In January 2013, researchers from RTB and Kansas State University (KSU) began work on developing computational models to support strategies for better seed degeneration management–and an important focus of research for RTB.

Sara Thomas, a post-doctoral researcher with Karen Garrett, Professor in the Department of Plant Pathology at KSU, was declared one of the winners of the BREAD Idea Challenge, as her idea on managing seed degeneration, which stems from the seed degeneration project currently underway, stood out as one of the 13 winning BREAD Ideas out of 750 entries.

“There is the need for a green revolution in vegetatively-propagated crops”, argued Thomas, as she described what she believes is a pressing issue facing smallholder farmers in developing countries.

“Vegetative propagation is the primary method of seed production for many food-security staples of smallholder farmers, such as cassava and sweetpotato”, she explained. “In developing countries, 95% of this seed comes from uncertified sources, laden with pathogens. Since small farmers tend to re-use seed, pathogens build up causing significant yield reductions. This problem of ‘seed degeneration’ is particularly complex and heavily influenced by many environmental, biotic, human, and economic factors. Improving our understanding about the biology, epidemiology, predictability and management of seed degeneration is crucial to support these smallholder farmers.”

The joint RTB-KSU project will benefit from the grant, including for travelling to project research sites. Another grant proposal is in the works for the second stage of the BREAD Ideas competition, the Early Concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER).

The BREAD Ideas Challenge competition is a part of the Basic Research to Enable Agricultural Development (BREAD) program, co-funded by the National Science Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Researchers working on the RTB project on seed degeneration met at Arusha, Tanzania in February 2013 to discuss the details of the work. Read the report