UC Davis African plant breeding academy

AfPBA students, instructors, and guest speakers from CIMMYT and GCP.
AfPBA students, instructors, and guest speakers from CIMMYT and GCP.

Successful completion of plant breeding training program in Nairobi, Kenya.

University of California, Davis

July 21, 2014

The African Plant Breeding Academy (AfPBA) held the second two-week training session for its first class at the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) in Nairobi, Kenya, June 15–28, 2014. The AfPBA is a continuing education program organized by the University of California, Davis, and an initiative of the African Orphan Crops Consortium (AOCC).


It is designed to sharpen skills of plant breeders across the African continent on the use of new technologies and current approaches to improve genetic gains and efficiencies leading to increased food security and to promote innovative research on African orphan crops. This program provides the bridge between AOCC’s sequencing of 100 orphan crop genomes and the development of higher-yielding, more nutritious varieties for African farmers and consumers based on this key DNA-based information.


Hands-on instruction for preparing leaf samples for DNA analysis, with Dusty Vyas (LGC Genomics)
The AfPBA, which debuted in December 2013, consists of six weeks of training in total, structured in two-week sessions. June marked the second session of three, with the final to come in December 2014. This first course offering is provided to a cohort of 23 scientists (four female) from 11 countries in Africa — Burkina Faso, Côte-D'Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, and Zimbabwe.

The core instructors for this session were Bruce Walsh (Univ. of Arizona), Iago Hale (Univ. of New Hampshire), Allen Van Deynze (UC Davis), and Rita H. Mumm (Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) who also directs the AfPBA, with logistical support from Kitty Schlosser (UC Davis) and Imelda Ingumba (ICRAF).

The topical focus of the June session included: multiple trait selection approaches such as selection indices and marker-assisted selection; multi-year, multi-location experimental designs and data analysis tools in R and the Integrated Breeding Platformtm; approaches to phenotypic evaluation including specialized testing environments and use of secondary traits; and ways to manage and exploit GxE.


AfPBA touring the Transformation Laboratory at Kenyatta University.
The practice of AfPBA is to present concepts, principles, and tools, then to demonstrate these in action through actual breeding programs. This provides opportunity for AfPBA students to ask practical questions about breeding targets and the means to achieve these from plant breeders ‘in the trenches.’ Guest speakers included:
  • A team of Kenya-based CIMMYT Maize Program scientists, led by Dr. B.M. Prasanna, on developing stress-resilient and nutritionally-enriched tropical maize
  • Scientists from Kenyatta University in Nairobi (Drs. R.O. Oduor, A.J. Mgutu, and M.P. Ngugi) , on utilizing biotechnology approaches
  • Dr. Christopher Boomsma from Dow AgroSciences based in Indianapolis, USA, on establishing specialized testing sites to select for tolerance to drought and low nitrogen,
  • Dr. Ramni Jamnadass and her team at ICRAF on biodiversity of tree species.
  • Dusty Vyas and Jon Curtis from LGC Genomics (UK) presented techniques for collecting tissue samples for DNA analysis
  • The Generation Challenge Program (GCP) based in Texcoco, Mexico (Corina Habito and Dr. Trushar Shah, ICRISAT) provided instruction on use of the Integrated Breeding Platform software, which supports many types of plant breeding activities including field book creation and data analysis and is free to African scientists.

With the first class graduating in December 2014, the AFPBA is currently recruiting for its second cohort which will begin classes June 2015. For more information please see http://pba.ucdavis.edu/ or contact Kitty Schlosser (meschlosser@ucdavis.edu).

Additional news related to this program:

  • African Orphan Crops Consortium article, January 2014
  • African Plant Breeding Academy article, January 2014
  • African Plant Breeding Academy article, June 2013


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