Ongoing Projects

  1. Genome sequencing of 101 AOCC crops:
    1. Six crops have been sequenced and draft genomes released for public use:
      • Genomes of Vigna subterranean (bambara groundnut), Lablab purpureus (lablab bean), Faidherbia albida (apple-ring acasia), Sclerocarya birrea (marula), and Moringa oleifera (drumstick tree) are published here . Chang Y, Liu H, Liu M, Liao X, Sahu SK, Fu Y, Song B, Cheng S, Kariba R, Muthemba S, Hendre PS, Mayes S, Ho WK, Kendabie P, Wang S, Li L, Muchugi A, Jamnadass R, Lu H, Peng S, van Deynze A, Simons A, Yana-Shapiro H, Xu X, Yang H, Wang J, Liu X (2018a) The draft genomes of five agriculturally important African orphan crops. GigaScience giy152. https://doi.org/10.1093/gigascience/giy152
      • Genome of Solanum aethiopicum (African egg plant) has been published and can be accessed here.
    2. References:
      • Chang Y, Liu H, Liu M, Liao X, Sahu SK, Fu Y, Song B, Cheng S, Kariba R, Muthemba S, Hendre PS, Mayes S, Ho WK, Kendabie P, Wang S, Li L, Muchugi A, Jamnadass R, Lu H, Peng S, van Deynze A, Simons A, Yana-Shapiro H, Xu X, Yang H, Wang J, Liu X (2018a) The draft genomes of five agriculturally important African orphan crops. GigaScience giy152. https://doi.org/10.1093/gigascience/giy152
      • ii. Song B, Song Y, Fu Y, Kizito EB, Kabod PN, Liu H, Kamenya SD, Muthemba S, Kariba R, Li X, Wang S, Cheng S, Muchugi A, Jamnadass R, Shapiro H-Y, van Deynze A, Yang H, Wang J, Xu X, Odeny DA, Liu X (2019) Draft genome sequence of the Solanum aethiopicum provides insights into disease resistance, drought tolerance and the evolution of the genome. https://doi.org/10.1101/532077
  2. Bi-lateral projects:
    1. TITLE: BREAD ABRDC: Integrated resource development for the genome-enabled improvement of shea tree for sub-Saharan Africa.
      1. Donor: NSF-BREAD, USA
      2. Project partners:
        1. Dr Iago Hale, Principal Investigator (PI), University of New Hampshire.
        2. Dr Francis Padi, Co-PI, Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG), Accra, Ghana
        3. Dr Agyemang Danquah, Co-PI, University of Ghana, West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement ( WACCI), Lagon, Ghana.
        4. Staff from ICRAF: Dr Ramni Jamnadass (Co-PI) , Dr Prasad Hendre , Dr Jean-Marc Buffa
      3. Project brief:
        1. Project Objectives: The collection of shea tree nuts (Vitellaria paradoxa) is a vital activity, both economically and in terms of food security (mainly fats and micronutrients), for millions of rural households across sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), with disproportionate importance for women and poorer families. While the global demand for shea products is increasing, shea parkland populations are under threat due to agricultural land use intensification (e.g. declining fallows) and competing resource needs (e.g. charcoal). The conservation and ongoing productive utilization of shea genetic resources likely depends on the conversion of this semi-domesticated keystone species into a more actively managed, deliberately planted, and improved agroforestry crop. With shea’s long juvenile stage (commonly 10-25 years) making traditional breeding approaches untenable, such an improvement program requires modern breeding tools, including publicly available foundational genomics resources and highly characterized mapping populations. The purpose of this project is to develop such critical resources, thus providing the underlying tools needed to facilitate the long-term genome-enabled improvement of the species.
        2. Deliverables: By developing a fully annotated reference genome, a comprehensive collection of mapped and functionally-classified SNPs, a NAM population, a replicated AM panel, and an open-source repository for all genotypic and phenotypic data, this project aims to put genomic selection of improved shea populations within the reach of regional breeding and parkland regeneration programs. By training a PhD student and holding a regional workshop, the project also invests in the capacity building necessary to bring the full potential of these genomic, informatic, and plant genetic resources to fruition. Through a broad partnership with national programs, the CGIAR system, the African Orphan Crops Consortium (AOCC), and the Global Shea Alliance (GSA), all project outcomes are poised for immediate translation to the shea improvement sector. The long-term impact of this project is projected to be no less than improved livelihoods (enhanced nutrition, increased income, and more robust risk mitigation) for the millions of rural women and their families across SSA currently dependent on the highly valued but threatened parkland populations of the semi-domesticated shea tree.
