Continuous improvement for breeding with impact

We all feel that we improve as time goes on. Lessons are learned, new tools incorporated, and different initiatives occur here and there. But even with hard work and dedication this is not enough to create the step changes in variety turnover and genetic gain increases we want to see in farmers' fields.

Continuous improvement is the approach that will make it possible to modernize breeding programs and consistently get significantly improved varieties in farmers' fields. It is a new way of thinking and working, both an organizational culture and a set of clear principles and guidelines to follow.

If you are a plant or animal public sector breeder, ask yourself: Do you feel that the objectives of your products are part of broader breeding program goals? Are improvements and learnings being regularly documented and shared transparently across the organization? Are the objectives, ways of interacting and operating of different areas of the breeding program clearly defined? Is there constant pressure to find ways to optimize components of the breeders equation? Is there an annual review process linked to on-going adjustments and forward planning?

These are all essential elements of a continuous improvement culture.

Within CGIAR, public sector breeders and the funding community, a consensus has emerged around the way forward: leveraging what we know about the best practices and cutting-edge technologies being applied in private sector breeding, and collaborating together to adapt and incorporate it in the settings where we work.

The CGIAR Excellence in Breeding Platform (EiB) is a product of this consensus. Through the Platform, our partners will have a community-validated Toolbox covering genotyping, phenotyping and data management, access to services at reduced cost, practical advice on how to optimize breeding programs, and jointly design common investment priorities.

Continuous improvement is the key for this initiative to work. Even though it may be a shake-up in our way of working, it will deliver real benefits not just for the ultimate client - farmers in the developing world - but also for breeding programs and those working in them.

The aim is not to add to our workload, but to improve quality, results and cost-efficiency over time. The goal is not to arrive at a predetermined standard of operating, but to be continuously and forever improving.

So how can we work together?

Many CGIAR breeding programs are undergoing an external review known as the Breeding Program Assessment Tool (BPAT), which will guide the support provided by EiB.

We will work with breeding program management to ensure support for the innovations we develop together in terms of better understanding client needs, streamlining breeding processes and creating more efficient operations.

For scientists working in breeding programs, EiB will work with breeding teams to enable them to identify and implement ways to achieve greater rates of genetic gain and variety turnover in farmers’ fields.

EiB leaders are meeting continuously with CGIAR and NARS breeding programs to co-develop tools and guidelines. Register your account on excellenceinbreeding.org to stay up-to-date and access tools and services as they come online in the coming months.