Theme 2: Forage--Oral Sessions

Description

To maintain the largest herd in the world, 214 million heads of beef cattle grazing exclusively on pastures (only 14% finished in feed-lots), Embrapa (Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation) in Brazil, has intensely invested on forage breeding programs since the 1980s. Nowadays, there are circa thirteen forage grass and legume species being bred at different Embrapa Units around the country and other six Units focusing on collection and research of regional native forages. Breeding depends on good germplasm sources. Therefore, breeding activities in Brazil will remain highly dependent on exotic and native genetic basis maintained in the Germplasm Banks. Despite the importance of forages to the country, genetic resources have still not received the attention they deserve. Most of the forage germplasm banks at Embrapa are maintained by breeders, who are also responsible for cultivar development activities, from germplasm evaluation and breeding to cultivar release to the market and thereafter. Thus, breeders lack the time to manage the banks adequately. Conservation is a challenge, since forage grass seeds usually lose viability quickly even under good conservation conditions and some accessions produce very low seed thus are being maintained vegetatively. Accessions maintained in the field impose problems of accession identity and varietal purity, and loss of plots due to invasive weeds or harsh climatic conditions. Although resources have been continuously available for maintenance, investments for evaluating and using are scarce. In general, accessions need to be better characterized, conserved and exchanged among researchers and institutions. Collection expeditions, mainly in Africa, are still imperative, since many genera, as Melinis and Hyparrhenia have not been collected and sexual forms in several apomictic species are not available or the sexual pools need broadening. Some important regions in Africa have not been assessed, as well as marginal areas to find sources of resistance to abiotic stresses.

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Forage Genetic Resources in Brazil

To maintain the largest herd in the world, 214 million heads of beef cattle grazing exclusively on pastures (only 14% finished in feed-lots), Embrapa (Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation) in Brazil, has intensely invested on forage breeding programs since the 1980s. Nowadays, there are circa thirteen forage grass and legume species being bred at different Embrapa Units around the country and other six Units focusing on collection and research of regional native forages. Breeding depends on good germplasm sources. Therefore, breeding activities in Brazil will remain highly dependent on exotic and native genetic basis maintained in the Germplasm Banks. Despite the importance of forages to the country, genetic resources have still not received the attention they deserve. Most of the forage germplasm banks at Embrapa are maintained by breeders, who are also responsible for cultivar development activities, from germplasm evaluation and breeding to cultivar release to the market and thereafter. Thus, breeders lack the time to manage the banks adequately. Conservation is a challenge, since forage grass seeds usually lose viability quickly even under good conservation conditions and some accessions produce very low seed thus are being maintained vegetatively. Accessions maintained in the field impose problems of accession identity and varietal purity, and loss of plots due to invasive weeds or harsh climatic conditions. Although resources have been continuously available for maintenance, investments for evaluating and using are scarce. In general, accessions need to be better characterized, conserved and exchanged among researchers and institutions. Collection expeditions, mainly in Africa, are still imperative, since many genera, as Melinis and Hyparrhenia have not been collected and sexual forms in several apomictic species are not available or the sexual pools need broadening. Some important regions in Africa have not been assessed, as well as marginal areas to find sources of resistance to abiotic stresses.