SEARCA: Integrate agricultural biotech in variety development up to marketing

Integrating omics is important in crop breeding program from variety development up to commercialization.

This was discussed by Dr. Glenn B. Gregorio, director of the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), at the recent Mindanao-wide webinar on "Omics Research, Moving Past Pandemics: Omics in Agriculture."

Omics is an emerging field of scientific technology that involves the study of molecular interactions found in living organisms, Gregorio explained.

Organized by the Philippine Genome Center Mindanao, the webinar focused on potential applications, challenges and solutions of omics technologies in mitigating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, a SEARCA news release said.

Gregorio proposed a modern breeding program that includes laying out strategies in a crop-master plan that will also include crop market analysis or market intelligence, and strength-weakness-opportunity-threat analysis by market segment.

"The future for crop improvement in the tropics is incredibly bright, built on a strengthening collaboration between the academic community and commercial crop breeders," he said.

Crop improvement seems slow in the view of business and other disciplines since developing commercially ready products takes a long process, he said.

"Many are impatient with this process and offer better techniques and tools to shorten it but still fail in the implementation of a new breeding program and much more in the commercialization stage," Gregorio added.

The SEARCA director noted that omics research has been adversely affected by issues in agriculture, including increased productivity, product quality, resistance to pest and diseases, market of produce, climate change, and the ASEAN Economic integration, the news release said.

Moreover, he pointed out that "the recent levelling off in rice yields highlighted the need to introduce new sources of germplasm, genetic variation, and modern breeding techniques into existing rice breeding program."

"Even with no change in harvested area, what needs to be done is to increase the rice production or cereal demand in the next 10 years. We need to mechanize our farmlands and adapt digital agriculture; use smart seeds which are high-quality, pest and disease resistant, and climate change ready," Gregorio said.

He emphasized the innovative ways in conducting research and extension by considering the business component, value addition to produce, and market-driven and product-oriented research for development.