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Plant Breeding

About the Section

As the name of the Institute itself suggests, Plant Breeding Section (under the Crop Improvement Division) forms a major component of this Institute. The contribution made by the scientists of this section is steeped in the history of sugarcane research and development in this country. The novel idea conceived by our founding fathers, viz, Dr. C.A. Barber and Sir. T.S. Venkatraman of using the wild species Saccharum spontaneum as male with S. officinarum as female in sugarcane breeding with the objectives of incorporating gene complexes for biotic and abiotic stresses and for high biomass production resulted in a tremendous level of useful genetic variability. The first successful inter-specific hybrid variety Co 205 was released for cultivation from this exercise way back in 1918. This paved the way in revolutionizing sugarcane agriculture and sugar industry not only in India, but also in most of the sugarcane growing countries of the world. This landmark achievement is unparalleled in the annals of crop breeding history. Most, if not all, of the present day varieties world-over have the Coimbatore bred canes in their genealogy. A number of varieties evolved at this Institute has sustained the sugar industry in the country for nearly a century and made India self sufficient in sugar production.

The sugarcane breeding work in the main campus is facilitated by the National Hybridization Garden (NHG), where scientists and breeders from all AICRP centres assemble and make crosses after selecting proven parents. An innovative mechanism in the form of elevated runways in NHG has greatly facilitated making crosses easier even for female scientists. To augment the work at NHG, the hybridization programme is also carried out at the farm located at Agali Research Centre. The seed is later collected, dried and the defuzzed seeds are dispatched to the coordinating centres across the country.

The major part of seedling and clonal evaluation and selection is carried out at the breeding section located at East Chittirai Chavady (ECC) about 3 km from the main Institute. Clones suitable for North India are tested at the Regional Centre, Karnal. The best performing clones are assigned Co- numbers (‘Co’ indicating Coimbatore selections) and pushed to the next level of zonal trials.

The breeding section has also a mandate for testing and promoting promising clones evaluated under different centres in 4 zones (Peninsular, North West, North Central and East Coast) under the All Coordinated Research Project on Sugarcane.

A number of Scientific staff (both experienced and young) form the core group of sugarcane breeding at the Institute. The breeding section offers good facilities for undertaking basic and applied research on all aspects concerning sugarcane.

Activities under AICRP

ICAR - Sugarcane Breeding Institute, Coimbatore was established in the year 1912 and served for more than 107 years in evolving superior varieties of sugarcane to cater the needs of the various agro climatic zones in the country. The Institute is located at Coimbatore (77°E longitude and 11°N latitude) in Southern India on the leeward side of Western Ghats at 427 metres above mean sea level and receives an annual average rainfall of 650 mm, mostly during the months of October-December. The maximum and minimum temperatures range from 35.2°C to 21.7°C respectively. During the last century, the institute had contributed to the varietal diversity of the nation, as it was evident from the fact that more than 90% of the area under sugarcane in the country is covered by varieties which were bred or derived from crosses made at Coimbatore. In tropical region, 60% and 38% of the sugarcane area is under varieties developed by ICAR-SBI and other sugarcane breeding centres in collaboration with ICAR-SBI respectively. In subtropical region also, varieties developed by ICAR-SBI and other sugarcane breeding centres in collaboration with ICAR-SBI are occupying 75% and 23% of the sugarcane areas respectively. During 2018-19, Coimbatore canes (Co canes) covered 70.06 % of the area under sugarcane in the country. In addition, the varieties bred at Coimbatore are also cultivated/ used as parents in 28 other countries in the world. The National Hybridization Garden functioning at ICAR-SBI, Coimbatore is the basis for creating genetic variability for the whole nation as it facilitates and coordinates the crossing programme of 24 sugarcane breeding centres distributed across five agro-climatic zones of the country. The National Distant Hybridization Facility created at ICAR-SBI, Research Centre at Agali is open to all the AICRP(S) participating centres to make wide crosses involving different genera of Saccharum complex for strengthening the pre breeding activities.

Salient findings:

  • Fourteen varieties viz., Co 8371, Co 85004, Co 86032, Co 87025, Co 87044, Co 91010, Co 94008, Co 99004, Co 2001-13, Co 2001-15, Co 0403, Co 06027, Co 09004 and Co 10026 for Peninsular zone, two varieties namely Co 86249 and Co 06030 for East Coast zone, Eleven varieties viz., Co 98014, Co 0118, Co 0124, Co 0237, Co 0238, Co 0239, Co 05009, Co 05011, Co 06034, Co 09022, Co 12029 for North West Zone and five varieties namely Co 89029, Co 87263, Co 87268, Co 0232 and Co 0233 for North Central and North East zones were developed at ICAR-SBI and were notified by Central Sub-committee on Crop Standards, Notification and Release of Varieties in Agricultural and Horticultural crops for general cultivation.
  • The present ruling variety in the tropical region is Co 86032 which occupies about 55% area in Tamil Nadu, 50% area in Maharashtra, 59% Karnataka, 57% in Telengana and sizable areas in Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa. On a national basis, this varieity occupies 16% are under sugarcane. The gross additional value realised from this variety alone is estimated to be about 20,354 crores.
  • The wonder variety Co 0238 is the dominant variety in subtropical areas which occupies around 66% of the total sugarcane cropped area. The variety is responsible for the improvement of 19 t/ha sugarcane and 1.49% sugar recovery in the major sugarcane growing state of Uttar Pradesh. This variety has generated as additional Rs. 28,795 crores to sugar mills and farmers due to its higher cane yield, sugar content and by-products production during 2014-15 to 2017-18.
  • Co 94012 and Co 92005 for Maharashtra and Co 0212 and Co 06022 for Tamil Nadu were released for cultivation by the state variety release committee.
  • A total of 125.565 Kg of fluff was supplied under fluff supply programme from 2014-15 to 2018-19 season
  • A total of 27 ISH and IGH clones developed at the institute were evaluated for tolerance to drought and water logging stress conditions in eight selected AICRP(S) participating centres and climate smart genetic stocks were identified. Thirty new ISH/IGH hybrids and 30 commercial clones are under evaluation at seven centres across four agroclimatic zones.

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