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Flagship Project 1: Discovery research for enhanced utilization of RTB genetic resources

The objective of Flagship Project 1 (FP1) is to develop and apply leading-edge science toward faster and more precise development of user-demanded varieties and to support the long-term conservation and use of genetic diversity. New varieties have the potential to respond to a wide range of development and environmental challenges, and are typically near the top of the list of production technology components requested by farmers. The characteristics of these varieties have impact throughout the value chain – from production to processing to consumer acceptance in the marketplace. Higher productivity, resilience and high quality in intensified, sustainable systems can be the main avenue not only for raising incomes and nutritional status of small-scale farmers but also reducing the expansion of crops into fragile ecosystems. We are becoming more aware of variety traits that have the potential especially to meet the needs and opportunities for women, e.g. traits related to crop management, processing efficiency, nutrient content, and physical-chemical traits of consumed products.

The ability of RTB to meet these demands is being greatly enhanced by new tools and methods to accelerate genetic gains, by access to broader and better-defined genetic diversity, and by working together more effectively to exploit synergies and share common resources across RTB crops.

The clonally propagated RTB crops have unique challenges to overcome in order to move faster and more precisely toward user-prioritized breeding goals, whether with traditional or new tools and methods. At the same time, vegetative propagation has advantages unavailable to grain crops: any trait can be fixed and propagated indefinitely.

Clusters of activity

    • DI1.1 RTB Breeding Community of Practice
      Will establish a decentralized, integrated and cross-cutting community of practice to orient and support accelerated breeding gains.  The BCoP creates greater efficiencies by effective two-way communication about breeding targets, methods, and processes, pipeline products (populations and varieties), and competencies within RTB and with NARES, the private sector, and other users. The cluster will be the space for defining targets, metrics and M&L across the Discovery and the breeding-oriented Delivery clusters.
    • DI1.2 Next generation breeding for RTB crops
      Develops and demonstrates the added value of next generation tools, methods and information, for adoption and routine use by breeders. Provides breeders with next generation tools, methods and information, including trait-linked DNA markers, genome-wide association studies, genomic selection. Develops advanced tools, methods, models, and systems to improve accuracy and scale of breeding and shorten selection cycles. DI1.2 develops efficient, high-throughput-omics tools and methods for trait and gene discovery and deployment. Analytical genetic and biometric tools and biostatistical models support proof-of-concept breeding research (e.g., genomic selection, genome-wide association studies, and use of RTB inbred lines in innovative breeding systems).
    • DI1.3 RTB varieties with game-changing traits
      Develop prototypes and products that allow the introduction of new traits, without disturbing any other traits and characteristics of the original genotype. The cluster will lead breakthroughs to accelerate genetic improvement of existing superior varieties, especially for traits that are intractable through conventional methods. The techniques directly introduce genes (i.e., transgenic, intragenic, cisgenic) to change the expression of endogenous genes (RNAi, silencing, editing) and to swap nucleotide sequences transcription activator-like effector nucleases, CRISPR).
  • DI1.4 Tapping into RTB genetic diversity
    Develops and promotes an integrated and complementary conservation and use system for RTB genetic diversity on farm, in wild habitats and in genebanks. The cluster will support sustaining farm production systems and rural livelihoods through the conservation of local genetic resources to meet future demands of farming and sustainable development. DI1.4 will develop a global network for in-situ conservation of RTB crops and some crop wild relatives (CWR), with best practices and monitoring systems, functional policies, and incentive systems. The diversity conserved in the ex-situ RTB collections is the foundation for achieving the goals in this flagship.

Key target outcomes for Flagship 1 include (by 2022)

  • RTB crops high-yielding (yield increase from 2 – 3% per year) and resistant (major biotic and abiotic stresses) populations adapted to target environments.
  • 100% of new populations integrating user-preferred traits (e.g. starch quality, micronutrient content) of which are least one third and women’s preferences, included in national breeding programs.
  • Conservation status of wild relatives and landraces of at least three RTB crops improved in five key hotspots.
  • At least 25% of populations of banana, cassava, potato and sweetpotato with drought-tolerance considered for inclusion in breeding programs.

Questions to guide your feedback

  1. What do you consider are the most important and relevant elements in this flagship?
  2. Which elements do you think need strengthening?
  3. How could your organization improve its collaboration with this flagship?

Please leave your feedback as a comment below, specifying the question number you are responding to. Any additional comments are welcome too.

6 thoughts on “Flagship 1

  1. Melaku

    DI1.4 focuses on conservation of genetic diversity predominantly. It is known that very little proportion of the conserved genetic diversity has been exploited. It would be good to clearly show that this CoA has a strategy to maximize the utilization of the presently conserved genetic diversity using modern omics tools among others.

  2. Chiedozie Egesi

    The NextGen Cassava project would be glad to continue partnering with the RTB even more as we bring the benefits of next generation tools to cassava breeding for the first time, using GWAS and genomic selection and even leveraging the experiences from our efforts to other RTB crops. At the heart of the NextGen Cassava project is the use of genomic tools, bioinformatic resources and improved phenotyping for a more robust cassava breeding. I am delighted to know that the use of novel technologies such as genome editing for some intractable diseases such as those caused by viruses affecting cassava in Africa is part of the RTB consideration and I would be interested to see how this progresses!

  3. Chiedozie Egesi

    I particularly love the concept of a breeding community of practice and it should be done with lessons from previous CoPs such as the previous Cassava Breeders CoP for Africa of the Generation Challenge Programme which I co-led. As I read it I wondered if the breeding CoPs would be crop based or broadly RTB breeding CoPs? Whichever path is chosen should be done in a pragmatic way. I love the fact that it provides a platform for equal participation of all breeder stakeholders to learn from one another and share knowledge and resources.

    1. Merideth Bonierbale

      FP1 reply The
      BCoP will be challenge based and not crop based. It should identify topics in
      which cross-talk among crops can be beneficial to addressing issues in
      breeding. For a given topic such as strategies for exploiting heteros is sin
      RTB, approached to full or limited inbreeding, methods for participatory
      variety selection, models for GS on heterozygous polyploid crops, BMS for
      clonal crops, , etc., the comparative advantages of the different RTB crops as research
      tools can be exploited to advance understanding for innovation
      in a given RTB crop or across them.
      I afree with your reference to communities of practice and not only one community of practice, because ideally we can have a few topic-oriented CoPs at a time or as topics come up that we can form community around. Maybe some would be crop specific but I think FP1 DI1l1 would promote those that are cross-crop.

  4. Rafael Pflucker Rodrigo

    in the component DI 1.3 I think is very important to focus research in Fusarium tropical race 4 aka "panama Desease" in bananas, this can be done by more comercial varieties than just the cavendish group. and explore resistance.


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