This is a major challenge that CIRAD is keen to take up in order to stimulate economic development in tropical zones with low rainfall. Breeding resistant cotton varieties would discourage African farmers from abandoning their land in the event of drought.
For ten years, now, CIRAD had been studying cotton growing in the arid lands of sub-Saharan Africa. Its researchers are working to breed drought-resistant planting material. However, "this is a slow business, involving numerous trials", as Bernard Hau, from CIRAD’s Annual Crops Department’s "Cotton Farming Systems" Research Unit points out.
The Israeli biotechnology firm Evogene has isolated gene/promoter combinations of agronomic interest in tomato that are involved in resistance to drought and to salt water. The idea is to apply the technique to cotton, using bioinformatic analysis tools that could lead to the creation of new varieties.
The Cottonstress project has been granted funding from the Agence nationale de la recherche, which should allow it to employ two researchers. Work is due to begin in May, at INRA’s Versailles laboratories.
Catherine Pannetier | alfa
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