Multi-location Variety Trials (MLVT) have been successfully used for decades by agronomists and plant breeders to make rapid and sustainable genetic gains in productivity and quality characteristics. A new generation of hybrids and pure line varieties are available in some countries and will be tested in other producing countries through the WCR-MLVT program. As such, participating countries can validate potential rapid production gains of variety replacement within two years of launching the program. The MLVT program will work collaboratively through the pooling of varieties and distributing them to various participating Institutions who will evaluate them in combination with their own varieties in replicated field trials. The MLVT will allow producing countries to compare the latest improved varieties to their local best varieties and to validate the best performers for rapid gains.
Varieties that are found to be better performers can be multiplied and placed into variety/plantation conversion programs. These programs will benefit from the WCR Accelerated Productivity Enhancement program below, where partnerships are formed with key credit and extension services to ensure technology delivery to the farmer and impact on supply.
In addition to short term productivity and quality gains, recorded data from the trials will be shared and analyzed globally by WCR scientists. This information will allow knowledge building on factors driving key agronomic and quality characteristics and set the stage for a great range of studies in heat tolerance, disease resistance, genetic x environment quality interactions, and other important traits. Results from these studies will provide data for the ‘cataloging’ of Arabica varieties and allow scientists to reliably correlate certain biochemical or DNA markers with agronomic, physiological or quality traits. In this way, the WCR can build a strong genetic pool or ‘toolbox’ from which national breeding programs, and eventually the seed industry, will be able to build the next generation of varieties for sustaining the supply chain in the medium and long terms.
Of special importance relating to the threat of Climate Change on coffee production, the scientific data produced from this work will allow WCR scientists to better understand the relation of heat with time to cherry maturity and quality and to determine ‘heat tolerant’ mechanisms and markers so that the germplasm, including current varieties, can be evaluated and screened for heat tolerance. The idea here would be to identify new high quality, high yielding genetic sources to produce superior heat tolerant pure lines or hybrids to mitigate the negative productivity and quality effects from the impending Climate Change.
This effort will also link and solidify the entire coffee research community to gain from synergies and efficiencies. This is a well-known advantage of Multilocation variety trials in other crops and has been used effectively by both the CGIAR and CRSP systems as well as the INGENICS program for Cacao.
The WCR will fund lead research institutions to organize, coordinate and execute this project for the first five year phase. The final budget will decide the total number of countries and regions/countries that the project will encompass.
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