Plant variety design for emerging markets in Africa
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.
Wheat breeder ‘motivated’ by prestigious award
Dr Batiseba Tembo, who graduated from the ACCI in 2016, won a 2021 Women in Triticum (WIT) award given by the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative (BGRI).
The WIT awards recognize talent and dedication from both early career women scientists and those who have exceled at mentoring women working in triticum and its nearest cereal relatives.
The University of KwaZulu-Natal hosted their 2021 Autumn Virtual Graduation Ceremony for the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science (CAES) on the 25th of May 2021.
Groundnut rust dealt a blow in Tanzania
Groundnut is a vital crop for commercial and smallholder farmers in Africa because of its high edible oil and protein content, but it is vulnerable to pests and diseases. One of the worst culprits is rust, caused by pathogenic fungi in the order Pucciniales.
ACCI student Dr Happy Makuru Daudi focused her PhD research on breeding groundnut for resistance to this disease in Tanzania.
Mutation breeding increases climate-change resilience in Wheat
For her PhD research into Plant Breeding, Dr 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.
PhD research gives pigeonpea a boost in Malawi
The improvement of a lesser-known legume that could be a major contributor to continental food security. That was the focus of Dr Esnart Nyirenda Yohane when she set about tackling her PhD research project in 2017.
Malawi is a major pigeonpea grower in Africa, producing 403,519 tonnes on 248,400 hactares.
Tackling rice yellow mottle virus
Despite the fact that rice production and consumption have steadily climbed in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), rice is the largest imported commodity crop in the region, due to low productivity by domestic farmers.
Dr Suvis’ thesis describes how this is due to a number of biotic and abiotic stresses and socio-economic constraints, with rice yellow mottle virus (RYMV) the most important biotic challenge in SSA, causing yield losses ranging from 20% to 100%.
Graduate breeds new drought-tolerant wheat for Ethiopia
Climate change is a growing challenge for farmers, especially in Africa where temperatures are expected to increase more than in other region of the world. Breeding crops that are adapted to drought-prone environments therefore makes sense as a sustainable strategy.
For his PhD study, Dr Yared Semahegn Belete chose to work on developing drought tolerance in bread wheat for Ethiopia.
Graduate’s Striga-resistant sorghum varieties released in Tanzania
Dr Emmanuel Mrema (pictured left) and his team recently released two new sorghum varieties with Striga resistance in Tanzania.
Striga is a parasitic weed that wreaks havoc on sorghum, maize, millet, rice and wheat, and is a huge problem in Tanzania, with two species affecting small-scale farms especially badly. Mrema successfully focused his PhD research on breeding new sorghum varieties for resistance to both of the Striga species, and for compatibility with FOS.
His PhD studies and research were funded by Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). Funding for his research was also provided by Technology and Innovation Agency (TIA), a unit of South Africa’s national Department of Science and Technology, working with the government of Tanzania.
On hearing the news, Dr Rufaro Madekadze, Senior Program Officer Extension and Capacity Building at AGRA, congratulated Mrema, saying “I saw them in development a few years ago and was convinced they will revolutionize agriculture in the dry parts of Tanzania. I am so excited they are finally released.”
Improved cowpea could be a boon for farmers
As a child, Nelia Nkhoma Phiri had intimate knowledge of cowpea, the crop she focused on for her doctoral research.
“We would eat the cowpea leaves throughout the year because we preserved some by drying in the sun after boiling them a bit. As a young person, I got tired of eating the same things all year round. This inspired me to study plant breeding so that I could breed many different varieties and my grandmother could at least have variety,” she said.
Four ways that adoption rates can be improved — ACCI study
A study commissioned to determine what impact students trained by the African Centre for Crop Improvement (ACCI) have had on food security among African smallholder farmers has yielded promising details.
In pursuit of clarity about the impact of its training of plant breeders, the ACCI commissioned a two-year post-doctoral study by agricultural economist Dr Gideon Danso-Abbeam. The study, which started in 2019, was supported by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).
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.
Tackling low protein in sweetpotato,
Imagine a crop that is exceptionally nutritious and can produce good yields in poor conditions with minimal labour.
That crop is sweetpotato, prized as a crucial food security buffer that is packed with edible energy and provides substantial quantities of vitamins A, B and C. It does, however, have one weakness — low protein content — which recent ACCI graduate Dr Sonia Naidoo chose to focus on for her PhD research.
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.
The fall armyworm (FAW), first spotted in Africa in 2016, is a global scourge, infecting 350 host-plant species, and causing annual losses of US$2,5-6,2 billion in the main maize-producing countries of sub-Saharan Africa.
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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