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Unleashing the potential of GIFT tilapia on the Indian subcontinent

Establishment of a satellite nucleus of the GIFT strain at the Rajiv Gandhi Center for Aquaculture, India
Project leader
Raul Ponzoni
1 Aug 2011
31 Jul 2014
Gift TilapiaThis project involves the establishment of a satellite nucleus for the GIFT strain of tilapia in India, the design and conduct of a genetic improvement program for this strain, the development of dissemination strategies, and the enhancement of local capacity in the areas of selective breeding and genetics. The development and dissemination of a high yielding tilapia strain possessing desirable production characteristics is expected to bring about notable economic benefits for the country.
Tilapia is emerging as an important species for aquaculture in India. However, two major problems exist: lack of high quality broodstock for poor farmers and low efficiency in existing aquaculture production systems.
The Rajiv Gandhi Center for Aquaculture (RGCA) has expressed interest in obtaining the Genetically Improved Farmed Tilapia (GIFT strain) for aquaculture development in the country. The GIFT tilapia strain, selectively bred in Malaysia and the Philippines, has achieved an improvement of more than 10 per cent per generation in growth rate and has been widely distributed to several Asian countries and to Latin America (Brazil). However, rather than passively importing the improved genetic stock, the Center is interested in running a formal breeding program (fully pedigreed population) similar to the one that has been carried out for the GIFT strain in Malaysia.
The aim is to produce fast-growing high yielding tilapia strains adapted to a wide range of local farming environments that can be grown at as low a cost as possible.
The project involves several steps. The first is the establishment of a new nucleus of the GIFT strain at the RGCA and the design of a formal breeding program to further improve its genetic performance within the local environment. This will involve enhancing the capacity of local personnel in selective breeding, genetic improvement, statistical analysis and hatchery management through specialized training courses.
Once a high performing tilapia strain (or strains) has been developed, the establishment of satellite hatcheries will increase the availability and decrease the costs of seed stock. These public and private hatcheries will act as multipliers for the superior genetics developed at RGCA and the sites for dissemination of quality broodstock to fish farmers.
Although the ultimate target groups of this project are fish farmers and small householders, a wider range of beneficiaries is expected, including commercial producers, scientists and the end consumers. The RGCA will gain experience and knowledge on the development of genetic improvement programs for economically important traits and other aspects of modern quantitative genetics. This experience and the development of a standard selective breeding protocol will allow for genetic improvement programs for other aquaculture species that are commonly cultured in India. Hatchery managers, producers and farmers will also improve their capacity to implement on-farm selective breeding programs.
In the longer term the project is also expected to contribute to the development of a complete chain of production. This will require initial capital support for farmers, identification of alternative cheap plant-based feed, and diagnosis of diseases in hatcheries, as well as strategies for early growth management. Improvement in harvest technologies, including storage of product and transport facilities, is likely to improve as a consequence of this project.
Second year annual report - 26 Jun 2012 – 30 Jun 2013