      4. Commencement: July 2016 for three years
    2. TITLE: Improving production efficiency of African Eggplant (Solanum aethiopicum) for smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa:
      1. Donor: BBSRC-SASSA
      2. Project partners:
        1. Prof Gerard Bishop, Principal Investigator (PI), NIAB CUF, Kent, UK
        2. Dr Fekadu Fufa Dinsaa, Co-PI, World Vegetable Centre (AVRDC), Arusha, Tanzania
        3. Dr Tsvetelina Stoilova, Co-PI, World Vegetable Centre (AVRDC), Arusha, Tanzania
        4. Dr Justus Ochieng, Co-PI Uganda Christina University, Mukoko, Uganda
        5. Dr Elizabeth Kizito, Co-PI, Uganda Christian University, Mukono, Uganda
        6. Dr Ruth Minja, Co-PI, Mikocheni Agriculturl Research Institute (MARI), Dar-Es-Salaam, Tanzania
        7. Dr Prasad Hendre, Co-PI, World Agroforestry (ICRAF), Nairobi, Kenya
      3. Project brief:
        1. Vision: Our vision is for the reduction in both poverty and malnutrition in the rural poor of Africa. We will achieve this through sustainably increasing the production of biodiverse horticultural crops that will have an impact on human nutrition and health and generate increased wealth for male and female smallholder farmers. Based on our extensive skills and expertise we will focus our research on increasing resilient production of Solanum aethiopicum, African eggplant, an under researched “orphan” crop that is of key importance throughout sub-Saharan Africa. This includes screening the biodiverse germplasm collections for resilience to water stress and resistance/tolerance to soil bourn wilt. At the same time we will develop methodologies to improve soil health. Our research vision in improving African horticulture production is directly and primarily relevant to the challenges that face developing countries, and tackles the following GCRF challenges:
          • Secure and resilient food systems supported by sustainable agriculture.
          • Resilience and action on short-term environmental shocks and long-term environmental change.
        2. Background: Malnutrition affects one in three people on the planet, with 2 billion people being deficient in one or more micronutrients. In 2008, The Lancet published a special series on maternal and child nutrition, providing systematic evidence of the impact of undernutrition on infant and child mortality and its largely irreversible long term effects on health and on cognitive and physical development. A set of proven interventions focusing on the ‘window of opportunity’ from minus 9 to 24 months showed a high impact in reduction of death and disease and avoiding irreversible harm. These interventions are very cost effective, with high returns to cognitive development, individual earnings and economic growth. The series was updated in 2013 with more recent figures and included discussions on the increasing global rates of over-nutrition and its consequences. Since the 2008 publications the momentum for addressing malnutrition has been steadily growing. In September 2010, the SUN movement was born. Other international initiatives such as the ‘1000 days movement’, and the ‘zero hunger challenge’ launched at the June 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), all contributed to the increased interest in addressing malnutrition globally.

          Solanum aethiopicum, African Eggplant is one of Africa’s widely consumed vegetables that despite local importance in diets has been neglected in research in comparison to common eggplant/aubergine, Solanum melongena, and even more so to the related and well researched solanums, tomato and potato. Not only is the solanum genus very diverse but within a single species extensive morphological variation is observed. S. aethiopicum exhibits such large diversity and this species has four cultivar groups namely; Aculeatum, that is grown as an ornamental having flat fruits and more prickles than the other groups; Gilo, grown for fruits that have different shapes colour and size, it has hairy inedible leaves; Kumba, grown for leaves that are glabrous and for its large flattened fruits; Shum, grown for small edible glabrous leaves, the fruits are inedible.

      4. Commencement: October 2018 for three years
      5. Project Website: http://www.niab.com/pages/id/498/SASSA-SAI