GOBII project launch to improve breeding crop varieties

The process of breeding improved crop varieties is to get more efficient soon with the launch of a new IT related project. 

The Cornell University, USA-based Genomic and Open-source Breeding Informatics Initiative (GOBII) has the objective of developing software tools and databases that will organise data on plant breeding processes across Africa and Asia for use by plant breeders to make their work more effective.

Ghanaian software engineer Yaw Nti-Addae who is the lead software developer of the project says, “GOBII has the unique opportunity to enable breeders to organize genomic information and have access to modern analytical tools. 

“It would also efficiently utilise resources and effectively reduce the time it takes to release new materials through their variety development processes.”

He says the project will go a long way to make the development of new and improved varieties of crops more efficient for the benefit of the ordinary farmer and help improve productivity on the farm.

“Genetic gain is the name of the game, and we have to recognize that in order to sustain the world’s growing population amidst depleting agricultural lands, we have to employ efficient and informed breeding methods,” he explained in an interview with Joy news’ Joseph Opoku Gakpo.

The five-year project which is running until 2020 is funded by a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The initial focus is on five staple crops which are common to Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia including rice, wheat, maize, sorghum, and chickpea. The project hopes to expand to cover other crops soon.

The project is developing software that will be freely available to molecular biologists, genomicists, statisticians and data analysts to organize and analyze data for breeding decision support. 

This will allow for scientists to leverage on work done previously by others, so duties are not duplicated. The project will also help scientists engaged in plant breeding to effectively manage available data.

Director of GOBII, Kelly Robbins says the project will provide crucial resources to help deal with food security challenges in the developing world.

“The GOBII project is primarily focused on crop yields through the development of superior varieties that are high yielding and better adapted to local environments. 

“This will be accomplished by integrating genomic information into the breeding process which will increase the accuracy of the selection process and shorten the time it takes to develop new varieties,” he told Joy news.

“GOBII is heavily focused on implementation of state of the art breeding techniques. If successful it will generate sustained benefits for many years to come in terms of the development of new plant varieties with superior performance,” he added.

The initiative is unique for being the only large-scale public initiative of its kind with focus on helping the development of new varieties for use by African