National Agriculture Research (NARS) Effectiveness

Problem: Current genetic gains are suboptimal especially in relation to investment; what are the interventions necessary to address this state of affairs?

Vision of a healthy system:

  • Well-articulated and prioritized product profiles that are consistent with producer needs based on market survey to guide the breeding program.
  • Program sets clear pipeline strategy.
  • Research is supported by relevant group of interdisciplinary scientists focused on the product profile.
  • Provision of adequate budgetary support from government or other potential sources.
  • Program works in tandem with downstream actors (EGS producers, extension and commercial producers, regulatory bodies, etc.) to assure proper hand-off and post-release support.
  • Focus on continual improvement (product replacement) and adaptation to changing needs of farmers and market requirements.

Basis of Comparison: Modern breeding programs that generate better return on investments, measured by the genetic gain delivered to farmers based on consumer/market requirements.

Assessment goals:

  • Help identify improvements to achieve genetic gain
  • Intended to assist institutions to develop and implement Program Improvement Plans (PIP) through assistance of Excellence in Breeding (EiB)
Strategic ObjectiveDescriptionSystem Indicators
Customer centric breeding program: product development focus•Product Profiles: Project-based objectives well integrated with crop strategy and program capabilities, validated through surveys
•A periodic review process linked to on-going adjustments and forward planning
•Product profiles clearly defined and prioritized
•Aligned with overall objectives
•Market survey based
Team capacity and skills to deliver improved varietiesBreeding & supporting science leads have advanced degrees; understand & utilize current “best practices” within program constraints; have years of experience in field(s) related to current responsibilities•Level of education
Research infrastructure•Availability of support facilities•Adequacy of seed store, labs, irrigation facilities, mechanization etc.
Breeding program design•Breeding approach optimized to meet stated breeding objectives;
•Fully implement and have rationale for program design
•Parents and products are selected on the basis of accurate data and aligned with the product profile
•Optimized pipeline and process for maximum impact of breeding program outputs
Variety testing program•Breeders have optimized scale of program within the limits allowed by resource constraints (budget, human or infrastructure)
•Established testing protocols
•Delineation of the target population of environments (TPE)
•Program size in terms of delivering genetic gain
•Statistical analyses performed on trial data
Variety release•Formal release process which requires sufficient data on performance
•Breeder rights and varietal licensing
•Area covered by released varieties
•Seed produced/sold by variety
•Current market share of varieties released in last 10 Years
•Number of varieties released in the last 5 years
Program impact•System in place to monitor product performance;
•Data collected & utilized to inform breeding strategies & actions regularly & consistently
•Genetic gain over time
•Level of performance for hybrids/advanced lines/clones relative to wildly grown varieties.
Varietal introduction and adoption•Product replacement strategy•Varieties released/sold
•Market demand
•Age of varieties in production
Breeder/foundation seed production•Maintaining quality of inbred lines and producing sufficient and high quality breeder seed
•Breeder seed production fully aligned with commercial seed producer demand
•Operations organized and conducted to meets purity and quality criteria.
•Demand planning process
•Quality standards established
•Percentage of seed lots failing to meet standards in a year/over time
Collaboration with International Breeding Programs•Extent of national/external varietal development efforts•Extent of new varieties sourced from outside the national system? e.g. CGIAR
•Kind and extent of collaboration (germplasm , training, research material etc.)
National government support for varietal development•Budget allocation for running of research stations and personnel•Program budget
•Percentage allocation for Salaries, breeding and testing?
•Proportion of operational support from national gov’t vs external sources
Industry funding of public sector researchers•Private sector financial support to NARS•Private sector contribution or contracting with the national research systems
•Guidelines for investment by multinationals and local private seed companies

Description of Methodology

Typology of Stakeholders: Research Institute / Lead breeders for each of the crops along with supporting discipline scientists (about 5 people)

•In each country establish what constitutes NARS breeding programs: public (national, sub-national) , private, universities etc.

•Intended to be light compared to BPAT and fewer questions under each component recognizing that BPAT was intended for well-developed breeding programs of CGIAR centers

Method of conducting the assessment:

  1. Introduction provided to crop team to orient them of the areas to be assessed following government ‘buy-in’.
  2. Pre-visit survey of the program (content/processes) and institution (infrastructure, personnel, budget etc.) extended via web-based application to provide  context through facts, figures and background information. DAI digital team has developed an online data collection platform
  3. To be followed by in-depth expert interviews on breeding program activities through an established questionnaire with follow-up questions, discussions and clarifications
  4. Based on outline provided prior to visit, the Team Lead of the specific crop program would be  requested to make a presentation to orient the interviewers

Discussion of Analysis/Outputs

Based on answers and follow up discussion, a score of 1 to 4 (Likert scale) is recorded for some questions which will summarize the overall impression.

Example of question with scoring scale:

  What are the key breeding program objectives?

  • N/A-NOT Applicable
  1. Breeding objectives have not been well defined
  2. Breeding objectives have been defined but are not acted upon
  3. Breeding objectives have been well defined and acted upon, but not prioritized to address the target zones
  4. Breeding objectives have been well defined, prioritized and address the target zones

•Other open-ended questions provide space for qualitative information and interviewer notes

•Notes taken during interview and scores assigned would form the basis for identifying areas for improvement and recommending mitigation measures.

•Report includes scores and recommendations on areas for improvement