Biofortification - six crops in development phase

HarvestPlus research in 2004-2008 led to a focus on six of the 15 initially investigated crops. The HarvestPlus development phase is now examining these in 10 "nutrient-crop-country" combinations:

  • High-zinc rice (Bangladesh, India).
  • High-zinc wheat (India, Pakistan).
  • High-provitamin A cassava (DR Congo, Nigeria).
  • High-provitamin A corn (Zambia).
  • High-iron bean (Rwanda, DR Congo).
  • High-iron & -zinc pearl millet (India).

The Provitamin A breeding program

Provitamin A breeding is a public-private partnership between the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in Mexico and Syngenta in the US. The program started in 2010.  The researchers aim to identify markers for the known alleles that lead to high provitamin A in corn, plus markers for other genes identified through genotyping.  They are screening over 500 CIMMYT lines against more than 20,000 markers.

The then Canadian International Development Agency (now Global Affairs Canada) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) pledged an extra USD 30 million for 2010-2012.  Each year, more than USD 3 million of this will go towards breeding, USD 2 million for delivery, and USD1 million on nutritional studies. 

Important topics for HarvestPlus now include: 

  • determining the optimum delivery strategy,
  • ensuring and measuring public health impact,
  • understanding better how food impacts nutrition,
  • working with the nutrition community and agriculture to prioritize nutritional improvement--within this topic, the Syngenta Foundation is particularly focused on combining nutrient traits into other breeding programs.