles were developed for sorghum, and were phenotyped for aluminium tolerance. Data suggest that NILs with the SC566 allele retain a substantial portion of the Al tolerance observed in SC566. A marker-assisted backcross programme was started to introgress the AltSB allele from SC566 into selected sorghum landraces from Niger and Mali. Protocols were developed for the detailed characterisation of drought-related physiological or root traits for use in drought phenotyping for chickpeas, cowpeas, common beans, rice and wheat. Geographic information system (GIS) tools were developed for optimum drought characterisation of various crops in particular environments, and for identifying potential testing locations. Marker-assisted selection was implemented in Africa for Striga resistance in cowpeas in Niger and Burkina Faso, and for maize streak virus resistance in Mozambique. The GCP germplasm reference sets for several key crops were phenotyped for drought-related traits, and important traits and germplasm sources for those traits were identified. The development of multi-allelic populations such as multi-parent advanced generation inter-crosses (MAGIC) and nested association mapping (NAM) is well underway for rice and sorghum, and will be very useful for evaluating alleles from multiple germplasm sources.