Global Partnership Initiative for Plant Breeding Capacity Building

The Global Partnership Initiative for Plant Breeding Capacity Building (GIPB) is pleased to announce the release of an e-learning course on Pre-breeding for Effective Use of Plant Genetic Resources. As part of a comprehensive strategy to develop a critical mass of personnel skilled in the genetic improvement of crops, this course aims at strengthening capacities at the interface between germplasm conservation and its use in plant breeding.

The importance of germplasm resources, including crop wild relatives, for crop improvement is widely recognized. However, their effective use in breeding can be complex, risky, and expensive. On the other hand, over reliance on “safe and familiar” parents of similar genetic backgrounds as sources of heritable traits has led to an unsustainably narrow genetic base in many crop varieties and breeding materials. Those previously neglected reservoirs of heritable genetic variations found in crop wild relatives and unimproved materials must now be harnessed to broaden the genetic base of crops in order to generate “smart” crop varieties that produce more with fewer inputs.

Pre-breeding encompasses all activities designed to identify desirable heritable traits in the non-adapted materials that are usually not used directly in breeding populations and to transfer these traits to an intermediate set of materials that breeders can use to produce new and improved crop varieties. Premised on close collaboration between genebank curators and plant breeders, pre-breeding is a necessary first step in the use of diversity arising from wild relatives and other unimproved materials.

Though designed primarily for plant breeders and germplasm curators, others involved in capacity building in crop improvement - such as university teachers and students - will also find the course an indispensable teaching and learning resource. It was put together by world-renowned experts and combines elements of both conventional germplasm management and plant breeding with novel molecular biology and analytical techniques.

This course was jointly sponsored by Bioversity International, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the Global Crop Diversity Trust using the GIPB platform. The generous funding by the Trust contributed in large measure to the development of this course and is gratefully acknowledged.

The development of the course curriculum and instructional materials has benefitted immensely from the painstaking contributions of world renowned experts in germplasm management, crop improvement, ancillary biotechnologies, seeds systems, and relevant policy and regulatory areas. GIPB also acknowledges the expertise placed at its disposal in the development of this tool by numerous institutions and organizations especially Alberta Innovates - Bio Solutions, Alberta, Canada; Bioversity International, Rome, Italy; International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), Cali, Colombia; International Potato Center (CIP), Lima, Peru; the Plant Production and Protection Division and the Knowledge and Capacity for Development Branch of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Rome, Italy; Global Crop Diversity Trust, Rome, Italy; Aberystwyth University, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, UK; The University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia; Kasetsart University, Bangkok, Thailand; the Agricultural Research Service of the United States Department of Agriculture; and Wageningen University, the Netherlands.

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