IAEA - International Atomic Energy Agency

09/20/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 09/20/2021 02:57

Global Success in Plant Breeding Celebrated with New Achievement Awards

Climate change and food security are among the biggest challenges facing the global community. Endeavouring to find solutions at the urgent pace that is required to improve food security and crop adaptation to climate change, experts in many countries are looking to nuclear techniques to develop new and improved crop varieties for cultivation.

Today, at the 65th IAEA General Conference, a side event recognises the contributions to plant mutation breeding from 28 researchers and research teams of institutions from across 20 countries - honouring them with awards for outstanding achievements. Awards will be presented by the Director General of the IAEA, Rafael Mariano Grossi, with the recorded presence of the Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Qu Dongyu in a ceremony in Vienna. This recognition includes 11 Outstanding Achievement Awards, 10 Women in Plant Mutation Breeding Awards, and 7 Young Scientist Awards for significant efforts in the last decade in the development of new mutant varieties using irradiation.

The IAEA, in cooperation with FAO, assists experts worldwide in using nuclear techniques in agriculture, including support with irradiating seeds or other plant material in order to develop plant varieties with superior characteristics, such as drought tolerance or increased yields. This process, called plant mutation breeding, uses the plant's own natural genetic resources to mimic the spontaneous process of mutation in the evolution of plants. It increases the pace of genetic change and allows plant breeders to select the most desirable ones from many mutant lines.

Since the last Superior and Outstanding Achievement Awards in 2014, when contributions to plant mutation breeding were recognised for the first time at the 50th Anniversary of the Joint FAO/IAEA Centre, significant strides have been made in the development and release of new improved crop varieties for cultivation by researchers across the globe. Simultaneously, technology development and application in the use of newer sources of irradiation such as ion beams and space irradiation are also gaining prominence. Recipients of the current awards have in many cases generated positive socioeconomic impact resulting from their work, including increased farmers' income and food security. These developments have been critical in engaging global interest and encouraged the Joint FAO/IAEA Centre to initiate a new set of awards, including some to recognise the achievements of women and young scientists, said Qu Liang, Director of the Joint FAO/IAEA Centre.

The use of plant mutation breeding continues to progress at the fastest pace in Asia - and experts in the region can now share best practices via the Plant Mutation Breeding Network for Asia and the Pacific, recently set up by the Joint FAO/IAEA Centre, which offers technical support based on each country's needs. The Joint Centre further continues to explore and develop innovative new technologies to accelerate the pace of crop improvement including the use of newer sources of irradiation, genomics technologies, big data and artificial intelligence, along with specific speed breeding technologies, which is a critical part of climate smart agriculture.