These are letters sent to other groups by the Plant Breeding Coordinating Committee.
On behalf of the National Association of Plant Breeders (part of the Plant Breeding Coordinating Committee), I would like to comment on AFRI. As way of background, NAPB represents the common interests of the plant breeding community working with field, forest, horticultural and specialty crops including organic crops. Our members come from the public sector (universities, Agricultural Research Service, and Forest Service), the private sector (small, family-owned to large multinational companies), and non-governmental organizations. We collect, evaluate and utilize diverse germplasm to develop new cultivars and breeding populations. We educate the next generation of plant breeders and we communicate the results of our research to the public. Major goals of the plant breeding community are to understand and maintain the genetic diversity of our crops, as well as the development of adapted varieties that are nutritious, productive, resistant to disease, insects and drought, and that have a place in a value-added economy.
Our priorities are:
- Develop new technologies and knowledge, and integrate it into the science of plant breeding
- Develop cultivars for U.S. production that compete in the global marketplace
- Develop competitive cultivars with added value and sustainability while preserving environmental quality for rural entrepreneurs
- Develop crops with increased health-promoting properties and appeal for consumers
- Develop crops for an agriculture system that is in harmony with the environment: resistant to diseases, insects and environmental stresses, with reduced energy input
- Increase public awareness of plant breeding achievements and develop leading edge systems for the education and training of plant breeders
Additional information on the Plant Breeding Coordinating Committee can be found at: http://cuke.hort.ncsu.edu/gpb/pr/pbccmain.html
With this in mind, we fully support AFRI as a critical need and major step in the funding of agricultural research, education, and outreach. AFRI addresses many of our goals and priorities, and we applaud the inclusion of “conventional breeding, including cultivar and breed development, selection theory, applied quantitative genetics, breeding for improved food quality, breeding for local adaptation to biotic and abiotic stress and participatory breeding.” The strong support of integrated programs, education, and extension in AFRI are also extremely important to the plant breeding community. We believe that AFRI will provide a needed competitive resource to help advance the science of plant breeding, educate and train the next generation of plant breeders, and to develop better ways of communicating the products of our research to the public. Furthermore, we strongly feel that plant breeding, which at its core emphasizes the applications of genetics and genomics, will play a critical role in translating the large previous and current investment in genomics into tangible products that our diverse constituencies require. Hence we give AFRI our strong support.
Please understand that AFRI will meet many, but not all of our goals. By its nature, plant breeding is long-term research that requires consistent funding. The time required to develop new cultivars ranges from 6 years for short season summer annual crops, to 12 years for winter annual crops, to decades for trees. Furthermore, continuous funding is required for the maintenance, characterization, and utilization of the germplasm that underpins all of our activities. If funding is lost for one or a few years, all of the previous years’ efforts can be lost. Hence while we strongly support the competitive nature of AFRI, we also believe that a vibrant plant breeding and agricultural community requires many different types of funding (especially long-term, consistent funding) to support the national goals and aspirations in addition to competitive funding.
P. Stephen Baenziger
Chair, National Association of Plant Breeders and the Plant Breeding Coordinating Committee
Eugene W. Price Distinguished Professor