Dr. Fred Weltzien-Rattunde’s research career over the past 31 years has focused on breeding sorghum and pearl millet for enhanced productivity, nutritional value, and adaptation to farmers’ production conditions in the tropics of India and West Africa. As Principal Scientist for Sorghum Breeding and Genetic Resources at ICRISAT, he has guided sorghum breeding for West and Central Africa (WCA) since 1997, with experience in sorghum, pearl millet and groundnut breeding, seed system development, and participatory research for dryland agriculture enhancement.
He spearheaded a hybrid breeding program based on local germplasm, creating new seed parents. These first sorghum hybrids based on Guinea-race germplasm showed high levels of heterosis, and produced on average more than 30% higher yields than the farmers adapted varieties across the full range of productivity conditions. The use of local West African germplasm and the global diversity of the Guinea race has provided a foundation for improving West African savannah zone sorghums. The characterization and use of sorghum diversity for enhancing adaptation to low plant-available phosphorous conditions enabled development of breeding materials and breeding methodologies that address one of the key challenges for small-holder farmers in the region. The creation of novel breeding populations with Guinea-race grain, glume and panicle characteristics combined with reduced height and increased stover quality provides the basis for making quantum improvements in grain productivity and animal feed quality of their stover.
Further, Dr. Weltzien-Rattunde contributed to training seed producer cooperatives, supporting National Research Programs training activities, preparing training modules and publication of training materials.
His sorghum research in India focused on recurrent selection procedures for breeding extra early, and dual purpose sorghum types for Indian growing conditions. Prior to ICRISAT, he worked at the University of Hohenheim, Germany on rye breeding methodologies where his dissertation research assessed the effectiveness of alternative mass selection procedures for population improvement of pearl millet.