Lack of plant breeding programs could further impact food security - study

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Lack of plant breeding programs could further impact food security - study

The coronavirus has already brought gaps to food security to the forefront during the pandemic. While most of the news has focused on logjams in the supply chains due to consolidated distributors, other factors are beginning to introduce themselves as threats as well.

A new study published in Crop Science by Washington State University (WSU) has discovered that declines in crop breeding programs due to COVID-19 have put a damper on funding and personnel.

Plant breeding takes on many forms, from breeding disease tolerance, increasing production, introducing new delicious varieties or improving drought tolerance.

In their report, Evans and her colleagues conducted a survey of 278 plant breeding programs around the United States. Public programs are chiefly federal programs, like those run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, or based at public research universities.

The surveys revealed an estimated a 21.4% decline in full time employee (FTE) time for program leaders over the past five years and an estimated 17.7% decline in FTE time for technical support personnel. The researchers also found that retirement looms for a significant number of plant breeding program leaders. Over a third of the responding programs reported having leaders over the age of 60 and 62% are led by people over 50.

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