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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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. 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, 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.


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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