African Centre for Crop Improvement

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African Centre for Crop Improvement

“Training African Breeders on African Crops, in Africa”

model plant in the growth chamber

The African Centre for Crop Improvement (ACCI) was started in 2002 with the ambitious goal of becoming a world-class training centre for African plant breeders.

Based at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, its PhD graduates are part of a new generation of African scientists who are highly trained global experts on the continent’s food security crops.

Latest News

UKZN Autumn Graduation 

The University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) is set to honour and celebrate a total of 7 795 graduands at its 2024 Autumn Graduation which will be spread across 16 ceremonies scheduled from 6-14 May 2024 at the Westville campus Sports Centre.
The College of Agriculture, Engineering & Science hosted their ceremony at the Westville campus on the 8th of May 2024, where we celebrated the graduation of five of our PhD students. 
From left: Dr Richard Ngwepe, Dr Saul Eric Mwale, Prof Hussein Shimelis, Dr Silindile Mkhabela, Dr Nomathemba Majola and Dr Armel Rouamba

Tackling Striga affecting pearl millet in Burkina Faso

Dr Armel Rouamba’s doctoral thesis has broken new ground for plant breeding in his homeland, Burkina Faso. His study focused on breeding pearl millet, a staple food crop in the region, for resistance to S. hermonthica (Striga). This virulent parasitic weed is the main constraint in the focus area, responsible for up to 80% of crop loss by small-scale farmers.

Unlocking the potential of Bambara groundnut

The dire state of malnutrition and stunted growth in South Africa prompted Dr Nomathemba Majola’s decision to focus her PhD research on the Bambara groundnut, an indigenous African legume that is rich in nutrients. 

Boosting okra for drought tolerance in South Africa

Okra is one of the most underutilised crops, yet it is rich in essential nutrients, making it important for reducing malnutrition among low-income populations. For these reasons, Dr Silindile Mkhabela chose to focus on okra for her PhD thesis.

Optimising the multipurpose citron watermelon

The focus of Dr Richard Ngwepe’s doctoral research is a fruit that is close to his heart. He recalls how, while growing up in a village in Limpopo, South Africa, “my grandmother and mother used to prepare “Kgodu”, which is a porridge made from the ripened fruit flesh of citron watermelon.” The plant’s fresh leaves and seed were also eaten by the villagers, and it was fed to cattle, goats, and sheep.

Developing a ‘climate-smart’ tepary bean

Recurrent droughts and high temperatures due to climate change are adversely affecting legume cultivation in southern Africa. Dr Saul Eric Mwale’s research focused on developing a “new generation” of tepary bean cultivars that can withstand these weather conditions.

Promising findings open new avenues for sorghum research

A keen interest in tackling critical challenges, like climate change and food insecurity in Africa, led Asande Ngidi to focus on sorghum for his master’s thesis. The findings of his assessment of selected genotypes for agronomic performance, biomass production and carbon accumulation were significant, and have put him on the path to furthering this research in a  PhD.

PhD Graduates Boost Africa’s Plant Breeding Expertise

UKZN’s ACCI plant breeding PhD graduates, from left: Dr Armel Rouamba; Dr Nomathemba Majola; supervisor, Professor Hussein Shimelis; Dr Saul Eric Mwale; Dr Richard Ngwepe; and right, Dr Silindile Mkhabela.
UKZN’s African Centre for Crop Improvement (ACCI) is celebrating the accomplishments of five PhD graduates representing three African countries and five different crops who have investigated how to enhance the traits of their chosen crops to resist disease, tolerate drought, respond to biocontrol agents, and provide better yield and nutritional quality.

Video – Graduation Ceremony 8 May 2024

Sorghum Research Collaboration to Boost Crop’s Performance

UKZN’s African Centre for Crop Improvement (ACCI) is part of a collaborative plant breeding project with the University of the Free State (UFS) and the Sorgho (Pty) Ltd company, initiated and funded by the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), that seeks to improve the yield of this neglected and underutilised crop by research into genetic improvement to result in higher-yielding hybrids.

Sugarcane Breeding Research Wins Award at SASTA Congress

PhD candidate Ms Edith Mugehu received first prize for her oral presentation during the South African Sugar Technologists’ Association (SASTA) 95th annual congress.

Remarkable Plant Varieties Developed for Africa

Researchers at the ACCI and Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute (TARI) have released two new advanced sorghum pure lines (TARISOR1 and TARISOR2), which have been nominated and posted on the Southern Africa Plant Breeders Association (SAPBA) Wall of Fame.
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