Monday, 4 August 2014

Redesigning IRRI’s irrigated rice breeding program

By Bert Collard
Senior Scientist, Irrigated Rice Breeder for Southeast Asia
Plant Breeding, Genetics, and Biotechnology Division

Thursday, 7 August 2014
1:15-2:15 p.m.
Havener Auditorium


In the last 50 years, IRRI’s irrigated rice breeding program has made an enormous contribution to rice production and food security based on the economic impact of varieties released. However, during this time, the rate of genetic gain for rice varieties, or yield increase over time, has remained constant at about 1%/year, which is insufficient to meet projected demands in the future. The challenge for rice breeders in the 21st century is to develop new higher yielding varieties with enhanced disease resistance, tolerance of abiotic stresses, and specific quality characteristics more quickly than before. However, like the majority of public breeding programs, there has been pressure to continue delivering outputs with reduced funding. Therefore, we have redesigned the irrigated rice breeding program at IRRI to be quicker, more cost-efficient, resource-saving, and more product-oriented. We are also implementing new methods, tools, and technologies in order to maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of breeding operations. These activities have been funded by a new Gates Foundation project called “transforming rice breeding (TRB),” which is focused on revolutionizing breeding efficiency in irrigated rice breeding programs; accelerating genetic gain; and implementing market-driven, product-oriented variety development pipelines. In this seminar, the justification and explanation of changes to the irrigated rice breeding program will be presented, and aspects of the TRB project will be introduced.

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