PhD and MSc Training in Plant Breeding
We train students in plant breeding, providing them with a spectrum of hard science tools, and soft skills so that they can work independently in an African context. Students work mainly on African food crops including underexploited crops such as Bambara groundnut, tef and finger millet. The overall strategy is to integrate a conventional breeding approach with biotechnology tools, such as genomic diversity studies, and mutation breeding.
We have excellent resources at UKZN for training plant breeders, including biotechnology labs, plant pathology and entomology facilities, greenhouses and a farm with 18ha of irrigated lands available.
Sequence showing process of propagating cassava from cuttings taken from parent plants. These cuttings are planted in seedling trays after being dipped in hormone powder to promote the growth of roots. Figure 9 shows a cutting that has grown into a flourishing cassava plant.
Ongoing Research Projects at UKZN
Professor Mark Laing, Professor Hussein Shimelis, Professor Rob Melis and Dr Julia Sibiya have their own research projects operating at UKZN on the breeding of tomato, sweet pepper, chili, beans, maize, sorghum, cassava and wheat. Prior projects at UKZN have tackled aspects of breeding of tef, rice and Bambara groundnut. In some cases, students will work on a component of one of these projects as a basis of their thesis research. These are all externally funded projects, from a variety of funders.
Short Course Training
In 2018 we began a programme of short courses and workshops to provide specialist training to professional plant breeders and post-graduates. The three workshops run so far include two on Demand-led Plant Breeding, and one on Programming in R for Multivariate Analyses.