The collaboration between the NIAB, the IAEA and FAO includes a long-term technology transfer and capacity-building programme. Having this focus, the partnership has included trainings, workshops and fellowships – training Pakistani scientists in plant breeding techniques focused on developing cotton varieties tolerant to drought and high temperatures.
“Building capacity in plant breeding at the national level has become a main focus and we are continually working towards this through training courses and workshops,” said Hussain. “There are millions of people involved in the cotton industry in Pakistan – adapting to the weather patterns is necessary and through new cotton varieties suited for the changing climatic scenario in the country, this is possible.”
Using nuclear techniques, the first cotton variety was released in Pakistan in 1983; since then, a total of 16 cotton varieties have been developed. The four latest varieties to be released are expected to make up 56 per cent of seeds planted throughout the country in the coming months.
Through this long-standing collaboration, Pakistani scientists have reached a level of expertise that they can share with neighbouring countries that are in the early stages of mutation breeding. With this combination of suitable facilities, technical know-how in cotton mutation breeding and improved cotton varieties in the field, the NIAB can now host IAEA training for experts from neighbouring countries enabling field visits to see crop performance in the field. Through the IAEA trainings that NIAB has hosted, cotton varieties have been developed in neighbouring countries for the first time, Jankuloski said.