Speed breeding orphan crops

T Chiurugwi, S Kemp, W Powell, LT Hickey

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

85 Citations (Scopus)
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There is a growing need for the agri-food sector to sustainably produce larger quantities of higher-quality food, feed and fuel using fewer resources, within the context of changing agroclimatic conditions. Meeting this challenge will require the accelerated development and dissemination of improved plant varieties and substantial improvement of agricultural practices. Speed breeding protocols that shorten plant generation times can hasten breeding and research to help fulfil the ever-increasing demands. Global agri-food systems rely on a relatively small number of plant species; however, there are calls to widen the scope of globally important crops to include orphan crops, which are currently grown and used by the world’s poorest people or marketed as niche products for affluent consumers. Orphan crops can supply global diets with key nutrients, support economic development in the world’s poorest regions, and bolster the resilience of the global agri-food sector to biotic and abiotic stresses. Little research effort has been invested in orphan crops, with farmers growing landraces that are sourced and traded through poorly structured market systems. Efforts are underway to develop breeding resources and techniques to improve orphan crops. Here, we highlight the current efforts and opportunities to speed breed orphan crops and discuss alternative approaches to deploy speed breeding in the less-resourced regions of the world. Speed breeding is a tool that, when used together with other multidisciplinary R&D approaches, can contribute to the rapid creation of new crop varieties, agricultural practices and products, supporting the production and utilisation of orphan crops at a commercial scale.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)607-616
JournalTheoretical and Applied Genetics
Issue number3
Early online date19 Oct 2018
Publication statusPrint publication - Mar 2019


  • Diet diversity
  • Food and nutrition security
  • Micronutrients
  • Orphan crops
  • Speed breeding


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