Nature India is proud to have been associated with the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) as media partner of the just concluded 5th International Conference on Next Generation Genomics and Integrated Breeding for Crop Improvement (February 18-20, 2015).
ICRISAT Director General David Bergvinson says, “Next-generation sequencing (NGS) is projected to be the seventh most important disruptive technology towards increased economic impact by 2025 (McKinsey Global Institute, 2014). In the last decade, NGS not only accelerated the genomics and genetics research-based solutions in humans, but has also dramatically impacted agriculture research.”
“Through partnerships, ICRISAT has contributed to the genomics revolution through the sequencing of two of its mandate crops – chickpea and pigeonpea. We are now applying this information to accelerate the development of climate change-resilient varieties for sorghum, millets, chickpea, pigeonpea and groundnut. ICRISAT has always valued its partnership with national and international research programs and private sector partners towards modernizing breeding programs to develop farmer-preferred varieties better, faster and cheaper,” he said in a message.
According to the conference chair Rajeev Varshney, this edition of the conference has become the largest meeting in the series with over 300 delegates from more than 30 countries. The conference had 10 sessions covering 40 presentations by eminent speakers. In addition, there was a dedicated session for poster presentations for young researchers to get an opportunity to present their work and interact with eminent scientists.
Here’s an editorial titled From the Genomes to the Fields I wrote for the abstracts book of the conference:
The developing country perspective of food security is anything but lavish. It has always been about reaching subsistence nutrition to the teeming millions – for instance, the thought behind most of India’s food policies is “let’s ensure that the poorest of the poor get basic carbohydrates and proteins to survive”.
Scientists in developing countries, therefore, are faced with a bigger challenge of not just making newer crops to counter changing climate or shrinking resources, but also to make crops that can produce huge volumes. Given the odds, it seems pertinent that Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) is being heralded as the new uncrowned king of technologies that could do the trick for developing countries.
This brings us to the question of resources available to scientists in developing countries to participate in this global shift towards genomics and integrated breeding. Or, for that matter, their access to global databases that can then be used to meet local needs. In January 2015, Nature Genetics endorsed the need to support an international initiative that makes plant genome data across the world’s seed banks accessible to plant breeders and researchers1. The journal will work with authors to ensure that researchers get access to phenotype data that is linked to published genetic data.
Maintaining the 11 international gene bank collections alone costs about 18 million US dollars every year. Scientists have increasingly advocated mining this biodiversity for food security and creating an internationally accessible informatics infrastructure to catalogue the diversity of the world’s seed collections2. After mining the superior alleles, it is imperative to use them in the breeding programs and the approach has been referred as integrated breeding approach.
In the light of new genomic interventions in several crops such as rice, maize, barley, wheat, legumes, sorghum, millets, chickpea, pigeon pea and groundnut – crops that the developing world immensely benefits from – ICRISAT’s 5th International Conference on Next Generation Genomics and Integrated Breeding for Crop Improvement will be an interesting meet to watch.
Nature India, a showcase of India’s science, is proud to be associated with the conference as its media partner. We hope that the conference, with a star-studded international speakers’ list, will identify novel native varieties that can make their way from genebanks to the fields, discuss trends in high-throughput SNP genotyping, as also take a significant first step in giving to the world some new climate smart varieties.
- Growing access to phenotype data. Nat. Genet. 47, 99 (2015)
- Agriculture: Feeding the future. Nature 499, 23-24 (2013)