African Centre for Crop Improvement

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African Centre for Crop Improvement

“Training African Breeders on African Crops, in Africa”


Latest News

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).

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.

Kudos for our professors

UKZN has announced its list of the Top 30 Published Researchers for 2019 and both our profs are again mentioned — for the third year in a row!

Prof Hussein Shimelis is ranked seventh and Prof Mark Laing is 29th.

This follows the news in October that SciVal, an online platform that tracks the performance of over 14 000 research institutions around the world, had ranked Shimelis 49th in South Africa for scholarly output for 2017-2020 and second in the country in the category of Biological and Agricultural Sciences.

Laing was 116th in SA and 6th in the Biological and Agricultural Sciences section.

Shimelis has also been nominated by the Southern African Plant Breeders’ Association for possible acknowledgment as one of Africa’s top 20 plant breeders of 2020. Three other members of the ACCI family have also been nominated: Prof John Derera, Prof Rob Melis and Prof Pangirayi Tongoona.

The Top 20 will be announced before the end of November.

Prof Mark Laing (left) & Prof Hussein Shimelis

Tackling low protein in sweetpotato,

Africa’s ‘superfood’

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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