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APSA/WorldVeg Vegetable Breeding Consortium: Growing stronger with every new member

The Asia & Pacific Seed Association (APSA)/World Vegetable Center Vegetable Breeding Consortium held its second annual workshop on 16-17 May 2018 at WorldVeg headquarters in Shanhua, Taiwan. Fifty-two participants from 32 consortium companies across the region joined 37 WorldVeg staff for discussions, intensive seminars on the Center’s breeding work and other research, and in-field evaluations of tomato, pepper, and cucurbit crops.

Seed company breeders found plenty to smile about in the bitter gourd trials demonstrating resistance to cucurbit powdery mildew.

Seed companies are key research and dissemination partners for WorldVeg. “We’ve had tremendous growth of this consortium,” said David Johnson, WorldVeg Deputy Director General – Research. “We started with 19 member companies just a year ago, and now our numbers stand at 32. Support of this consortium is proof that we are moving forward together.”

Participating seed companies get early access to new breeding lines and the opportunity to interact with WorldVeg experts on upstream research. In return, WorldVeg receives feedback about the performance of its material in various locations and in commercial seed production—vital information that can help the Center demonstrate its value to donors.

Heidi Gallant, APSA Executive Director, encouraged members to interact with WorldVeg breeders and provide data on breeding materials obtained through the consortium. “Your data helps WorldVeg demonstrate how breeding improvements reach farmers,” she said. She also introduced the new incoming APSA Executive Director, Kanokwan (May) Chodchoey.

Feedback mechanisms and breeding

During the morning session on the 16th, Lead Scientist – Impact Evaluation Pepijn Schreinemachers explained how WorldVeg is funded and what kind of information donors need to evaluate the institution’s performance. “Feedback we receive from seed companies is extremely valuable for this purpose,” he said. “For instance, from data on the number of varieties released and the tons of seed sold that contain WorldVeg material, we can approximate how many hectares could be planted and how many farmers reached.” All data sent to WorldVeg from seed companies are aggregated, so companies need not be concerned about compromising confidential trade information. “We’re working on ways to collect structured, systematic feedback to ensure the quality of data provided,” he said.

The Center’s long-standing breeding program for fresh market and dual-purpose tomato (used for fresh consumption and processing) continues to expand. Tomato Breeder Peter Hanson briefed participants on research to develop fruit color and high lycopene content. The high pigment (hp1) and crimson (ogc) genes improve fruit color but affect plant growth, leading to a more determinate habit; determinate plants can be grown without staking and at a closer density, which may be helpful to farmers. Peter also discussed the importance of multilocation testing of lines with pyramided Ty genes for improving late blight resistance—an activity in which APSA members have been helpful. New developments include tomato with a rutin content 12 times higher than the control. Rutin is a flavonoid known to have anti-allergic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-carcinogenic properties.

Pepper Breeder Sanjeet Kumar gave an overview of the WorldVeg pepper breeding program, including an evaluation of 24 years of the International Chili Pepper Nursery. He discussed how new sweet and hot pepper germplasm would be released to consortium members. Breeding Postdoc Derek Barchenger reviewed progress in the development and application of molecular markers in pepper, which is challenging due to the large pepper genome.

In his report on bitter gourd research, Cucurbit Breeder Narinder Dhillon noted his team’s success in developing bitter gourd lines resistant to cucurbit powdery mildew. A bitter gourd support group has been established for seed companies. WorldVeg’s improved breeding lines will be demonstrated in the field during the First Asian Cucurbit Round Table on 21July 2018 and the annual Bitter Gourd Open Field Days on 23-24 July at the WorldVeg East and Southeast Asia Research and Training Station, Kamphaeng Saen, Thailand.

Vegetable Breeder Mohamed Rakha updated participants on the Center’s breeding work for insect resistance in tomato-–a crop that is host to more than 100 insect pests. WorldVeg breeders aim to find resistance to major disease vectors whitefly, spider mite, tomato fruitworm, and tomato leaf miner by crossing wild relatives of tomato such as Solanum galapagense with the appropriate traits to production varieties. They are expanding on an important WorldVeg breakthrough made in 2017 to incorporate resistance based on trichomes (plant hairs) and the compounds plants release to defend themselves from pests. The team is also studying resistance mechanisms to thrips and Tuta absoluta.

