According to the Transgenic Research Plant breeding innovations must play a role to address the global challenges such as climate change, a growing population, and the need for resource efficient farming systems.
Plant varieties that can withstand pests and diseases using fewer resources, plants exhibiting stable yield amidst unstable climate, and plants with improved productivity through efficient use of water, land, and nutrients, can help contribute to achieve the goal of meeting the global challenges. The new tools of breeding such as oligonucleotide mutagenesis or CRISPR-Cas are more helpful than the previous techniques because these tools allow breeders to do their job in an even more precise and efficient manner.
Technological advances drive innovation in plant breeding
New Breeding Techniques (NBTs) and Precision Breeding Techniques (PBTs) refer to the tools and methods used to develop new varieties more precisely and rapidly. These techniques reflect the scientific discoveries of the time. Twenty-first century innovations build on this knowledge to develop varieties in response to the environmental, agricultural and social challenges of our time. Innovations in plant breeding cannot and will not replace traditional practices, they simply increase the range of tools available to plant breeders.
Through innovation we can produce improved varieties that sustain and potentially increase yields and are better adapted to withstand disease and the effects of climate change, such as drought or floods, supporting sustainable agriculture and food security and to some extent Global Warming.
Like evolution itself plant breeding depends upon genetic variability within crops and their relatives as a basis for developing new plant varieties with improved characteristics. Conventional plant breeding methods, transgenesis or newer plant breeding methods are all essential components of the plant breeders’ toolbox. By building on the mechanisms created by nature, the latest innovations in plant breeding methods simply achieve the relevant breeding results in less time and with greater precision.
PLANT BREEDING INNOVATION TO AFRICA
In Africa, an estimated 27 percent of the population one in every four persons—suffer from hunger. Africa also has the highest population of undernourishment, which in 2016 was estimated to be affecting about 20 percent of the population.(Source :Cornell Alliance for Science)
Only two countries on the continent, South Africa and South Sudan, currently grow genetically modified crops and no gene edited crops have yet been proposed for commercialization. However, GM crop trials are ongoing in about 12 countries, which could allow for their introduction. Ghana is expected to soon commercialize GM crops, while Nigeria has already approved the cultivation of insect-resistant Bt cotton and Bt cowpea, its first GMO food crop.
Commercialization of GMOs in Nigeria will improve agricultural productivity and contribute to the growth of the GDP, which will impact positively on the economy,” she says. “The development of insect- and pest- resistant, nitrogen-use-efficient and herbicide-tolerant crops will cut down production costs. A reduction in production costs will bring about higher profits for farmers and food price stabilization.
In view to meet the global challenges like climate change, a growing world population and the need for resource efficient farming systems, plant breeding innovation will definitely need to play a role.