Plant Breeding Academy: boosting Africa’s food supply with improved indigenous crops


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Groundbreaking collaboration of International Organizations aims to leverage genomes of 100 African orphan crops to Improve nutrition. The work of the academy will generate improved planting materials that will be offered to smallholder farmers throughout Africa.

The African Orphan Crops Consortium (AOCC) yesterday opened the African Plant Breeding Academy to help improve the livelihoods of Africa’s smallholder farmers and their families, reduce hunger and boost Africa’s food supply.   AOCC’s goal is to use the latest scientific equipment and techniques to genetically sequence, assemble and annotate the genomes of 100 traditional African food crops to guide the development of more robust produce with higher nutritional content.

‘Orphan crops’ are African food crops and tree species that have been neglected by researchers and industry because they are not economically important on the global market.

The consortium includes the African Union – New Partnership for Africa’s Development (AU-NEPAD Agency); Mars, Incorporated; World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF); BGI; Life Technologies Corporation; World Wildlife Fund; University of California, Davis (UC Davis); iPlant Collaborative and Biosciences eastern and central Africa – International Livestock Research Institute (BecA – ILRI Hub).

Located at ICRAF in Nairobi, Kenya, the Academy will train 250 plant breeders and technicians in genomics and marker-assisted selection for crop improvement over a five-year period.  The work will drive the creation of improved planting materials that will then be offered to smallholder farmers throughout Africa.  The Academy provides scientists and technicians a dedicated place to sequence, assemble and annotate the genomes to help develop food crops with higher nutritional value and which can better withstand climate changes, pests and disease.  The data derived from this collaborative effort will be made publically available with the endorsement of the African Union through a process managed by the Public Intellectual Property Resource for Agriculture.

“The African Orphan Crops Consortium and the new African Plant Breeding Academy represent an unprecedented opportunity to leverage the training programs we have developed for plant breeders in Africa,” said Allen Van Deynze, Director of Research at UC Davis’ Seed Biotechnology Center. “The partnerships allow African breeders to take advantage of the latest technologies to rapidly advance development of crops that are important to African diets and health.” …Read more at http://cgiar.org