Sugar Tech Special Issue (March - April, 2021): "History of Sugarcane Breeding, Germplasm Development and Molecular Biology"

Guest Editors:  Prakash Lakshmanan, Phillip Jackson, G Hemaprabha and Yang Rui Li

Sugarcane (Saccharum spp. interspecific hybrids), the largest crop by production quantity and the sixth in economic value globally, is a major crop grown in over 100 tropical and sub-tropical countries. It is one of the most efficient converters of solar energy into chemical energy suitable for food, feed and fuel. Sugarcane accounts for more than 80% of sugar production globally and is the second largest biofuel crop. Historically locally adapted domesticated clones of Saccharum officinarum, one of the progenitors of modern commercial sugarcane cultivars, and related species which are possibly hybrids involvingthis species, were grown in South-East Asia, India and China for thousands of years.  Following the creation of interspecific hybrids of mostly S. officinarum and S. Spontaneumclones in Java in Indonesia and Coimbatore in India in the early 1900’s, considerable progress has been made in sugarcane breeding programs in many countries. It is expected that continuing genomic analyses of genetic diversity of Saccharum and related genera will provide increasingly important inputs into further improvement of this important crop.

Considering the relatively slow gains in commercially realised yield and sugar content in sugarcane in the last 50 years in many countries, there is a need to question current breeding strategies and methods, and explore new approaches.  Substantial investments were made in exploring molecular strategies to improve sugarcane yield and qualityin many countries in recent decades. This include the first reports of transgenic sugarcane from Australia, a reference genome map of a commercial cultivar from France, an extensively annotated genome map of S.spontaneumfrom Chinaand the first commercial GM sugarcane crop in Indonesia, followed by commercial release of stem borer resistant GM sugarcane in Brazil. Many countries have conducted investigations on innovations in sugarcane breeding, germplasm development, gene discovery and molecular breeding. Unfortunately, most of the knowledge still remains in institutional reports and local industry publications.

There is a need to document the history of sugarcane breeding and developments in key associated activities including germplasm development, molecular biology and molecular breeding. We aim to achieve this outcome through a dedicated Special Issue of Sugar Tech, the most widely circulated and read scientific journal in sugar industry globally.

We invite expert reviews of conceptual, scientific, practical, and commercial developments in sugarcane breeding, germplasm development, molecular biology, and biotechnology, including molecular breeding from all the sugarcane growing countries in the world. Each review article should provide a sufficiently detailed account of these areas, but written succinctly to accommodate it within ten printed pages in Sugar Tech journal style format.

All authors of this Special Issue are entitled to have free online access to Sugar Tech for the year 2021. Also, the printing cost of colour photos included in the article will be waived.

The publication of this Special Issue is planned for March-April 2021, and the manuscripts should be submitted by 30th October, 2020.

About the Guest Editors

Dr. G. Hemaprabha is a sugarcane breeder with 33 years of experience and is presently working as Principal Scientist and Head, Division of Crop Improvement, at the century-old ICAR Sugarcane Breeding Institute located at Coimbatore in India. She has been working on sugarcane improvement through conventional breeding and biotechnological strategies, and has developed and released 21 sugarcane varieties. Prominent among them are Co 0212 and Co 11015 for tropical India and Co 0238 and C 0118 of subtropical India, which have covered large production areas. Her work on sugarcane introgression gave a clear understanding on the behaviour of different classes of interspecific hybrids for economic traits and has led to the identification of several trait-specific sugarcane germplasm. Dr hemaprabha has developed a database of sugarcane from Coimbatore, which has great practical value. Her work on climate resilient sugarcane has led to the identification of drought tolerant elite selections which are beeing evaluated in drought-prone regions in the tropical India. Her contributions to the development and application of sugarcane-specific STMS markers, genomic selection, true seed development and multiparent advance generation intercross population development are expected to add more precision and advancement to sugarcane breeding and improvement. She has over 200 publications and won several academic and industry awards.

Dr. Prakash Lakshmanan is a sugarcane scientist with more than thirty years of combined research and research management experience in academic, commercial and industry research and development institutions. Dr Lakshmanan started his career as a Lecturer in the Department of Botany, The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda in 1987 before joining Thehans Laboratories, a plant biotechnology company in Singapore, as a Research Scientist in 1989.  After three years, he joined the faculty of Department of Botany at The National University of Singapore. In 1998, he moved to Bureau of Sugar Experiment Stations (BSES) in Australia, one of the oldest and well-known sugarcane research institutes in the world, and led research focusing mainly on variety improvement. A researcher with passion for commercial outcomes, Dr Lakshmanan explores an integrated multi-disciplinary approach to deliver science-based solutions to sugar industry issues. He is a recipient of multiple awards for R&D excellence from the Australian sugar industry, and the Australian Academy of Science International Fellowship. Currently Dr Lakshmanan is Director, Sugarcane Research Institute, Guangxi Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Nanning, China and Professor at Southwest University, Chongqing, China. He is a member of Editorial Boards of several international plant science journals and an Honorary Professor at the University of Queensland, Australia.

Dr. Phil Jackson has a PhD in the area of plant breeding and was a scientist with CSIRO from 1988 to 2017.  He led sugarcane breeding programs and research during this period in close partnership with (former Australian sugar industry companies) CSR Ltd and BSES Limited.  His research focused on economic assessment of traits, optimising selection systems, introgression of wild germplasm in sugarcane breeding, and applying DNA markers to sugarcane breeding.  He has led teams contributing to over 14 released sugarcane cultivars in Australia, and has authored over 100 peer reviewed publications on different aspects of sugarcane breeding.  He has developed international collaborative projects in sugarcane breeding including with China, and was Chairman of the International Society of Sugarcane Technologists Committee on Germplasm and Breeding.   He retired from a position as Senior Principal Research Scientist with CSIRO in 2017.  He is currently an Honorary Fellow with CSIRO, and a member of the Research funding panel of Sugar Research Australia. 

Dr. Yang-Rui Li was born in Beiliu City, Guangxi, China in 1957. He graduated and earned B.A. degree in Agronomy from Guangxi Agricultural University in January 1982, M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Department of Agronomy, Fujian Agricultural University in 1985 and 1988, respectively. He was appointed as a lecturer in Department of Agronomy, Guangxi Agricultural University from January 1988 to December 1989, and visiting scientist in Department of Agricultural Biochemistry, University of Hawaii, USA from December 1989 to February 1991. He joined Associate Professor (from March 1991 to November 1992) and Professor (since December 1992) in Department of Agronomy, Guangxi Agricultural University, and was a visiting scientist at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, USA from November 1994 to August 1996. He was appointed vice president of Guangxi University from April 1997 to April 1998, and president of Guangxi Academy of Agricultural Sciences from May 1998 to November 2012. He is now Director of Sugarcane Research Center, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences. His research interests include crop sugarcane agronomy, breeding, physiology, biochemistry and molecular biology. He has more than 960 papers and 13 books in these areas, and received 32 scientific research achievements awards from Chinese Government till to date. Dr. Li was given Life Time Achievement Awards, 2011 of Society for Sugar Research & Promotion 2014 IAPSIT for his commendable work and contribution in sugarcane research & development and promotion of global level. Dr. Li is the founder President of International Association of Professionals in Sugar and Integrated Technologists (IAPSIT).