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Submit a Manuscript to the Journal

GM Crops & Food

For an Article Collection on

Orphan Crops for Food Security and Agricultural Sustainability in the 21st Century: Reclaiming Their Lost Glory

Manuscript deadline
31 October 2023

Cover image - GM Crops & Food

Article collection guest advisor(s)

Professor Rajeev Varshney, Murdoch University, Australia
[email protected]

Dr. Abhishek Bohra, Murdoch University, Australia
[email protected]

Dr. Cathrine Ziyomo, International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Kenya
[email protected]

Dr. Chiedozie Egesi, National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI), Nigeria
[email protected]

Dr. Maria Andrade, International Potato Center (CIP), Mozambique
[email protected]

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Orphan Crops for Food Security and Agricultural Sustainability in the 21st Century: Reclaiming Their Lost Glory

Safeguarding food and nutritional security targets of the world population by 2050 will require nutrient-dense crops that can withstand extreme and unpredictable climates. At the same time, efforts to accelerate the productivity gains of future crops should have the least environmental footprints. In this context, orphan crops hold paramount significance among the key future crops that could support improved nutrition and sustainable agriculture. Orphan or forgotten crops are particularly important to the Agri-food systems of the developing world given the dependence of livelihood generation and food security on subsistence agriculture. The food and nutritional related issues are stark in the developing countries. For instance, Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa house 63 per cent of 793 million undernourished people worldwide. Though not involved in international trade, orphan crops are equipped with several valuable traits that impart adaptation to the harsh environment and minimal input supply. Limited attention from the research community has hampered the pace of genetic improvement of orphan crops. However, in recent years these crops have received a renewed interested because of growing realization about their immense value in terms of securing income to local farmers, catering to human dietary needs, and enabling diversification of farming systems.

Modern biotechnology approaches have opened exciting opportunities to improve orphan crops. A range of genomic resources including the whole genome sequences and high-throughput genotyping assays have been developed in recent years to support genetic improvement of orphan crops. The growing availability of pangenomes has greatly enhanced our ability to harness the untapped breeding potential of diverse germplasm collections, and pangenomes have emerged as one of the breeder friendly tools to rapidly improve efficiency in crops breeding programs, thus improving agronomic qualities and nutritional traits of the crops. With the aim to gather high-quality research contributions from leading authorities, this Article Collection “Orphan crops for food security and agricultural sustainability in the 21st Century: Reclaiming their lost glory” will focus on the recent advances that have improved the understanding of the biology and breeding of orphan crops. We invite manuscripts, including Original Research and Reviews, that explore the various aspects of biology and breeding of orphan crops:

  • Genome sequencing initiatives for decoding the whole genomes of orphan crops
  • Pangenomes for in-depth characterization and use of germplasm diversity
  • Resolving the complex genetic architecture of important traits including nutritional and climate adaptation traits
  • Genomics-assisted breeding for trait improvement and product delivery
  • Gene editing studies for creating future cultivars
  • Case studies illustrating the successful introduction of orphan crops to new niches and on promoting adoption of orphan crops in farming systems

Professor Rajeev Varshney is a leading agricultural research scientist specializing in genomics and molecular breeding with 20+ years of service in developing countries in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. He is currently serving as Director of the State Agricultural Biotechnology Centre, Director of the Centre for Crop & Food Innovations, and International Chair in Agriculture & Food Security at Murdoch University, Australia. Prof. Varshney, a highly prolific author and highly cited researcher for 9 consecutive years (2014-2022) has published >600 papers in high-impact factor journals including 20 papers in Nature journals. He is an elected fellow to about 10 science and agriculture academies/societies in India, Germany, the USA, etc. and recipient of several noted awards including the most coveted science award, the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize, and the most prestigious agricultural science award, Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Award from Government of India. ICRISAT, his former institute, won the 2021 Africa Food Prize for the outputs and impact of Tropical Legume projects, led by Prof. Varshney as Principal Investigator for 7 years.

