Annual Meeting of Genomic Open-Source Breeding Informatics Initiative (GOBII)

Participants at the GOBII project annual meeting. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

Participants at the GOBII project annual meeting. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

The second annual meeting of GOBII discussed progress and achievements of the recently released first production version of Cascadilla. The meeting also reviewed previously released breeder tools such as ‘Flapjack’ for Marker Assisted Backcrossing (MABC) and ‘Ped Ver’ for pedigree verification. Priorities for the next version of the database were reviewed and a detailed work plan for 2017-2018 was developed.

Dr Rajeev Varshney, Research Program Director – Genetic Gains and PI of GOBII, underlined the project aims to effectively deploy genomic information in breeding programs to significantly increase genetic gains in key crop performance traits.

Dr Peter Carberry, Deputy Director General- Research, ICRISAT, in his inaugural speech highlighted the importance of GOBII and its possible contribution to deliver the CGIAR goals.

“All varieties and hybrids resulting by the CGIAR breeding programs must be assessed by the adoption of modern breeding practices,” he said.


Genomic Open-source Breeding Informatics Initiative (GOBII) is the first large-scale public-sector effort to systematically apply high-density genotypic information to the breeding of staple crops in the developing world. With support from Bill & Melinda Gates foundation, GOBII aims towards developing and implementing genomic data management systems to enhance the capacity of public sector breeding programs to deliver increased rates of genetic gain.

GOBII involves a multi-disciplinary team of software developers, molecular biologists, geneticists, curators, breeders, and bioinformatics expert from Cornell University, CIMMYT, IRRI and ICRISAT. It focuses on rice, wheat, maize, sorghum and chickpea.

The emphasis should be on empowering national breeding programs for the development of high functioning integrated participation network alongside National Agricultural Research Systems and partners.

While Dr Elizabeth Jones, Director, GOBII presented the progress, challenges and opportunities of GOBII, Dr David Bergvinson, Director General, ICRISAT, said “We are always keen to incorporate contemporary approaches to crop improvement, for instance, adoption of Breeding Management System or recommendations from Breeding Program Assessment Tool reviews and GOBII.”

Prof Susan McCouch, PI, presented an overview of the project. Emphasizing the importance of addressing crop improvement programs from an interdisciplinary perspective, she said, “As a team we bring great strength to deliver to smallholder farmers, to each of our programs and to the institution as a whole. We need to think about the long-term sustainability and impact of GOBII on breeding programs.”

Dr Gary Atlin, Senior Program Officer, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, commended the progress made in the project and the leadership of Ithaca hub in guiding it in the right direction.

“We are increasingly focusing on an approach that thrives to provide the underpinning support systems to breeding teams across the organizations in the developing world to raise the rate of genetic gains at which they deliver. This is really a change in mindset in ways the breeding programs are organized in public systems. It is clear that CGIAR and partners are beginning to take greater degree of corpus responsibility for the processes of delivering better varieties. This is a tough challenge requiring deep change in how breeding is done and how organizations are managed within the CG system. Within that context, this group and the GOBII project stands out in having come together and certainly have exceeded my expectations in terms of bringing together the system to exploit the genomic tools,” he said.

Sixty participants representing GOBII team members, Science Advisory Board (SAB) members, Project leaders, and colleagues from public and private institutes/ organizations namely, Cornell University, CIMMYT, IRRI and ICRISAT along with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, DArT Pty Ltd., The James Hutton Institute, UK, University of Arizona, USA, DuPont Pioneer, Genus PLC, USA, Integrated Breeding Platform (IBP), Iowa State University, USA participated in the meeting.

High Throughput Genotyping (HTPG) is another BMGF- funded project focusing on providing low-cost high-density genotyping. As part of HTPG project, high-density genotyping data is being generated that needs to be handled in an organized manner to make its full use.
GOBII can host the data generated as part of HTPG. However it faces several challenges like, GOBII has focus on 5 crops while HTPG handles 13 crops. Similarly, there is need to develop the Application Program Interfaces between GOBII and Intertek servers so that huge data generated under HTPG can be directly stored in GOBII with minimal efforts. Against this backdrop, in continuation with the GOBII annual meeting, a follow-up meeting on GOBII- HTPG project Integration was held on 11 August 2017.

The 2nd Annual Meeting of GOBII, jointly implemented by Cornell University, CIMMYT, IRRI and ICRISAT, was held from 8-11 August. The project aims at effective deployment of genomic information in breeding programs to significantly increase genetic gain in key crop performance traits.

Project: Genomic Open-source Breeding Informatics Initiative
Funder: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Partners: Cornell University, International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research and ICRISAT
This work contributes to UN Sustainable Development Goal
8-industry-innovation 17-partnerships-goals
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