Speed breeding: technology to increase efficiency in pulses cultivation

Federico Cazzola, CONICET doctoral fellow, describes a system that boosts efficiency and reduces time and costs of breeding programs.

Vetch, Federico Cazzola, IICAR, speed breeding in pea. Ph: CONICET Photography

Legumes are an important component of the human diet. They provide food for animals and replenish soil fertility through biological nitrogen fixation. However, obtaining commercial varieties is a time-consuming process and most traditional breeding programs take 10-15 years to launch an enhanced pea variety. In this context, as part of his doctoral thesis, Federico Cazzola, CONICET doctoral fellow at the Instituto de Investigaciones en Ciencias Agrarias de Rosario (IICAR, CONICET – UNR) developed a system to increase the efficiency of breeding programs in pulses worldwide.

“Time in breeding programs is a key factor, so to shorten the cycles of a plant boosts the efficiency of breeding programs,” Cazzola explains. First, the scientist compared different rapid generation technologies in commercial varieties and then applied the most efficient ones in two segregating populations so as to develop a fast, simple and low-cost breeding system in pulses,” says the researcher.

“Speed breeding comprises a hydroponic system in the breeding chamber, with a photoperiod of 22 hours of light, which is provided through fluorescent tubes, and a controlled temperature,” Cazzola explains and adds: “Furthermore, a hormone from the group of anti-gibberellins, called flurprimidol, is used in order to generate more compact plants that allow precisely to work in a growth chamber under controlled conditions”.

For the researcher, the grain that is harvested beforehand facilitates a much more advanced development of the generations of pulses, or the other types of legumes, which manages to accelerate the improvement process and reduce it by half. “In this way, programs that previously took between 10 and 15 years can reach an improved variety in 6 or 7 years.”

Besides, another valuable aspect of the system developed by Cazzola is that it reduces costs by shortening the plant’s cycles. Furthermore, it can be integrated with other breeding technologies and it does not include transgenesis or gene editing. “This technology is presented as a revolution to increase the efficiency of breeding programs worldwide,” stresses the scientist.

Cazzola states that this system and the new research that could be developed from it, will position the country in a privileged place and will promote the development of the improvement and production of legumes. “This will benefit the population’s nutrition, food sovereignty and to increase the sustainability of Argentine productive systems,” the researcher concludes.

By Yasmín Noel Daus



Cazzola, F., Bermejo, C.J., Guindon, M.F. et al. Speed breeding in pea (Pisum sativum L.), an efficient and simple system to accelerate breeding programs. Euphytica 216, 178 (2020).

Cazzola Federico, Bermejo Carolina Julieta, Gatti Ileana, Cointry Enrique (2021) Speed breeding in pulses: an opportunity to improve the efficiency of breeding programs. Crop and Pasture Science 72, 165-172.