Technical, economic and policy considerations on marker-assisted selection in crops: lessons from the experience at an international agricultural research centre uri icon


  • Molecular markers and related technologies have been used extensively in genetic characterization and identification of loci controlling traits of economic importance in many crop species. However, the application of such tools for crop improvement has not been extensive, at least in the public sector. Although there are clear advantages in using molecular markers as tools for indirect selection of traits of importance, available examples indicate that their use is restricted to traits with monogenic inheritance or when the inheritance is conditioned by a few genes with large effects. Another important limitation of large-scale marker applications is the cost involved in marker assays, which may be beyond the capacities of many public plant breeding enterprises. For an effective marker-assisted selection (MAS) activity to facilitate ongoing crop improvement programmes, especially in the context of the developing countries, laboratories with adequate capacity and adequately trained scientific personnel as well as operational resources are required. Although recent technological advances such as single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and associated assay protocols are likely to reduce assay costs significantly, for many of these operations, assay platforms with significant capital investments including computational capacity are required. Coupled with these limitations, private sector domination of biotechnology research with proprietary rights to important products and processes with immediate benefits to developing countries may further constrain the benefits these technologies may offer to resource-poor farmers. Policy-makers in different national programmes and international development and research agencies have a responsibility to sustain and augment the capacity of national public agricultural research organizations to ensure that biotechnology tools and processes are infused appropriately into national research efforts. They must also ensure that any biotechnology efforts undertaken are well integrated with national crop improvement activities

publication date

  • 2007