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Decision and Policy Analysis Research Area – DAPA

Steadying the aim for crop breeders using target population environments

Clustering environmental conditions into unique groups, or Target Population Environments, can help pinpoint the traits that crop breeders need to look for in a cultivar. Photo: N. Palmer (CIAT).

Clustering environmental conditions into unique groups, or Target Population Environments, can help pinpoint the traits that crop breeders need to look for in a cultivar. Photo: N. Palmer (CIAT).

At times crop breeding can feel like steering a rudderless ship. There’s no such thing as a compass for climate change, for starters, and it’s hard to say whether crop varieties currently in development will still be adequate for conditions on the ground 10 years from now. So what do breeders have to aim at, exactly?

For most crop breeding programs, the customary answer to that question has always been the same: cultivars with a) improved potential production, b) resistance to pests, or c) resistance to diseases.

These traits are certainly ones to be looking for in the crop varieties of the future; they are no-regrets options that offer benefits regardless of the turns the climate might take. But in focusing only on these goals crop breeders may be missing a bigger part of the picture, and possibly risking time and big investments on cultivars that won’t work in specific environmental conditions or under certain land management scenarios.

For the full story by Caity Peterson, go to the CCAFS blog.

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