HarvestPlus seeks to reduce micronutrient malnutrition among the poor by breeding staple food crops that are rich in micronutrients through a process called biofortification. HarvestPlus has targeted banana and plantain (Musa spp.) to deliver higher levels of pro-vitamin A carotenoids (pVAC) to those communities in sub-Saharan Africa with a higher prevalence of vitamin A deficiency. Iron and zinc have also been considered but, to date, the natural genetic variation discovered for Fe and Zn in Musa is below 50% of the target increment so the major focus is on improving pVAC concentration. The initial plant breeding strategy has emphasised a fast-track approach that selects pVAC-dense genotypes from existing material that is locally adapted. Working with the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Bioversity International and the National Agricultural Research System (NARS) partners associated with these institutions, considerable testing of the nutrition and agronomic characteristics under relevant conditions in African target countries has taken place. The breeding strategy entails combining best pVAC sources with African adapted elite varieties that carry the productivity, disease and virus resistance, and sensory traits. Rapid generation advance and propagation techniques are used and further developed and the development of molecular markers for micronutrients and those facilitating breeding has increased breeding effectiveness. Plant breeding progress has led to improved sampling procedures and from the screening process, genotypic variation to reach the target of an extra 20 micrograms/gram pVAC has been discovered in Musa varieties from the Asian and Pacific regions while progenitors have been identified by IITA, Bioversity and NARS partners. Once pVAC-dense varieties have been fully developed, the Musa deployment strategy will capitalise on existing Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), NARS and Non-governmental Organisation (NGO) partnerships in germplasm development, training/capacity building and germplasm deployment in Africa.
Stangoulis, J.; Pfeiffer, W.; McClafferty, B.; Meenakshi, J.V.; Hotz, C.; Bouis, H. HarvestPlus agenda in relation to tropical fruits. Presented at Tropical fruits in human nutrition and health conference 2008, Couran Cove Island Resort, Gold Coast, Australia, 8-11 November. pp. 19-22. (2009) 4 pp.