Flagship 2 focuses on developing improved dryland cereal varieties and hybrids for increased grain and stover yield, quality and adaptation in smallholder farmers’ fields to rapidly improve dryland cereal crop varieties for increased, sustainable yield and for a range of quality traits for food, feed and fodder applications, including emerging opportunities driven by population dynamics.
The flagship includes crop- and region-specific projects focused on crop improvement for traits such as yield enhancement, yield stability, quality (food, feed and fodder) and resistance to pests, diseases and weeds. During the Extension Phase, the flagship will focus on those crop-trait combinations that will lead to significant impacts, both in the short term and the medium/longer term.
Breeding programs that address sufficiently large numbers of genotypes evaluated across multiple environments are central to progress in crop improvement, through both conventional methods and modern genomic tools. Targeted development of genomic resources and testing sites will be undertaken in collaboration with international initiatives. The former includes sequencing of the finger millet genome, barley re-sequencing and the development of marker assays for breeding from available sequence information for each of the four crops.
Crop models will be calibrated for the different crops, target environments and management conditions in order to define target populations of environments and specific physiological parameters for breeding towards appropriate ideotypes. The genotyping data that is already available will be leveraged together with phenotyping data for genome-wide association studies, allele mining and marker identification, using new bioinformatics support through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and CGIAR.
The flagship will also interact with the Integrated Breeding Platform for the development and implementation of breeding services for marker-assisted selection.
The establishment of methods for defining parental heterotic groups is critical for building distinct and complementary parental pools for effective and sustainable hybrid breeding. Analysis of combining ability and examination of genetic diversity for pertinent ranges of germplasm will be important outputs of the flagship.
The development and/or application of breeding technologies such as doubled haploid induction and genetic male sterility in elite parental lines will be useful for creating and exploiting genetic diversity. With the exception of barley, doubled-haploid systems are not currently available for dryland cereals. Haploid production in sorghum and pearl millet has remained difficult to date. During the Extension Phase, the flagship plans to evaluate a novel transgenic-mediated haploid-induction strategy in these crops by engineering centromeres that nucleate kinetochores, where the final haploid line will be non-transgenic.
Flagship 2 will provide feedback information to Flagship 1 and knowledge and germplasm to FP3, FP4 and FP5.