Fostering molecular breeding in developing countries
Molecular breeding (MB) increases genetic gain per crop cycle, stacks favourable alleles at target loci and reduces the number of selection cycles. In the last decade, the private sector has benefitted immensely from MB, which demonstrates its efficacy. In contrast, MB adoption is still limited in the public sector, and it is hardly used in developing countries. Major bottlenecks in these countries include shortage of well-trained personnel, inadequate high-throughput capacity, poor phenotyping infrastructure, lack of information systems or adapted analysis tools or simply resource-limited breeding programmes. The emerging virtual platforms aided by the information and communication technology revolution will help to overcome some of these limitations by providing breeders with better access to genomic resources, advanced laboratory services and robust analytical and data management tools. Apart from some advanced national agricultural research systems (NARS), the implementation of large-scale molecular breeding programmes in developing countries will take time. However, the exponential development of genomic resources, including for less-studied crops, the ever-decreasing cost of marker technologies and the emergence of platforms for accessing MB tools and support services, plus the increasing public–private partnerships and needs-driven demand for improved varieties to counter the global food crisis, are all grounds to predict that MB will have a significant impact on crop breeding in developing countries. These predictions are supported by some preliminary successful examples presented in this paper.