Variety Improvement

This programme conducts research and implements strategies for the continual release of high yielding, adaptable, pest and disease resistant varieties that add value and enhance industry productivity. Research is undertaken in five key research areas.

Introgression Breeding seeks to expand the genetic base of parental germplasm used in Commercial Breeding by performing successive crosses between elite commercial varieties and either plant species closely related to sugarcane or ancestral species that gave rise to modern commercial hybrid varieties. Of particular relevance is that Introgression Breeding provides access to genes from other species that have the potential to contribute improved vigour, resilience and pest and disease resistance to commercial varieties bred through Commercial Breeding.

Research in this area also focuses on the development of methods and technologies to enable the crossing of sugarcane varieties with closely related and progenitor cane species, which includes synchronisation of flowering, pollen storage and genetic diversity analysis.

Commercial Breeding lies at the core of the Variety Improvement Programme. This major component of SASRI activities consists of five primary areas of research and operations, namely; crossing, selection, genotype testing, bulking and variety release.

Together, this highly co-ordinated series of activities results in the release to the industry of varieties with high sugar yield (both sucrose and cane yield), pest and disease resistance, adaptability, ratooning ability and agronomic and milling characteristics that are desirable to both millers and growers.

This research area focuses on unravelling the extremely complex sugarcane genome with a view to the development of genetic markers linked to important sugarcane traits, for example pest and disease resistance. Knowledge and resources generated in this area feed into breeding research.

Articulating strongly with Commercial Breeding, Variety Characterisation research and development aims to provide comprehensive information on the performance of new varieties under different management practices and agro-climatic conditions upon, or soon after, their release to the industry.

As for Commercial Breeding, Variety Characterisation is complemented by a series of research projects that are instituted to address specific issues, for example variety ratoon longevity and the performance of varieties derived from the NovaCane® Technology.

Research and development underlying Trait Development are strongly focused on the development of innovations of strategic importance to the future delivery and sustainable cultivation of varieties with novel traits (characteristics) within the industry.

Traits currently under development include enhanced nitrogen-use efficiency and herbicide and drought tolerance. Research in this area also includes the development of technologies and resources required for genetic engineering, mutagenic breeding and the preservation of valuable germplasm, as well as the demonstration of proof-of-concept regarding the performance of the novel lines produced.

For more information contact:

Principal Biotechnologist
Tel: 031 508 7400 (Switchboard)
Tel: 031 508 7460 (Direct)