Professor Eric Danquah, Professor of Plant Genetics at the University of Ghana’s College of Agriculture and Consumer Sciences and Director of the West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI) is among four scientists who will receive a $1 million grant to develop genomic tools needed to improve sorghum, an important African food crop.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are supporting the research which will help identify sorghum gene functions, especially those that play a role in crop yield, protein and starch digestion and resistance to Striga, a parasitic weed that attacks sorghum's root system. Sorghum is a vitally important crop throughout Africa, yet it doesn't receive a lot of research investment.
According to Mitch Tuinstra, who is the project’s principal investigator and a Purdue Professor and Wichersham Chair of Agronomy, "We have a sorghum genome, but we don't have all the tools necessary to see what each of the genes do." The other scientists are Cliff Weil, a Professor of Agronomy, Brian Dilkes, Assistant Professor of Horticulture from Purdue University, and INERA’s Hamidou Traore, a sorghum breeder.
The research team will run workshops at the West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement at the University of Ghana to teach students plant-breeding techniques using genomics and bioinformatics, a high-tech method for analyzing biological data as well as train one Ghanaian PhD student on a split site research project. They will also partner with the Striga Research Unit in Burkina Faso to test new technology in Striga-infested fields. This research will add to efforts being made to ensure food security in Africa.
"WACCI is excited about this collaboration with Purdue and INERA to address the productivity challenges of sorghum," Professor Eric Danquah said.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation funding will cover the project's first three years.
The West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI) based at the University of Ghana, was established to train plant breeders with capacity to lead the conversion of genetic and molecular discoveries into innovative solutions that result in improved varieties to benefit agriculture in West Africa.
The goal of WACCI is to improve food security for the poor in Africa by training African plant breeders in Africa to develop superior varieties of African crops, using both conventional and molecular breeding technologies to deal with problems such as abiotic and biotic stresses. For more details on WACCI click here to visit their website