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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 principles of plant breeding to seed industry personnel. This 13-month course addresses the reduced numbers of plant breeders being trained in academic programs. Participants meet for multiple sessions over thirteen months. Readings and exercises continue between sessions via internet to allow participants to maintain their current positions while being involved in the course.
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: This course develops the skills and abilities of current industry personnel to enable them to become independent breeders or more valuable contributors to larger breeding programs.

Who should attend? The course is targeted toward personnel currently involved in plant breeding programs who lack the academic background in genetics theory and practice to advance as independent breeders. Current breeders who desire a refresher course or would like to broaden their expertise would also be potential 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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