The Plant Sciences Research Programme (PSP) funds projects ranging from fundamental, enabling research through to on-farm, participatory development and evaluation of technology. The impact of the PSP is considered, using a few selected projects as examples, from the viewpoint of the farmer; intermediate users; and longer-term technology development. Three examples are given of projects that have produced outputs used by farmers. R6395 Seed priming to improve crop establishment in Zimbabwe and India has developed and tested, in collaboration with farmers, a simple method of improving crop establishment, growth and yield. It has been taken up enthusiastically in India and farmers in more than 30 villages will be using the technology for maize and upland rice this year. The current and future expansion of collaborative linkages with this project is discussed. R6748 Participatory crop improvement in high potential production systems in India and Nepal, co-funded with the NRSP High Potential Production System, is adapting participatory methods developed for marginal areas to high potential production systems. Farmers have grown trials of varieties of wheat and rice that they had not previously encountered. Results, so far, indicate that the methods are easily adapted to high potential production systems. Farmer-managed trials and participatory evaluation have identified better varieties than those grown currently in the project area. The reasons as to why these two projects have succeeded in having an impact with farmers are discussed. R6348 On-farm assessment of salinity tolerance in wheat is collaborating with farmers to test salt-tolerant varieties of wheat, bred using novel techniques developed in earlier PSP and DFID-funded research. It is clear that tolerant germplasm will be a key element in any Integrated Salinity Management (ISM) approach. Impact with farmers is at an early stage, and future research needs to be directed at optimising uptake pathways. The value of research continuity and research serendipity is discussed in relation to this project. A project involving molecular marker technology is highlighted as an example of impact on intermediate users. R6454 Use of molecular markers to enhance the management of rice germplasm collections and their utilisation for rice improvement. This powerful technology is being used by IRRI to organise and manage their rice collection to better effect. Benefits include the identification and elimination of duplicate accessions, the formation of a 'core' collection, diversity estimates for samples of wild species and prediction of performance of rice germplasm. Molecular markers are also being used in R6667 Marker-assisted selection, QTLs and contiguous substitution lines for improving downy mildew resistance of pearl millet hybrids to produce, in collaboration with ICRISAT and private sector seed companies, pearl millet hybrids resistant to a devastating disease, downy mildew. These hybrids should be available to farmers in India by 2001. Further upstream, PSP is supporting longer-term research to produce transgenic crops resistant to a range of biotic constraints. This research has already produced rice plants having potential resistance to nematodes, Tungro virus and Rice Yellow Mottle Virus. Trials under containment are in progress, and field trials of these plants are scheduled to begin in 1999. Finally, PSP-funded research has produced fundamental, generic technology to enable the production of transgenic cassava. This technology has been adopted by laboratories in the UK, continental Europe and the USA.
DFID Natural Resources Advisers’ ConferenceSparsholt 6-11 June 1997, CAZS Discussion Papers No. 3, 20 pp.