Basic Research to Enable Agricultural Development: additional information (BREAD)
Agriculture is benefiting from advances in genomics made over the past decade, including high throughput sequencing methods, bioinformatics, databases, and a wealth of other “omics” technologies. Outcomes of this research have allowed academic and industrial researchers to expand the breeders' toolkit, for example, to exploit the diversity of agronomically useful traits in wild and domesticated crop plants and to accelerate the development of new plant varieties through marker-assisted breeding. There has been some application of these advances to smallholder agriculture in developing countries but there is a lack of resource and technology development that focuses directly on developing country issues and that is tailored to these needs.
New collaborations by a broad range of scientists and engineers are needed that lead to a different way of thinking about the major problems facing developing country agriculture. The National Science Foundation announces a partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support these collaborations and the transformative research that will emerge. The goal of this new program, “Basic Research to Enable Agricultural Development” or “BREAD”, is to build on the accomplishments of the National Plant Genome Initiative (NPGI), extending the opportunities to include international partners in efforts to generate sustainable, science-based solutions to problems of smallholder agriculture in developing countries. Through these new partnerships and projects, it is anticipated that the program will lead a change in the research culture to one that is more broadly inclusive of these needs.
This program will be a component of the Plant Genome Research Program (PGRP) that began in Fiscal Year 1998 as part of the NPGI. A new five-year plan for the NPGI was released in January 2009 (http://www.ostp.gov/galleries/NSTC/NPGI%20Five-Year%20Plan%202009-2013.pdf). The overall goals of the NPGI are to support basic research in plant genomics and to accelerate the acquisition and utilization of new knowledge and innovative approaches to elucidating fundamental biological processes in plants. The focus of the NPGI is on plants of agricultural importance and plant processes of potential agronomic value.
Since 2004, the PGRP has offered the Developing Country Collaborations in Plant Genome Research (DCC-PGR) funding opportunity (http://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=12789&org=BIO) to support research collaborations between US scientists and scientists from developing countries as part of ongoing or new PGRP awards. The intent of the DCC-PGR program is to support collaborative research linking US researchers with partners from developing countries to solve problems of mutual interest in agriculture, energy and the environment, while placing US and international researchers at the center of a global network of scientific excellence.
The BREAD Program will take the activities initiated under PGRP and DCC-PGR to the next level, allowing a broader engagement of researchers across disciplines and across international boundaries to form a new community of scientists who may not have worked together before. The Program is expected to support scientific research that tests innovative hypotheses and that would lead to novel and creative approaches and technologies applicable to smallholder agriculture. Especially encouraged would be new proposals that focus on improving existing agricultural crops, developing new crops, increasing crop productivity, or developing efficient production practices.
Although the program emphasizes crop improvement, it would also consider novel, imaginative, and creative ideas from scientists in all fields of science and engineering as long as the proposed hypothesis is consistent with the program objectives. The focus will be on novel, transformative research at the proof of concept stage rather than development. Proposals would be expected to address anticipated project outcomes in the context of broader societal impacts.