Wednesday, April 30, 2014

SKEP exemplifies public-private partnership

IRRI and Syngenta held a review and planning workshop last April 23-25 at IRRI for the Scientific Know-How and Exchange Program (SKEP).Running on the second year of the project, the workshop aimed to evaluate what the project has accomplished in the first year, and to recommend plans for the next year.  Gathering together to discuss these items were scientists from Syngenta-Singapore, Syngenta-India, Syngenta-Philippines, and IRRI.

IRRI Deputy Director General for Research Dr. Matthew Morell emphasized that the work of the partnership should be within the context of IRRI’s mission of global contribution to alleviate malnutrition.  He mentioned IRRI’s ongoing process of visioning towards 2035 that celebrates achievements of the past and defines its role for the next 50 years.  IRRI is reconsidering its partnerships and is working more productively with the private sector with a common understanding and mutual benefit.

Parallel to IRRI’s direction, Syngenta Global R&D head Dr. Jihong Liang talked about the company’s vision for 10 years to serve the world, provide support, and contribute to food security for the increasing world population, especially the APEC areas.  He stated that growth in the world relies on effective research such as IRRI’s work.  He added that the private sector has the capability to engage the industry to identify their needs.  They require partnership with the public sector to design future products that will increase productivity.   

The IRRI-Syngenta SKEP Project consists of five (5) initiatives, each being co-managed by an IRRI scientist and a Syngenta scientist: 

Project 1. SNP marker validation (Michael Thomson and Ai Li Yeo); 
Project 2. Crop health management (Adam Sparks and Kon Kee Fui); 
Project 3. Outcrossing in hybrid rice (Fangming Xie and S. Sundar); 
Project 4. Phenotyping for lodging resistance (Michael Dingkuhn and Mila Lopez); 
and Project 5. Pyramiding high-value genes to increase rice yield (Kshirod K Jena and Kasul Sheshagiri).  

Discussions in Project 1 focused on achieving milestones in marker development, SNP haplotype analysis, SNP marker development and validation, and testing these results in IRRI’s breeding program.  Among the recommendations that came out of the review include prioritizing targets traits for gene deployment, improving experimental and statistical methods, and evaluating the SNP markers.

Project 2 discussions emphasized the importance of infield trials, farmer and field surveys, and capacity building and realignment workshops. Field trials using crop protection programs developed by IRRI and Syngenta resulted in improved crop protection and yield when compared to farmers' common practices. They launched a comprehensive on-farm survey to identify yield-reducing factors in various production situations.  These activities were guided by training workshops on crop health.

Representatives of Project 3 reported characterizing selected CMS A-lines and TGMS lines from IRRI and Syngenta for flowering traits.  They gained knowledge on the relationships between outcrossing and CMS flowering traits and identified key traits for measuring outcrossing rates.  They have collected phenotyping information at IRRI and are considering phenotyping at Syngenta locations.

Project 4 outlined the work of the Global Phenotyping Network, which included high throughput phenotyping methodologies for component traits for lodging resistance.  To simulate lodging in their experiments, the project scientists made use of a blaster that replicated the condition of wind and rain causing lodging.  

Among the milestones reported by Project 5 were the development of SNP markers for yield-enhancing genes, SNP validation of target traits in progenies of target germplasm with pyramided yield enhancing genes, the development of backcross breeding lines for increasing yield potential, and the development of screening methodologies for photosynthetic potential as well as grain filling duration and efficiency.

The workshop was highlighted by a meeting of the steering committee where issues to further enhance the IRRI-Syngenta partnership were discussed. 

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