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New Variety Design & Product Profiling

New Variety Design and Product Profiling aims to enable breeders to design new crop varieties that will achieve high adoption rates because their varietal characteristics serve the needs and preferences of farmers, processors, consumers, and other stakeholders in the crop value chain.

How does New Variety Design and Product Profiling add value to current breeding practices?

  • Variety design and bench-marking: The stronger emphasis is placed on systematic, quantitative assessment of varietal characteristics and creating product profiles with benchmarks for varietal performance and line progression. Consumer demanded traits are recognized as being as important as production traits. This requires a greater strategic prioritization of traits amongst the many traits required by farmers, processors, seed distributors, transporters, retailers, and consumers. This may involve the development of different varieties for different segments of the value chain.

  • Competitor product profiling: This requires analysis of the characteristics of current commercial varieties and landraces as grown by farmers and their differentiating characteristics at every stage in the value chain from seed production, farmers, processors, transporters, retailers, food companies and consumers.

  • New variety design: A detailed product profile is created that contains many traits and characteristics (typically more than 40) with performance benchmarks that are used to create breeding objectives. Current practices often focus on a much smaller number of farmer requirements that are well understood but are not discussed or agreed with other stakeholders in the value chain. Demand-led approaches put more emphasis on combining consumer-based traits with farmer requirements to drive adoption.

  • Quantitative benchmarks: For each trait, a target quantitative benchmark is set for line progression for variety release, rather than the common procedure of deciding on a defined number of years for annual selection and progressing the best performing lines at the end of the term for registration.

  • Trade-off decisions: A decision-making process is used that takes into account client needs, technical feasibility, and a range of other practical and fiscal considerations. Active and inclusive decision-making is core to demand-led breeding. A prioritized list of traits and the final new variety design that is used to set the breeding goals are discussed and agreed with clients and stakeholders before breeding work commences.

Variety design

  • Product profile: A specific product profile is required for each segment of clients that a new variety is intended to serve. Each product profile is comprised of a defined set of prioritized traits.

  • Communication: A consistent format should be used for product profiles so they are easy to compare and communicate to clients, plant breeders, scientists, managers, and other stakeholders.

  • Validation: Each new product profile should be tested with clients and assumptions about acceptability validated before major investment is made in a breeding program.

  • Market research data: Qualitative and quantitative data from early discussions with farmers and clients in the crop value chain should be used to create product profiles and make decisions on breeding objectives.

  • Adoption tracking: Breeders should consider at the variety design stage how adoption tracking will be done (e.g. phenotypic vs. genotypic markers) and build these markers into the various design.

  • Breeding goals: Validated product profiles that are comprised of a predefined, integrated, and prioritized set of traits should drive the setting of breeding goals and objectives, rather than single traits.

  • Forecasting requirements: Breeders need to decide how long it will take to develop their new variety and then use scenario-based techniques to review the applicability of their designs on this timeframe.

Setting standards

  • Breeding objectives: Clear, quantified breeding objectives with performance indicators are essential.

  • Benchmarks: Each trait in a product profile should be quantified and measurable vs. a defined performance benchmark that needs to be achieved to ensure registration and future adoption by farmers, based on the performance of a popular variety of landrace.

  • Bioassays: Performance must be measurable with “fit-for-purpose” assays.

  • Variety registration requirements: This process must be understood at the design phase and early discussions held with officials, particularly when the design includes consumer-based traits, markers for variety identification, and monitoring of trait performance assessment (e.g. nutrition, seed certification).

  • Seed production and scaling: A key design parameter is how easily can seed multiplication be scaled and what are the associated costs? This needs to be taken into consideration at the variety design stage so that future demand for seed can be satisfied. Seed production costs can make the difference between a variety being commercially viable or not.