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Information and Knowledge Management

The Plant Breeding and Genetics Sub-programme of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture holds a key position in the dissemination of nuclear and related technology information by providing Member States with factual, comprehensive and current information about mutation induction and efficiency enhancing bio-/molecular technologies as applied to improving crops.

Supporting the collection, compilation, analysis, synthesis and dissemination of new technical developments and knowledge in Plant breeding aided by induced mutations and molecular characterization, collating technical information to maintain relevant databases, and publishing books and scientific articles in peer-reviewed international journals. Such information serves to raise awareness and understanding of the benefits of the integration of nuclear techniques in crops improvement.

Strategic Advice

Policy advice is provided through expert support, country programme framework, steering committees, guidelines and international legislation. Contributing to the direction of strategic thinking on induced mutation aided crop breeding in influential crop research organizations (national, regional, and international), academic crop breeding research, teaching institutions and policy and decision-makers by organizing consultant and expert meetings, seminars, symposia and international conferences. Also by conducting technical feasibility, risk assessments and cost-benefit studies of different breeding alternatives and strategic options for a better planning and implementation of crop improvement programmes.

For example, in Sri Lanka upon completion of the TC Project SRL5030 (started 1995) and SRL5036 (completed 2005), the report mentioned that the Ministry of Science and Technology has recognized this project as a model for agro-biotechnology implementation in the country - A small unit of the ministry for other technologies has been established at the university centre.


Reinforcing contacts among colleagues and institutions of Member States through websites material distribution, production and dissemination of newsletters and annual reports.

The Global Musa Genomics Consortium (GMGC) is an international network of investigators committed to establishing Musa (banana) as a model crop for studies of comparative genomics and for gene discovery, leading eventually to sequencing of the banana genome and the creation of new banana varieties. A mutation grid on diploid, fertile, banana and deletion mutants in triploid, sterile, banana are built up as a contribution to GMGC. The consortium currently brings together expertise from 37 institutions in 24 countries. In comparative genomics, Musa is seen as an ideal model for understanding genomic evolution in relation to biotic and abiotic stresses, in a polyploid, vegetatively propagated crop. Members are committed to close collaboration and agree to share materials and resources, including sequence data and enabling technologies. Wherever possible, the products of the Consortium are placed in the public domain and any new varieties developed as a result of the Consortium's work are intended for dissemination to smallholder farmers.

Public information

The Plant Breeding and Genetics Sub-programme has been promoting the efficient use of mutation techniques since late 1960's. The Manual on Mutation Breeding, edited by the Agency and first published in 1970, updated in 1979 and reprinted several times afterwards, was the first book of its kind in the world. It has been widely used both as textbook in universities (translated into a couple of national languages) and reference book for breeders in their profession. The Manual together with the training provided to scientists in developing countries and support and coordination of research activities have greatly promoted the correct and efficient use of mutation techniques in crop improvement. Here are a few prominent examples among the 3218 mutant varieties reported to the FAO/IAEA mutant variety database:

  • In China, several mutant varieties had been the leading varieties in terms of production area, e.g., Yuanfengzao, Zhefu 802, Yangdao # 6 had been the few leading conventional rice variety in the 1970's, 1980's and 1990's; with a total growing area about 9, 12, 5 million ha, respectively; the wheat variety Yangmai 158 also led the way in 1990's with a total plant area more than 15 million ha.
  • In Pakistan, many mutant varieties were developed through the Agency's support, including irradiation of seeds in the FAO/IAEA Biotechnology Laboratory in Seibersdorf. Examples are salt tolerant rice varieties, high yielding cotton varieties, and virus resistant mungbean varieties. The mungbean mutant varieties not only attributed the 50% yield increase during the past twenty years but also greatly helped the expansion of production area in Pakistan.
  • Plant breeding has been slow in Africa in general and so the use of mutation techniques; however, some results have been very promising. For example, mutant cocoa varieties, which show strong resistance to the virus causing the "swollen shoot", a disease almost ruined cocoa production in many regions, are now growing on 25 farms across Ghana with no evidence of a resurgence of the disease. Mutant varieties out-yielded local varieties by 30% to 100% have also developed for banana in Sudan and finger millet in Zambia.

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