African Centre for Crop Improvement

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African Centre for Crop Improvement

“Training African Breeders on African Crops, in Africa”

ACCI PhD Student with UKZN VC Albert van Jaarsveld
UKZN & AGRA with PhD Graduates
AGRA with MSc Graduates

2019 April Graduation

The University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) hosted their April graduation ceremony for the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science (CAES) at the Royal Agricultural Showgrounds in Pietermaritzburg on the 8th of April 2019.

Graduates told: make breeding new varieties a priority

ACCI students who graduated with post-graduate degrees in plant breeding were encouraged to use their skills to make an impact on the continent.

“We want new varieties,” said ACCI Professor Mark Laing, speaking at a function before the graduation ceremony for students in the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science. Four ACCI PhD candidates and three master’s students received their degrees at the ceremony.

His words were echoed by Dr Rufaro Madakadze from Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), who said AGRA works with smallholder farmers and “new varieties are what they need”.

Laing said the ACCI would soon be taking on a post-doctoral student to evaluate the impact of ACCI graduates. This is part of a wider study being conducted by AGRA to determine the impact of over 700 plant-breeding graduates funded by the organisation in the past decade.

Prof Mark Laing (ACCI) with Dr Rufaro Madakadze (AGRA)

“He’ll be speaking to ACCI graduates and hearing about the impact of your varieties. He’ll also be speaking to your farmers,” said Laing. “This is crucial for the ACCI. Funders like AGRA spend money and they want what the impact of ACCI graduates has been in Africa.” Laing said it was also important to determine what the impact of graduates was on the national organisations they work for.

The PhD graduates were:

  • Dr Admire Shayanowako (Zimbabwe, funded by National Research Foundation & Third World Academy of Science): Management of Striga asiatica (L.) Kuntze in Maize through Resistance Breeding and Biocontrol
  • Isack Mathew (Zimbabwe, Water Research Commission & National Research Foundation): Pre-Breeding of Wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) for Biomass Allocation and Drought Tolerance
  • Eluid Kongola (Tanzania, AGRA): Breeding for Durable Resistance to Cercospora Leaf Spot Diseases in Groundnuts (Arachis hypogaea L.) in Tanzania
  • Alek Kondwakwenda (Zimbabwe, National Research Foundation): Maize and drought tolerance

Ten students received their master’s degree in plant breeding.

PhD for Investigations into Groundnut Disease

Dr Eliud Kongola

Dr Eliud Kongola graduated with a PhD after doing research on breeding for durable resistance to Cercospora leaf spot diseases in groundnuts (Arachis hypogeae L) in Tanzania.

He enrolled with the ACCI to add plant breeding to his knowledge of  agronomy and plant protection, referring to them as the three pillars of  crop science.

Using various breeding techniques, Kongola identified constraints  faced and traits preferred by farmers and other stakeholders in the  groundnut value chain, and evaluated groundnut genotypes from different  sources, including the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics  (ICRISAT), the National Plant genetic resource centre of Tanzania,  local markets and smallholder farmers for yield, yield-related traits  and reaction to Cercospora leaf spot diseases.                

From left: Professor Mark Laing, Dr Eluid Kongola, Rufaro Madakadze (AGRA), Caroline Adala-Oremo(AGRA) and Professor Hussein Shimelis
From left: Sbongeleni Duma, Tamnai Naibei, Joao Antonio Pedro, Nelson Mubai, Nokwethaba Biyela, Dr Rufaro Madakadze, Ruth Magaleta, Nomathemba Majola, Venancio Salegua, Bubala Mwiinga, Prof H Shimelis, Prof Mark Laing. At the back: Prof Rob Melis, Nyasha, Viriato Cossa

PhD Graduates Investigate Threats to Staple Crops

Novel research investigating how to combat the threats of environmental stress and parasites on wheat and maize led to Dr Isack Mathew and Dr Admire Shayanowako receiving PhDs in Plant Breeding.

Mathew completed his research on the topic of pre-breeding of wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) for biomass allocation and drought tolerance. Shayanowako’s research dealt with integrated management of Striga asiatica (L.) Kuntze in maize through resistance breeding and biocontrol.

PhD plant breeders Drs Admire Shayanowako (left) and Isack Mathew

Cum Laude Master’s Graduates Conduct Novel Research on Wheat and Sugarcane

Master plant breeders, Mr Sbongeleni Duma (left) and Mr Kwame Shamuyarira, conducted innovative research on sugarcane and wheat crops respectively

Cum laude graduates Mr Sbongeleni Duma and Mr Kwame Shamuyarira received their Master of Science in Agriculture and Master of Science degrees respectively in the Discipline of Plant Breeding.

Duma conducted his MScAgric research on the topic of optimising post-release sugarcane variety evaluation in the South African sugar industry. Shamuyarira’s MSc research involved early generation selection of bread wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) genotypes for drought tolerance.  


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