Plant Breeding and Genetics

Plant Breeding and Genetics

The Plant Breeding and Genetics Section assists FAO and IAEA Member States in the implementation of innovative and effective plant breeding programmes using radiation induced mutation, mutation detection and pre-breeding technologies. This is done through research and development (R&D), capacity development, policy advice, technology transfer and technical support and assistance via Coordinated Research Projects (CRPs) and Technical Cooperation Projects (TCPs).

The overall aim is to enhance global food security through sustainable crop production using strategic fundamental and applied crops sciences research. Our work is driven by Member State demands, and the MSs are the recipients of technology transfer, capacity development, policy advice, materials and information. The major target is yield and yield stability, but this encompasses developing crops with greater resilience to climate change. Quality traits, especially nutritious foods, are also high on the agenda of Member States.

Mutation breeding is hugely successful. The wide use of mutation induction for crop improvement is documented in the FAO/IAEA Mutant Variety Database, which includes more than 3200 officially released mutant varieties from 214 different plant species in more than 60 countries throughout the world. Over 1,000 mutant varieties of major staple crops, cultivated on tens of millions of hectares enhance rural income, improve human nutrition and contribute to environmentally sustainable food security in the world.

Highlights
Climate Change Adaptation: Boosting Quinoa Production Using Nuclear Techniques. In the battle to help developing countries overcome threats from declining food production caused by climate change, one species of edible grain-like crop has caught international attention because of its unique nutritional value. New and improved varieties of quinoa, historically grown in the highlands of South America, will be made available to farmers in mutations adapted to challenging environments in Bolivia and Peru. Read More »
IAEA Impact: Plant Mutation Breeding Helps Bangladesh to Feed Its Growing Population. Villages in the northern region of Bangladesh used to struggle with poverty and hunger during the long months of the ‘monga’ periods, but they are now bustling as farmers and workers harvest new crop varieties developed using nuclear techniques. “‘Monga’ is a Bengali word meaning ‘starvation,’” explained Mirza Mofazzal Islam, Principal Scientific Officer and Head of the Biotechnology Division at the Bangladesh Institute of Nuclear Agriculture (BINA). It is used to describe the time between mid-September and mid-November and from March to April, when “there is no work for the farm workers. They suffer; they are foodless,” said Mofazzal Islam. Read More »
Can Gamma Rays Help Save the World’s Favourite Fruit? Can Gamma Rays Help Save the World’s Favourite Fruit?. ... A new research project, supported by the IAEA in cooperation with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), will focus on the development of technology to speed up the breeding of disease-resistant banana and coffee plant varieties. Read More »
Sorghum Mutation Breeding for Improving Tolerance to Abiotic Stresses brought about by Climate Change Sorghum Mutation Breeding for Improving Tolerance to Abiotic Stresses brought about by Climate Change. Mutation breeding has been successful in the Indonesian sorghum improvement program. It increases the added value of sorghum as food, feed, fiber and fuel source. The released sorghum mutant varieties have a big potential to increase marginal land productivity, improve soil fertility, stimulate sustainable agriculture development, promote economic growth, and ensure future food and energy security. Last but not least, sorghum is probably the most suitable crop for mitigating climate change. Read More »
World Wide Success in Mutation Breeding for Food Security, Photo credits: Dean Calma / IAEA World Wide Success in Mutation Breeding for Food Security. ... On the occasion of this milestone of the Joint FAO/IAEA Division, Achievement and Outstanding Achievement Awards were initiated to honor and appreciate the successes of Member States in plant mutation breeding ... Read More »
Responding to the Transboundary Threat of Wheat Black Stem Rust (Ug99) Responding to the Transboundary Threat of Wheat Black Stem Rust (Ug99). Mutation activities target rust diseases with emphasis on Ug99 to contribute to an eventually broadened gene base for rust resistance. Mutant lines that have resistance to Ug99, once selected, will effectively counter the threat to global wheat and barley production, the menace of Ug99. Read More »
Improved barley varieties - Feeding people from the equator to the arctic Improved barley varieties - Feeding people from the equator to the arctic. The weather conditions in the high Peruvian Andes, with their propensity for severe storms that bring with them high winds and hail, are not exactly hospitable for growing grains. But thanks to the work done by the Peru’s national agricultural research system together with the FAO/IAEA’s Plant Breeding and Genetics subprogram, barley varieties now exist that can be planted 3 000–5 000 metres up those mountains. These hearty grain improved varieties have become a lifeline for people who live at those altitudes, providing dependable as well as nutritious yields and now accounting for 90 per cent of the barley produced in Peru. Read More »

Previous Highlights