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Plant Breeding Academy
University of California
Plant Breeding Academy

PBA in Africa

The Seed Biotechnology Center at the University of California Davis has organized a professional development course to teach the latest principles in plant breeding to Africa’s top plant breeders.
NEPAD logo3

In collaboration with NEPAD (The New Partnership for Africa's Development) and the African Orphan Crops Consortium, the UC Davis African Plant Breeding Academy launched the first session in Nairobi, Kenya in December 2013.

Course goal

The goal of the African Plant Breeding Academy is to train practicing African plant breeders in the most advanced theory and technologies for plant breeding in support of critical decisions for crop improvement.  This includes the latest concepts in plant breeding, quantitative genetics, statistics and experimental design. It also includes accurate and precise trait evaluations, development of appropriate strategies to integrate genomics into breeding programs, and experience in identifying and utilizing genomic data and DNA-based markers in breeding programs. The instructors are internationally recognized experts in plant breeding and seed technology.  The program is delivered in three 2-week sessions at the World Agroforestry Center in Nairobi, Kenya.

Who should attend?

The course is targeted toward plant breeders currently managing plant breeding programs in Africa.  Attendees can be working on any African crop. Attendees are invited on full scholarship based on applications for each class which is limited to 30 participants.

Breeding for Africa's Crops

An innovative and integrated program including genomics, breeding, and practical training will enable breeding of crops for Africa by Africans using the most advanced technologies. Due to the diverse nature of the crops grown in Africa, including cassava, cacao, cocoyam, millet, sorghum, and legumes, there is a need to adapt the latest breeding strategies and innovate new ones appropriate for these crops. In the past, little genotypic information was available, so selection focused on extensive phenotyping trials. Traditional breeding strategies were based predominantly on annual grain crops with rapid generation turnaround and simple harvesting and storage of seeds for propagation. In contrast, vegetatively propagated perennial crops require different strategies to evaluate, recombine, objectively evaluate and advance materials. Fortunately, modern technologies such as micro-propagation and meristem culture to avoid disease, production of doubled haploids to reduce breeding cycles, and advanced trial designs and statistical analyses to account for spatial and temporal variation can efficiently integrate genotyping and marker-assisted selection into breeding programs for perennial crops. Breeders must work with a team of skilled individuals to be able to access genotypic and phenotypic information relevant to the crop and apply these selection and propagation methods to create improved varieties.

In a 2013 article, the magazine "Nature" featured how Mars, Incorporated is part of a revolution to tackle global resource challenges and decode the genomes of Africa's orphan crops. Read the Nature magazine article.

More information about the Africa's orphan crops in a December 3, 2013 interview with Dr. Howard-Yana Sharpio.


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