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Finding phenotypes: CSISA

csisa-batch1-079Six visiting scientists attended a four-week training course hosted by CIMMYT-Mexico from 12 April to 8 May as part of the Cereal System Initiative in South Asia (CSISA). The course, led by wheat physiologist Matthew Reynolds, focused on physiological wheat breeding approaches for abiotic stress, specifically heat and drought.

The participants, from Nepal, Bangladesh, India, and Iran, received a wide range of lectures from the Global Wheat Program, the Genetic Resources Program, and Conservation Agriculture Program staff on topics such as the characterization of crossing blocks for stress adaptive traits, early generation selection techniques, phenotyping for gene discovery, exploration of genetic diversity, and marker assisted selection. In Obregón the course also included lectures on conservation agricultural and the Harvest Plus program.

Outside of the classroom,  trainees explored local farmers’ fields and received hands-on training for various types of field techniques including the use of physiological tools for germplasm screening.

csisa-batch1-040One goal of this ongoing CSISA project, which will run for at least the next three years, is to incorporate physiological approaches into conventional breeding to accelerate genetic gains in the face of dramatic increases in temperature and reduced water resources throughout South Asia. Back in their home countries, the trainees are collectively responsible for 26.6 million hectares of wheat throughout various agroecosystems to which they must adapt these approaches

“We will go back to our countries and start applying and sharing what we learned here for our own crossing purposes,” said Arun Balasubramaniam, associate professor at Banaras Hindu University in India, who added that almost 30% of yield loss in India is due to abiotic stress. “And we will share what is going on in our centers, our progress, and our experiences within this new network.”