The Center’s seed health and quarantine, virology, mycology, bacteriology, and nematology units are now working as a comprehensive Plant Pathology group, said Lawrence Kenyon, WorldVeg Lead Specialist in Plant Pathology and Virology. He explained phytosanitary measures to limit propagation of viroids in seed and discussed how the process would affect the delivery of seed to consortium members. He also reviewed research on viruses of pumpkin and squash in Taiwan, progress on screening tomato germplasm for tospoviruses, and work on developing eggplant rootstocks with resistance to bacterial wilt.

Genebank Manager Maarten van Zonneveld highlighted the extensive collection of vegetable seed in the WorldVeg Genebank—currently 59,967 accessions of 439 species, including the major nightshades (tomato, peppers, eggplant); cucurbits (pumpkins, squash, cucumber); legumes (mungbean, yard-long bean, soybean); brassicas (Chinese cabbage, cauliflower); alliums (onion, garlic); important regional commercial vegetables including bitter gourd and okra; and traditional vegetables such as African eggplant, amaranth, and Malabar spinach. Maarten explained genebank operations, potential pathways of funding, and the challenges of transferring seed across international borders. He also thanked the 10 Taiwan seed companies now regenerating 265 accessions for the genebank. Regenerating seed—growing the plants, collecting and processing fresh seed for use and storage—is the major cost of genebank operations.

WorldVeg staff then presented concepts for special projects for consortium members to consider, and solicited ideas from members about specific needs and concerns.

“You’re here for scaling,” David Johnson told the group of APSA seed company representatives during the wrap-up session. “We want to service your needs–for instance, providing traits in pre-breeding–so that you can do what you do best: provide quality seed to farmers.”

Performance in the field

On the second day of the workshop, field tours gave participants a closer look at the performance of WorldVeg breeding material. Pepper experts Sanjeet Kumar, Susan Lin, Vivian Wang and Derek Barchenger demonstrated newly developed lines of hot and sweet pepper with multiple disease resistance. The tomato team—Peter Hanson, Grace Hsu, and Shu-fen Lu—showed preliminary yield trials of fresh market and dual purpose tomato lines, advanced F7 lines with the Bwr6 gene for bacterial wilt resistance, and a hybrid trial for yield, horticultural, and fruit quality traits. Cucurbit specialists Narinder Dhillon and Vicky Cheng presented a trial of bitter gourd lines resistant to cucurbit powdery mildew.

From the genebank to the screenhouse

Participants took a break from the heat inside the cool storage rooms of the WorldVeg Genebank, where Maarten van Zonneveld and the genebank curators discussed the processes for long-term germplasm preservation. Back in the field, entomologists Paola Sotelo-Cardona and Mei-ying Lin introduced the use of pink netting in a screenhouse as a potential pest control method.

Energized by the workshop activities, consortium members are looking forward to future collaboration with WorldVeg. “The germplasm level we saw was very high,” said Kyunghyun Seok from Syngenta Asia Pacific. Rajesh Ramdas Wankhade from Sungro Seeds, India, said, “It’s been interesting to have so much interaction with the scientists. We’re very glad WorldVeg is cooperating with us to benefit farmers.”

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To learn more about the benefits the consortium offers and how to register:

Story: Maureen Mecozzi
Photos: Vanna Liu

Return to FRESH!

Deep in discussion during the workshop’s seminar sessions.

In the pink: Field visits included a tour of screenhouses built with pink netting. Manipulating color spectrum can be an effective tool in pest control.

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MORE PHOTOS

Saraswathi Nagesh from Nethra Enterprises Pvt. Ltd., India

Outgoing APSA Executive Director Heidi Gallant was interviewed by local media.

Takuji Yoshida, Takii & Company Ltd., Japan at the tomato trial with Grace Hsu from the WorldVeg tomato team.

WorldVeg Tomato Breeder Peter Hanson (left) had some important research results to share with APSA members.

Karina van Leeuwen from East-West Seed International, The Netherlands, gets a good look at the bitter gourd trial.

Incoming APSA Executive Director, Kanokwan (May) Chodchoey.

Broad-brimmed field hats shaded breeders as they took notes on the characteristics of pepper plants and fruit.

Genebank Manager Maarten van Zonneveld with workshop participants in one of the seed storage rooms.

At the screenhouse comparison trial.

Joep van Balen, Enza-Zaden Asia, shares a laugh with an APSA colleague during a break.