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 international Demand-Led Breeding (DLB) working group with UKZN’s African Centre for Crop Improvement (ACCI) hosted a series of webinars for the research and development community in Southern Africa. The aim is to create dialogues to strengthen plant breeding and to make the case for investing in demand-led plant breeding in Southern Africa.

Latest News

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.

UKZN Spring Graduation

Congratulations to our graduates, Dr Kwame Shamuyarira and Dr Muhammad Yahaya, who both graduated with a PhD in Plant Breeding. 
Dr Kwame Shamuyarira
Dr Muhammad Yahaya
Kwame joined UKZN in 2017 for his Master’s studies and began his PhD in 2019. His PhD research has contributed to developing new wheat breeds with a balanced biomass allocation between roots and shoots, contributing to drought tolerance and carbon sequestration for climate change mitigation. He has published four papers in high-impact journals. The National Research Foundation and Water Research Commission of South Africa funded the project. Kwame started work as a lecturer in the Plant Sciences Division at the University of the Free State on 1 June. He plans to pursue a research career, focusing on abiotic stress tolerance in plants and enhancing nutritional quality in field crops. He hopes to contribute to addressing plant genetics, hidden hunger and sustainable agricultural challenges.
Muhammad is a plant breeder at Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) in Nigeria and pursued his PhD through the ACCI at UKZN. His PhD research was on sorghum, an essential cereal crop in the arid regions of Northern Nigeria. A participatory rural appraisal study revealed the struggles sorghum farmers experience with drought. To address this, Muhammad bred new sorghum varieties adapted to northern Nigeria for production under non-stressed, pre-flowering and post-flowering drought stress conditions. The new lines are recommended for production or breeding in drought-prone areas. He published six scientific papers from the PhD study in high-impact journals. The Institute for Agricultural Research Samaru, Ahmadu Bello University Zaria/Nigeria and International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics/India supported the study financially. Muhammad attended the graduation virtually.

UKZN appoints new ACCI director

Professor Hussein Shimelis has been appointed director of the African Centre for Crop Improvement (ACCI), effective 1 July 2023. He replaces Professor Mark Laing, who founded the centre in 2002.

Shimelis has been the deputy director of the ACCI since 2015, and has been significant in steering the ACCI onto a new funding path. 

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.

UKZN Autumn Graduation 2023

Congratulations to Dr Maliata Athon Wanga, an Agricultural Scientific Officer with Namibia’s MAWLR, for completing his PhD in Crop Science through UKZN’s African Centre for Crop Improvement (ACCI) using mutation breeding techniques to develop drought-tolerant sorghum varieties.
His PhD topic is centered around “Designing Namibia’s Drought-Tolerant Sorghum”.

PhD study moves Ethiopian sesame research forward

Breeding work done by ACCI student Dr. Desawi Hdru for his PhD thesis, completed this year, offers hope for farmers that improved yields may be possible.

 His PhD thesis focused on pre-breeding of sesame for improved yield and oil quality and quantity in Ethiopia.

Director Prof Mark Laing honoured by plant pathologists

Huge congratulations to our founder and director, Prof Mark Laing, who has been elected a Fellow of the Southern African Society for Plant Pathology (SASPP).

Mark has been a member of the society since 1983 and was the president from 2014 to 2019. His involvement with Plant Pathology began 44 years ago and he has been an academic in the Plant Path department at the University of Natal and UKZN for 38 years and the Professor for 22 years.

New research boosts work to combat Striga

The ACCI’s contribution to combating Striga, a virulent pest affecting millions of African smallholder farmers, has been boosted by the completion of another doctoral thesis about this problem.

Dr John Lobulu, who obtained his PhD in May, focused on developing maize genotypes for Striga resistance and compatibility with the fungal biocontrol agent, Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. strigae (FOS).

Building crops to feed 2.5 billion Africans by 2050

A business approach to plant breeding could be the answer to Africa’s anticipated food shortages in the future. That was the view presented by Professor Hussein Shimelis at the  2nd Plant Breeders Association of Nigeria (PNAB) Webinar Series, held on Wednesday, 25 May 2022.

PhD Student breeding dual-purpose tef

Professor Hussein Shimelis (right) visited Cedara Agricultural College recently to see the research progress made by PhD student, Patrick Rakau, who is breeding dual-purpose tef for South African conditions.

Patrick, who works for the Agricultural Research Council (ARC), is a grassland scientist with a background in Crop Science. University of the Free State (UFS) is also involved in the project.

The tef varieties he’s breeding will provide straw for animal fodder and grain for human consumption. Tef is a gluten-free free super food.

Using a mutation breeding technique, he has created genetic variation from seeds from three South African varieties, and is expecting wider variation that will hopefully produce the desired dual-purpose varieties.

Series:  ACCI food heroes

As a group, ACCI graduates and staff members have made a significant contribution to African agriculture. Apart from developing and releasing new, improved varieties of food-security crops, occupying key leadership positions in African agriculture and teaching and mentoring up-and-coming plant breeders, they also form a body of independent thinkers making a contribution to agricultural science on the continent.


The “Climate Crisis” – Adjusting to a New Future

Prof Mark Laing (director of the ACCI) is a Plant Pathologist, Plant Breeder and inventor. In this lecture on the Climate Crisis topic, he paints a picture of the new world that is most likely to develop in the next 30 to 120 years, and will have an impact on all of us, and future generations.

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