Dr. D. Satish Kumar is a Research Scientist at ITC Ltd. in Rajahmundry, Andhra Pradesh.
He says “Global Crop Diversity Trust defined pre-breeding as ‘the art of identifying desired traits, and incorporation of these into modern breeding materials-breeding refers to all activities designed to identify desirable characteristics and/or genes from unadapted materials that cannot be used directly in breeding populations and to transfer these traits to an intermediate set of materials that breeders can use further in producing new varieties for farmers. Pre-breeding aims to provide breeders ready to use materials with specific traits of interest as well as to broaden the diversity of improved germplasm. It does not differ significantly from the general framework of plant breeding and is considered as a prior step of sustainable plant breeding. Pre-breeding involves all the activities associated with the identification of desirable traits and/or genes from unadapted germplasm (donor) that cannot be used directly in breeding populations (exotic/wild species), and to transfer these traits into well-adapted genetic backgrounds (recipients), As pre-breeding is being carried out, the resulting materials are expected to have merit to be included in ordinary breeding programs. Pre-breeding aims to reduce genetic uniformity in crops through the use of a wider pool of genetic material to increase yield, resistance to pests and diseases, and other quality traits. The process of pre-breeding identifies a useful character in unadapted materials, ‘captures’ its genetic diversity, and incorporates those genes into a usable form employing different techniques: For field crops improvement, sufficient genetic diversity exists in the form of landraces and wild relatives, which carry several useful genes for cultivar improvement. However, utilization of these resources in breeding programs is time-consuming and resource-demanding. To overcome this, pre-breeding activities should be initiated to generate new genetic variability using promising landraces and wild relatives for use by breeders in crop improvement programs. Pre-breeding should focus on the continuous supply of useful variability into the breeding pipeline to develop new high-yielding cultivars with a broad genetic base, pre-breeding should not focus on increasing yield. Though pre-breeding is useful to enrich the primary gene pool for cultivar improvement, it is a time-consuming and difficult affair as well”