24.05.2019

The results are available in a couple of weeks. This allows plant breeders to select only asexually reproductive plants for trials, allowing them to allocate more time and resources to plants that have the potential to produce new cultivars.

Brachiaria grasses have often been considered an “orphan crop”, due to a lack of investment in research, but their potential for making tropical farms more productive and better for the environment is well-known among tropical forage specialists.

One recent study found that the variety B. humidicola was especially adept at reducing the nitrous oxide, a strong greenhouse gas, emitted from soil as result of cattle urine deposition. In addition, CIAT researchers have identified mechanisms that this tropical grass uses to efficiently acquire nutrients from soil.

Brachiaria breeders also value apomixis for smallholders in developing nations who have limited resources for investing in improving their farms. Enhanced grass varieties that produce sufficient quantities of trait-retaining seeds can eliminate the need to purchase new seeds for every planting, which is a potentially expensive barrier to adoption.

According to Joe Tohme, a senior scientist at CIAT and study co-author, the breakthrough allows for the acceleration of CIAT’s breeding programme for multiple traits, including the development of tropical forages that can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and make farming more eco-efficient.

(CIAT/wi)

More information:

Margaret Worthington et al.