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BGI, ICRISAT Team Up on Crop Breeding Using NGS

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – BGI and the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics today announced a memorandum of understanding to use next-generation sequencing to improve crop breeding.

The partnership will primarily focus on improving breeding programs for semi-arid crops for sustainable food production, in particular in the drylands of Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. The partners have agreed to "enhance their collaboration in agricultural research-for-development, especially in the genome sequencing and analysis of ICRISAT mandate crops," such as chickpea, finger millet, groundnut, pearl millet, pigeonpea, and sorghum.

They also will take aim at capacity building and other activities, they said, and added that the collaboration will be "crucial in the development" of improved varieties that can produce high yields, withstand climate change, and survive in difficult environments.

ICRISAT and BGI, together with other partners, recently completed the de novo sequencing of pigeonpea, published in the November issue of Nature Biotechnology.

In a statement, Gengyun Zhang, vice president of BGI, said, "Genetically improved crops are the key output of breeding research. The rapid advance of genomics will accelerate the improvement of the crops with high yield, high quality, and resistance to pests and diseases.

"With the whole genomic information of the crops, I believe we can seek much better solutions to solve the food security challenges and environmental problems in the future," he said.

Rajeev Varshney, director of ICRISAT's Centre of Excellence in Genomics, added that "[w]ith the advances in sequencing and genotyping technologies and our collaboration with BGI, we should be able to not just decode the genome of a crop species but also speed up screening for 'good genes' within a crop and dramatically reduce the cost of developing new improved varieties that will benefit smallholder farmers."

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