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Crop breeding by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), in partnership with national agricultural research and extension systems (NARES) and privately owned seed companies, forms the backbone of the research and development (R&D) effort needed to ensure future food security in developing regions. Over the past decades, varieties derived from CGIAR germplasm have helped provide food for hundreds of millions living in harsh and vulnerable environments. However, the capacity to deliver increased benefits from crop breeding will depend on effective strategies to address the stubbornly slow rate of uptake of improved varieties. Meeting the challenge will require, among other inputs, deeper insights on the evolving preferences and requirements of farmers, processors and consumers.