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Global Partnership Initiative for Plant Breeding Capacity Building

Plant breeding programs in Guatemala

Geographical situation of GuatemalaAlthough located in tropical Central America, Guatemala does not have a solidly tropical climate. In fact, there are areas with a tropical climate but large regions are very mountainous. Therefore climate depends much more on altitude than on latitude. The agricultural sector is a crucial component of Guatemala’s economy representing around 25% of the GDP and employing 50% of the labour force. The main crops are coffee, sugarcane, bananas and cotton, but also palm tree, celery, cauliflower and asparagus for a shorter period.

Six institutions (2 public, 3 private and 1 NGO) are working on plant breeding and related biotechnology capacity in Guatemala. As in other Central America countries, the plant breeding activities in economic crops are performed mainly in private companies which are mainly working in crops like sugar cane, rice, tomato, corn and chili pepper. Public institutions have developed some plant breeding programs on the most important crops for the Guatemalan population such as maize, bean, tomato and potato with the economic support from the Guatemala government, but this economic support is very low, at around US $ 1,000,000 per year.

Plant breeding activities in Guatemala consist mainly of developing and evaluating lines. Efforts are focused on improving yield and disease resistance. In the case of medicinal plants, selection is for the production of secondary metabolites.

The most limiting aspect for the success of the crop breeding programs are lack of financial resources to carry out field and laboratory experiments and inadequate availability of laboratory infrastructure to carry out experiments using advanced plant breeding techniques. Nevertheless there have recently been some efforts, through the Central American Bank for Economic Integration, to improve the facilities such as buildings and laboratories of biotechnology and the application of molecular markers in plant breeding process.

Research and education institutes with activities in plant breeding

Public Institutes

ICTA

Institute of Sciences and Technology of Agriculture (ICTA)
Website available in Spanish

ICTA is the national agricultural research institute of Guatemala. ICTA carries out plant breeding in the main cash crops for food security for the Guatemalan population (maize, rice, potato, beans, wheat and sesame).

USAC

Faculty of Agronomy at University of San Carlos of Guatemala
Website available in Spanish

This University is working in breeding of tomato, potato and medicinal plants. Crossing and evaluation of segregating populations and tomato breeding lines are carried out annually.

Private Institutes

UVG

Universidad del Valle de Guatemala
Website available in Spanish

This university is performing research specifically on papaya. It evaluates the different transformed papaya lines for resistance to papaya ringspot virus present in Guatemala.

Cengicana

Sugar Cane Investigation Centre - Centro de Investigación de la caña de azucar (CENGICAÑA)
Website available in Spanish and English

Cengicanã began its activities in the last decades and is specialized in sugar cane. Plant breeding involves evaluating breeding lines, production and evaluation of hybrids. The characteristics that are being evaluated are agronomic traits and resistance to pests.

no website

Genetica Tropical Gentropic S.A.
No Website available

Gentropic is a new company in Guatemala, and began its activity in 2003. They work on tomato and chilli pepper plant breeding to obtain hybrids with resistance to geminivirus, resistance to bacterial wilt and with suitable characteristics for the Guatemalan market.

Non Governmental Organizations (NGO)

Arrozga

Guatemala Rice Grower’s Association - Asociación de Arroceros de Guatemala(ARROZGUA)
Website available in Spanish

The ARROZGUA carries out the evaluation of agronomic traits and resistance to different diseases of breeding lines and hybrids of rice in Guatemala at different locations. Germplasm comes from the genebanks and breeding programmes of the CGIAR and rice research centres around the world.

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Information by Luis Rodolfo Montes Osorio (2009) - Information based on the Guatemala's full report from the PBBC survey. Last revised 31-07-2009, GIPB