Dr Abhishek Bohra has been involved in the development and application of high-end genomic resources for enhancing the productivity and resistance performance of food crops including orphan legumes. He has led and co-led several national/international projects such as schemes funded by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), the Department of Agriculture and Farmers' Welfare (DACFW), Government of India and Consortium Research Platform (CRP) of Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), India. Dr Bohra has worked as Senior Scientist with ICAR-Indian Institute of Pulses Research (IIPR), India for more than 10 years and led the National Program on Hybrid Pigeonpea. He was involved in the digitalization of Indian pulse breeding program, and has developed crop technologies and products contributing to enhance the value of the Indian agricultural sector. He has developed valuable genetic stocks and pre-breeding lines to support the genetic enhancement and breeding programs of legume crops. He is the recipient of the Young Scientist Medal (2016) of Indian National Science Academy (INSA), India and Associate Fellowship (2023) from National Academy of Agricultural Sciences (NAAS), India. He has published more than 100 articles including original research articles and reviews in leading journals.

Dr Cathrine Ziyomo leads the Biosciences for Africa (B4A) based at ILRI in Nairobi. Her tireless commitment to drive ‘genetic gain’ in farmers’ fields has been an asset for partnership building in pursuit of the delivery access of B4A including implementation of molecular breeding. Given her strong background in plant breeding principles combining both public and private sector experience, and her dedication to modernizing Africa’s breeding programs for accelerated crop improvement, she has supported more than 40 plant breeding programs on the continent and supervised masters and PhD students from national research organizations in Africa.

Dr Chiedozie Egesi is currently the Executive Director of the National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI), Umudike, Nigeria. He has served as a Senior Scientist at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan, Nigeria. Dr Egesi is also the Project Director of the Next Generation cassava breeding (NextGen) project, which aims at empowering small holder farmers in Africa using innovative breeding methods and cutting-edge genomic technologies. NextGen cassava varieties have higher yield, better resistance performance and end-use characteristics that are preferred by the farmers, consumers and processors. Dr Egesi led efforts to develop and release 40 improved varieties of cassava including 9 pro-vitamin A cassava. He is currently a member of the Executive Committee of the African Plant Breeders Association and also the President of the Nigeria Plant Breeders Association. In 2017, he was appointed an Adjunct Professor in Plant Breeding and Genetics by Cornell University. Dr Egesi has played a key role in modernization of cassava breeding programs of National Agricultural Research System in Africa.

Dr Maria Andrade is a Principal Scientist at the International Potato Center (CIP) and leads the modernization of sweetpotato breeding in Africa and Flagship project 2 (FP 2): Adapted Productive Varieties and Quality Seed of RTB Crops. Dr Andrade has served as a regional cassava and sweetpotato agronomist for the Southern Africa Root Crop Research Network and led a project on Accelerated Multiplication and Distribution of Planting Materials of Cassava and Sweetpotato. She had served as the vice president for fund raising for the International Society for Tropical Root Crops (ISTRC) global, Board of Directors of Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa, Board of Micronutrient Forum, and a Member of External Panel Review of NextGen Cassava. She is also a member of the high-level group of champions for the Food Forever Initiative. She has released 30 bio-fortified sweetpotato varieties, of which 20 are drought tolerant. Her key recognitions include: World Food Prize (2016) and Swaminathan Award for Environmental Protection (2017). She has received Appreciation Award from ISTRC-AB, Outstanding Alumnus Award from NCSU, one of the 5th Wonder Women of Agriculture by USDA and Cape Verdean Woman of the Year. In 2020, she was selected as one of 25 African women scientists to be profiled in a high-quality publication. In 2021 she became member of Scientific Advisory Committee of the Periodic Table of Food Initiative (PTFI), and Scientific Advisory Panel for the Global Conference on Green Development of Seed Industries organised by FAO.

All manuscripts submitted to this Article Collection will undergo a full peer-review; the Guest Advisor for this collection will not be handling the manuscripts (unless they are an Editorial Board member). Please review the journal scope and author submission instructions prior to submitting a manuscript.

The deadline for submitting manuscripts is October 31, 2023.

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All manuscripts submitted to this Article Collection will undergo desk assessment and peer-review as part of our standard editorial process. Guest Advisors for this collection will not be involved in peer-reviewing manuscripts unless they are an existing member of the Editorial Board. Please review the journal Aims and Scope and author submission instructions prior to submitting a manuscript.

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