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African Centre for Crop Improvement
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"Training African Breeders on African Crops, in Africa"
ACCI sweet sorghum varieties poised to boost biofuel industry

A breakthrough by the African Centre for Crop Improvement in the breeding of sorghum could have far-reaching implications for the biofuel and bioplastic industries in South Africa.

For the last decade, ACCI director Professor Mark Laing has been working on developing sorghum and sugar beet varieties, as part of an integrated package to provide crop material (feedstock) for these two industries. His interest in the project started about 15 years ago when the price of oil rose to $150 a barrel.
“A large plastics company couldn’t get enough ethylene to make the quantities of polythene on order, so they wanted to start their own sugar-to-polythene plant and approached me about suitable sugar crops for the interior of South Africa,” he says.
With funding from Technology Innovation Agency (TIA), which is based in South Africa’s Department of Science and Technology (DST), Laing has been working on how to produce year-round feedstock on an industrial scale, by rotating sorghum and sugar beet. Read full article...

Stalwart retires after 15 years training plant breeders

Prof Rob Melis was in the first batch of staff recruited by Professor Mark Laing in 2003, a year after the centre opened its doors. Read more...

Prof Rob Melis (Left) with Prof Mark Laing
Prof Laing receives long-service award

Prof Laing recieved a long-service award from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, for his work and dedication to the university and students for the past 35 years.  Read more...

Prof Mark Laing (left) with Prof Steve Worth
 ACCI students present at UKZN Postgraduate Research & Innovation Symposium

The University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) hosted their annual Postgraduate Research & Innovation Symposium (PRIS) at their Westville campus on the 25th Of October 2018.

Admire Shayanowako, Olaolorun Boluwatife, Kwame Shamuyarira and Marylyn Christian displayed their research posters at the event and attended various oral presentations which were presented by students from the School of Agricultural, Earth & Environmental Sciences (SAEES). A total of 163 students displayed their research posters and 60 students delivered oral presentations for fellow students, UKZN staff, researchers and guests at this popular event. Students also had the opportunity to meet corporate investors from across the globe who showed great interest in some of the ongoing research projects.

The event also included an exhibition where corporate companies and research institutions displayed their products and services. The day ended with a prize giving ceremony and a lucky draw, with one very lucky student going home with a brand new laptop.
From left: Admire Shayanowako, Olaolorun Boluwatife, Muhammad Ahmad Yahaya, Kwame Shamuyarira , Marylyn Christian, Dr Terence Tapera, Dr Cousin Musvosvi, Aleck Kondwakwenda
Spring Graduation 2018

UKZN hosted their Spring Graduation at their Westville campus on the 13th of September 2018. ACCI staff and students, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) affiliates, as well as the students' family and friends all attended the ceremony.

Three PhD students, Dr Prossy Namugga, Dr Precious Mangena and Dr Mary Asio, graduated. Prossy researched earliness and late blight in potato for her thesis, while Mary researched Striga and nitrogen deficiency in rice. Mary was unfortunately not able to attend the graduation ceremony. Precious developed a superior sweet stem sorghum hybrid over a short period of time, using a male gametocide so that the crop can be used in bio-fuel production and related activities.

Four MSc Plant Breeding students, Lucia Zinzi Ndala, McDonald Nundwe, Mwila Chibanda and Sibusiswangaye Mdluli also graduated.

From left: Caroline Adala-Oremo and Dr Rufaro Madakadze (both from AGRA), Lucia Zinzi Ndala, McDonald Nundwe, Mwila Chibanda (all plant breeding masters graduates), Dr Julia Sibiya (head of the master's programme) and ACCI graduate Dr Prossy Namugga
Dr Prossy Namugga, one of our PhD students from Uganda, researched earliness and late blight in potato for her thesis. Prossy works for NARO in her home country.
Funding will bring Striga-Resistant Sorghum to Farmers

The battle against Striga in Tanzania and South Africa took a step forward with the arrival of funding to register and commercialise new varieties of Striga-resistant sorghum, developed by our recent graduate, Dr Emmanuel Mrema.
ACCI Prof in Demand as Regional Expert

ACCI deputy-director Prof Hussein Shimelis has been busy in the SADC region as an expert, visiting Namibia and Mauritius to advise on regional plant breeding and project collaborations.

News Articles

ACCI Launches New Book

“An amazing journey,” was how Dr Joe DeVries described the last 15 years of the African Centre for Crop Improvement (ACCI), when he spoke at the launch of the centre’s new book. Watch video

DeVries, who is vice president of programme development and innovation for Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), founded the ACCI in 2002 along with Professor Mark Laing, the centre’s current director. The ACCI has until now been funded by the Rockefeller Foundation and later AGRA.

The book, titled “The New Breed— Training the Next Generation of African Plant Breeders, in Africa,” tells the story of the ACCI’s trajectory from start-up hiccups in 2002 to prominance as a world-class training centre for African plant breeders. It describes how a new model for post-graduate education in the agricultural sciences was developed and how the centre’s Phd graduates—all 109 of them— have become sought after as scientists, leaders and innovative, independent thinkers.

Laing, ACCI graduate Dr Albert Changaya and Professor Kevin Kirkman, dean of research in the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science, also spoke at the launch. Kirkman said the ACCI has developed a successful model that the university would like to apply to other disciplines.

Click here to download a free digital version of “The New Breed”.

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