BGI and ICRISAT signs agreement on applied genomics research

Publication — Economic Times (India)

Author — Nidhi Nath Srinivas

Date — April 25, 2012

Website — http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com

BGI, the world’s largest genomics organization, and the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) based in India have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for a long-term collaboration on applied genomics research and molecular breeding.

The partnership primarily aims to enhance precision of breeding programs for semi-arid tropic crops by using next-generation sequencing technologies towards crop improvement for sustainable food production particularly in the drylands of Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

The MoU was signed by Dr William D. Dar, Director General of ICRISAT and Dr Gengyun Zhang, Vice President of BGI. The two organizations agreed to enhance their collaboration in agricultural research-for-development, especially in the genome sequencing and analysis of ICRISAT mandate crops namely, chickpea, finger millet, groundnut, pearl millet, pigeonpea and sorghum, as well as in capacity building and other agreed activities.

While ICRISAT’s mandate crops are highly nutritious and drought-tolerant, their productivity in marginal environments is very low. In the fight against poverty and hunger amid the threat of climate change, these crops are the best bets for smallholder farmers in marginal environments to survive and improve their livelihoods.

The collaboration between BGI and ICRISAT will be crucial in the development of improved varieties that can provide high yields, and at the same time meet the challenges of marginal environments and the threat of climate change and scarce natural resources in the drylands.

“The signing of this agreement with BGI is significant in accelerating our crop improvement efforts towards improving the livelihood of poor people in the semi-arid tropics of the world,” said Dr Dar. “This is not a start, rather a strengthening of our ongoing fruitful and rewarding research partnership with BGI.

Highlighting the significance of the MoU, Dr.Zhangsaid, “Genetically improved crops are the key output of breeding research. The rapid advance of genomics will accelerate the improvement of the crops with high yield, high quality and resistance to pestsand diseases. With the whole genomic information of the crops, I believe we can seek much better solutions to solve the food security challengesand environmental problems in the future.”

Dr. Rajeev Varshney, Director of ICRISAT’s Centre of Excellence in Genomics and lead scientist and coordinator of the global research partnership on pigeonpea genome sequencing, stressed that “With the advances in sequencing and genotyping technologies and our collaboration with BGI, we should be able to not just decode the genome of a crop species but also speed up screening for ‘good genes’ within a crop and dramatically reduce the cost of developing new improved varieties that will benefit smallholder farmers.”

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