African Centre for Crop Improvement

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African Centre for Crop Improvement

“Training African Breeders on African Crops, in Africa”


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Student breaks new ground with
FAW-resistance breeding project

“There is hope for Africa,” said Chapwa Kasoma about her ground-breaking work on breeding maize that is resistant to the dreaded fall armyworm. Kasoma is a student in the ACCI’s PhD programme and her findings have come at an opportune time.

The fall armyworm (FAW), first spotted in Africa in 2016, is a global scourge, infecting 350 host-plant species, including maize and other staple crops, and causing annual losses of US$2,5-6,2 billion in the main maize-producing countries of sub-Saharan Africa.

Major collaborative wheat-breeding project bears fruit

A six-year-long project at the ACCI to breed drought-tolerant bread wheat with multiple attributes is bearing fruit. Selected elite breeding lines are now available to breeders and growers in sub-Saharan Africa.

The ACCI project, which started in 2014, is being supervised by Professor Hussein Shimelis (pictured left) and funded by the National Research Foundation, Water Research Commission, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), Rockefeller Foundation, ARC and UKZN. So far six students have been involved.

PhD project tests the effect of silicon on wheat quality

A novel ACCI research project to breed silicon-efficient wheat that is drought-tolerant, more nutritious and high yielding is showing promising results.

The study, which is being carried out by PhD student Marylyn Christian, is part of a larger ACCI project to breed climate-smart wheat with multiple desirable traits.

Breeding drought-tolerant wheat without losing quality

A PhD student at the ACCI, Zamalotshwa Thungo, has tackled a burning issue affecting global wheat production — breeding for drought-tolerance without loss of quality.

Although plant breeders are successfully breeding for increased yield, this is usually at the expense of grain quality, due to a generic inverse association between the two traits.

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.

Covid-19 and the elephant in the room

Despite the current focus on the threat of Covid-19, it’s still dwarfed by climate change. That was the main message ACCI director, Professor Mark Laing, had recently for a webinar comprising speakers from across Africa and California.

The webinar, which discussed how plant breeding can be deployed to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on African food security, was organised by the Institute for Agricultural Research Samaru and the Faculty of Agriculture, Ahmahu Bello University, Zaria Nigeria.

In his presentation Laing said food security was an issue in Africa before Covid-19 with 300 million people at risk, and the pandemic will exacerbate the problem in multiple ways and in urban areas in particular.

Mutation breeding increases drought resilience in wheat

Boluwatife OlaOlorun, who came to the University of KwaZulu-Natal from Nigeria in July 2017, has focused on inducing genetic variation in wheat, using mutation breeding to harness the traits of drought tolerance and carbon sequestration.

Large group flies ACCI flag at SAPBS symposium

The ACCI had a strong presence at the 13th Southern African Plant Breeding Symposium this month at the University of Pretoria’s Future Africa Campus.More than 20 plant breeding academics and students from the ACCI attended the event.

Graduate releases two sweet potato varieties

The ultimate goal of any plant breeder is to have their improved variety released to farmers AND embraced by them. ACCI graduate Dr Fekadu Gurmu had the satisfaction of seeing two of his sweet potato varieties released in Ethiopia recently.


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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