AfPBA Instructors and Staff

African Plant Breeding Academy Instructors



Rita Mumm, Ph.D., African Plant Breeding Academy, Director and Primary Instructor
Professor, Dept. of Crop Sciences, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL

Rita is a trained plant breeder and quantitative geneticist, holding a PhD from the University of Illinois, USA. A leader in bringing new crop varieties to market utilizing technological innovations and genomics-assisted approaches, she has contributed to agricultural food system advancements through the seed industry, academia, and international development. She holds several US and European patents.

In addition to serving as Director of the African Plant Academy, she leads the Education and Training component of the USAID Soybean Innovation Laboratory, serves as Director of Capacity Development and Mobilisation for the African Orphan Crop Consortium (AOCC), provides consulting services to the seed industry through GeneMax Services, and teaches around the world in the UC Davis Plant Breeding Academy. She serves on several scientific advisory boards, and previously served two terms on the CIMMYT Board of Trustees, with roles as Chair of the (Scientific) Program Committee and Chair of the Nominations Committee. She was the first President of the US-based National Association of Plant Breeders (NAPB).

Rita is passionate about Plant Breeding Education, that is, preparing the next generation of crop improvement scientists and supporting the current global workforce through continuing education to address food and nutritional insecurity and eradicate stunting due to malnutrition.



Iago Hale, Ph.D., African Plant Breeding Academy Instructor
Assistant Professor, Dept. of Biological Sciences, University of New Hampshire, Durham NH

Dr. Iago Hale, an associate professor of specialty crop improvement at the University of New Hampshire, USA, is inspired by the potential of plant breeding to enhance health, rural livelihoods, food security, and ecosystem integrity.  After studying Physics (B.A.) at Dartmouth College and living and working internationally for a number of years, Dr. Hale attended the University of California - Davis, where he received his M.S. in International Agricultural Development and Ph.D. in Horticulture and Agronomy (Plant Breeding specialization).  His research activities are diverse and include breeding cold-hardy kiwiberry cultivars (Actinidia arguta) for the northeastern United States; pre-breeding (gene discovery and characterization) for rust resistance in wheat; and developing resources for the genome-assisted improvement of orphan and underutilized crops.  Dr. Hale has taught graduate-level courses on the design, analysis, and interpretation of experiments for more than 15 years and looks forward to working with both public and private plant breeders as they develop their programs through this academy.



J. Bruce Walsh, Ph.D., African Plant Breeding Academy Instructor
Professor, Dept. of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona Tucson, AZ

Dr. Bruce Walsh is a Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Professor of Public Health at the University of Arizona, as well as an Adjunct Professor in the Departments of Plant Sciences, Animal Sciences, and Molecular and Cellular Biology. He is a preeminent instructor in Genetics, coauthoring (along with Mike Lynch at Indiana) "Genetics and Analysis of Quantitative Traits", one of the standard references on the application of quantitative genetics to breeding, evolutionary biology, and human genetics. Over the past ten years, he has been invited to give short courses on advanced topics in quantitative and statistical genetics at many of the world's leading universities, including Wageningen, Edinburgh, Uppsala, Huazhong Agricultural University, Aarhus, Liege, Technical University of Munich, University of Helsinki, University of New England (NSW, Australia), and Peking University. Additionally, he has been an instructor for over a decade at the Seattle Summer Institute of Statistical Genetics, training over 500 students at just this institute alone. Bruce has taught over 10,000 undergraduates and is approaching 10,000 literatures citations of his work.


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Allen Van Deynze, Ph.D., African Plant Breeding Academy Co-Founder & Instructor
Director, Seed Biotechnology Center, University of California, Davis
Associate Director, Plant Breeding Center, University of California, Davis

Dr. Allen Van Deynze is the Director of the Seed Biotechnology Center and Associate Director of the Plant Breeding Center at University of California, Davis. He has a Ph. D in plant breeding from University of Guelph, Canada. As part of the SBC’s mission to serve as a liaison between public institutions and seed industry, Allen is responsible for developing, coordinating and conducting research and generating and disseminating scientific and informational content for the Seed Biotechnology Center’s and Plant Breeding Center’s educational and outreach programs. His research focuses on developing and integrating genomics into plant breeding of California and African crops. He has programs on breeding for disease resistance and quality in pepper and spinach, and development and application of genomics in crops. With Dr. Kent Bradford he co-developed and is organizer for the Plant Breeding Academysm and past chair of the US Plant Breeding Coordinating Committee.  He has been involved in International and National policy including US Regulations for Biotechnology. He is an instructor for the Plant Breeding Academy(s) and Scientific Director for the African Orphan Crops Consortium.


African Plant Breeding Academy Staff



Thomas Zschocke, Ph.D., Head of Knowledge, Information, and Capacity Development for CIFOR-ICRAF

Dr. Thomas Zschocke serves as the Team Leader of the Knowledge, Information and Capacity Development (KIC) Unit at ICRAF. He joined ICRAF in 2011 first as the head of the Capacity Development Unit (formerly Training Unit), then as the head of the Knowledge Management Unit; both Units were merged to form KIC in 2020. Prior to joining ICRAF Thomas worked in similar capacities at the International Potato Center (CIP) in Lima, Peru, and at the United Nations University (UNU-EHS) in Bonn, Germany. He attended the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, USA, receiving a doctoral degree in education with a focus on international education and instructional technology.



Imelda Ingumba, Capacity Development, Learning and Engagement Officer for CIFOR-ICRAF

Imelda Ingumba holds the position of Capacity Development, Learning and Engagement Officer at CIFOR-ICRAF. Imelda holds a Bachelor’s degree in Administration and a Master’s degree in Strategic Management. While at ICRAF, Imelda has assisted with individual learning activities and interacted with the centre's scientists, students and partners. Imelda is based in Nairobi, Kenya and leads logistical support for the African Plant Breeding Academy (AfPBA) including travel itineraries for students and on-site arrangements. 



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Whitney Lowe, Program Manager for UC Davis Plant Breeding Academies 

Whitney Lowe joined the Seed Biotechnology Center in 2021 and coordinates pre-planning logistics for the African Plant Breeding Academy as well as the Plant Breeding Academies in Davis and Europe. Whitney received her B.S. degree from San Diego State University and has a background in program management and hospitality, which reflects in the relationships she has with PBA students and instructors. She enjoys bringing seed industry professionals from around the world together to learn about plant breeding and help feed our world.