Food crops biotechnology

Indonesia has made major advances in food crop production, especially for rice and soybean. Continuous and up-to-date research is essential to sustain food production.

High yield always ranks at the top of any farmer's or breeder's list of important traits. Genetically improved crop varieties usually offer the most cost-effective and environmentally friendly means of increasing yields, with or without minimal use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

Analysis of factors contributing to such yield gains indicates a key role for disease, pest and stress resistance. Some plant resistances derive from singlegene effects and, if these can be identified and transferred to an advanced cultivar by plant transformation and regeneration, or by crossing - this may involve embryo rescue or the use of RFLPs or RAPDs to track useful genes in a conventional breeding programme - then biotechnology can contribute to the conventional plant breeding approach.

The research strategy acknowledges that there are some shorter-term, 'intermediate technology' approaches, as well as the use of modern biotechnology, which usually requires a long-term programme. Approaches using molecular genetics usually require a team approach. It takes some years to build a successful plant molecular biology team and it will then take further time to start producing useful results. The number of recombinant DNA-transformed plants that are approaching commercial release is small, despite large investments by both private companies and public institutions.

Research programmes

• Genetic improvement of rice and soybean through the use of tissue culture and recombinant DNA genetic engineering.

• Developing effective, nitrogen-fixing inoculants for grain legumes.

• Training scientists and technicians in the use of biotechnology

The potential use of biotechnology in programmes at the Centre for Agricultural Biotechnology, CRIFC, dealing with rice and soybean production as the priority areas for research, is given in Table 4.3. The research is underpinned by a strong capability in plant tissue culture and microbiology

Outputs

• Rice and soybean plant regeneration techniques from plant tissue and protoplast cultures.

• Techniques for RFLP mapping, gene isolation, cloning, transformation, embryo rescue, and production of monoclonal antibodies and DNA probes for disease identification.

• Genetically engineered varieties of rice and soybean.

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