The World Vegetable Center for research updates and discussions
Representatives of 20 Asian seed companies gather at AVRDC. Participants received progress updates on the Center’s tomato, cucurbit and pepper breeding programs
The intricate processes and practices of breeding, multiplying, and marketing seed—those tiny packages containing embryonic plants that make local agriculture and a global food supply possible—engaged a group of 71 agricultural scientists and business representatives during the sixth AVRDC-APSA Workshop, held at AVRDC – The World Vegetable Center headquarters on 23-24 May 2012.
Thirty-eight members of the Asia and Pacific Seed Association (APSA) attended the two-day event, which featured presentations by AVRDC and APSA staff covering various aspects of vegetable breeding, germplasm collection, biotechnology, gene discovery, nutrition and plant protection. AVRDC Director General Dyno Keatinge welcomed seed company owners, managers, and scientists from India, Indonesia, Japan, the Netherlands, the Philippines, People’s Republic of China, Taiwan and Thailand to discuss issues of mutual interest with AVRDC staff. “A vibrant private sector is the best way to get seed to smallholder farmers,” Keatinge said. “We need each other.”
Seed companies across Asia receive seed samples from AVRDC’s genebank, and also use the Center’s improved breeding lines in their vegetable variety development programs. The Center’s vegetable germplasm collection is held in trust for the current and future use of all humankind; a small handling fee is charged for seed, based on location and the type of organization.
APSA is the largest regional seed association in the world. Tom Burns, APSA Director, noted the long-term relationship his organization has had with the Center, going back to the 1990s. Jackie Hughes, AVRDC Deputy Director General-Research, emphasized the important role of seed companies in the vegetable value chain.
Participants received progress updates on the Center’s tomato, cucurbit and pepper breeding programs, including the validation of molecular markers for Bwr12, a tomato gene linked to bacterial wilt resistance; ongoing field trials to assess 24 bitter gourd lines for yield and fruit quality, resistance to powdery mildew, and concentration of nutrients and anti-diabetic compounds; and crosses to develop leaf-curl resistance in sweet and hot peppers. Details about the ongoing characterization of the Center’s nearly 60,000 accessions representing 435 species, and the 2011 distribution of seed from the AVRDC genebank, were shared. Other presentations covered hybrid reproduction to transfer genes from wild species into vegetable crops; a closer look at the okra transcriptome (the set of all RNA molecules produced in a cell) as a source of gene sequence information to delineate species; Corporate Social Responsibility as a an opportunity for seed companies to develop a positive image of their work related to the environment, food safety, nutrition, and public health; virus monitoring and characterization; sources of insect resistance in okra and bitter gourd; and screening for anthracnose on pepper fruit.
Narendra Kumar Singh, Research and Breeding Director, HM Clause Company, Thailand, discussed the challenge of breeding commercial vegetable hybrids for the Asian market. He outlined the process of selecting a target market, choosing slots within that market, and using market research to guide the basket of traits to be bred into a new hybrid line. Hybrid vegetable seed accounts for about 5-10% of the Asian seed market. To be successful in the current market, commercial breeders typically produce hybrids with traits that primarily address grower preferences (disease resistance and high yield, for example), followed by traders’ preferences (good transportability, long shelf life) and finally consumer preferences (appearance, color). Currently, taste and overall nutrition are less important in commercial hybrids, although this may change over time. About 50% of the Asian market still seeks open-pollinated varieties, the seed of which can be saved for planting in subsequent seasons.
During a field tour coordinated by AVRDC Virologist Wen-Shi Tsai, participants viewed trials of multiple TY gene tomato lines, the International Sweet and Chili Pepper nurseries, and advanced generation selections of cucumber.