Tanzanian president inaugurates new science building

The President of the United Republic of Tanzania, His Excellency, Dr Mrisho Jakaya Kikwete, in May, inaugurated IITA’s new science building in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

The construction of the science building represents an investment of over US$4 million and is part of IITA’s efforts to strengthen its research capacity and that of its partners in sub-Saharan Africa.

“The science building is a symbol of IITA’s commitment to continue waging the fight against hunger and poverty and boost agriculture through capacity development and improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers in East Africa through its research-for-development efforts,” says Dr Nteranya Sanginga, IITA Director General.

Citing IITA for its R4D work in http://pangeagiving.org/cheap/ sub-Saharan Africa, President Kikwete lauded the construction of the science building, saying that any effective socioeconomic transformation which would have levitra online cheap a significant impact on poverty reduction in Tanzania and Africa should be anchored on agriculture.

The inauguration was followed by a tour of the new building and exhibition booths showcasing IITA’s work in East Africa, and a workshop with the theme “Grow Africa and the role of agricultural research by national systems, IITA, and its partners.”

The state-of-the-art and environmentally friendly Science Building has five modern laboratories with a capacity to host 70 researchers.

Nigeria releases improved cassava varieties

Nigeria has released two new improved cassava varieties developed through a collaborative effort between IITA and the Nigerian Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI), Umudike. The two varieties are originally recognized as IITA-developed genotypes IITA-TMS-I982132 and IITA-TMS-I011206, now known as UMUCASS 42 and UMUCASS 43, respectively.

Both varieties performed well in different cassava production regions of Nigeria with high yield, high dry matter, and good disease resistance. The roots of these varieties are yellow and contain moderate levels of provitamin A.

The potential maximum yield of the two varieties is between 49 and 53 t/ha, according to pre-varietal release trials that were conducted between 2008 and 2010. Local varieties produce less than 10 t/ha. The varieties are also resistant to major pests and diseases that affect cassava in the country including cassava mosaic disease, cassava bacterial blight, cassava anthracnose, cassava mealybug, and cassava green mite.

The varieties are good for high quality cassava flour—a trait sought after by researchers for the cassava transformation agenda in Nigeria; have high dry matter which is positively related to starch and important for cassava value chain development; have high leaf retention which is positively related to drought tolerance and is crucial for cassava production in the drier regions and in mitigating the impact of climate change, with moderate levels of betacarotene for enhancing nutrition.

Cassava project launches database

Cassavabase, a database that promotes open access data sharing, was launched recently.

IITA is a major contributor of data to www.cassavabase.org and will host this information resource through the NEXTGEN Cassava project.

Cassavabase features phenotypic and genotypic data generated by cassava breeding programs involved in the NEXTGEN Cassava project at Cornell University supported by a US$25.2 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Department for International Development of the United Kingdom.

The database makes the data immediately and openly accessible to the whole cassava community prior to publication. It is being developed by Lukas Mueller, adjunct professor of plant breeding and genetics at Cornell, at the Boyce Thompson Institute in Ithaca, New York.

Cassavabase provides a “one-stop shop” for cassava researchers and breeders worldwide. In addition to phenotypic and genotypic data, Cassavabase offers access to all genomic selection analysis tools and phenotyping tools developed by the NEXTGEN Cassava project, and links to auxiliary genome browsers, ontology tools and social networking tools, for the cassava community.

Biocontrol product reduces mortality in poultry

A study by scientists from IITA and the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, has found that poultry fed with maize treated with aflasafeâ„¢ experienced reduced mortality in addition to other benefits.

Results from the feeding experiment involving 1,020 broilers showed that the use of maize from aflasafeâ„¢-treated feeds reduced mortality rate by 43.9%, feed intake dropped by 10.4%, and there was an increase of 3.3% in feed conversion ratio.

The results show the impact of aflasafe™—a biological control product developed by IITA for controlling aflatoxins.

Produced by toxigenic strains of Aspergillus flavus, aflatoxins have become a menace in developing countries, contaminating about 25% of grains produced in the region. The aftermath effects of consuming aflatoxin-contaminated grains include stunting in children, liver cancer, and even death.

Ensuring good quality commercial products

The ‘Institutionalization of quality assurance mechanism and dissemination of top quality commercial products to increase crop yields and improve food security of smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa,’ or Commercial Products (COMPRO-II) project, was launched this year in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, this project aims to institutionalize quality assurance mechanisms and facilitate the rapid dissemination of top quality commercial products to increase yields and improve the food security of smallholder farmers in the region.

This will be done by raising awareness among over two million smallholder farmers on effective and profitable commercial products by 2016 through public-private partnership.

COMPRO II will:
1.transit technologies (e.g., Rhizobium inoculants for legumes, mycorrhizal inoculants for banana, and seed coating for maize) that enhance yields by 15–30% identified in COMPRO I into Ghana, Tanzania, and Uganda,
2.institutionalize regulatory and quality control processes,
3.disseminate effective products through public-private partnerships,
4.develop communication tools, and
5.strengthen human capacity.

Partners include the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa – Soil Health Program (AGRA), Farm Input Promotions (FIPS), the Tropical Soil Biology and Fertility Research Area of the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (TSBF-CIAT), the Centre for Agricultural Bioscience International (CABI), and universities, national research organizations, extension organizations, and quality control entities in the different target countries.

Nigeria releases Vitamin A maize

The Nigerian Government has released two new maize hybrids that can provide more vitamin A in the diets of millions in the country.

Vitamin A deficiency is prevalent in Nigeria, especially among children, pregnant women, and mothers. It lowers immunity and impairs vision, which can lead to blindness and even death.

The hybrids, which are the first generation vitamin A-rich maize, were released by the National Variety Release Committee of Nigeria as Ife maizehyb 3 and Ife maizehyb 4. They are recognized as IITA hybrids A0905-28 and A0905-32, respectively.

The hybrids are a product of nearly a decade of breeding for enhanced levels of pro-vitamin A. Provitamin A is converted by the body into vitamin A when the maize is eaten.

The hybrids were developed by IITA with the Institute of Agricultural Research & Training (IAR&T) using conventional breeding in a project funded by HarvestPlus—a Challenge Program of the CGIAR as part of strategies to address the prevalence of vitamin A deficiency.

Other collaborating partners include the Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR), Zaria; University of Maiduguri; International Maize and Wheat Center (CIMMYT), University of Illinois, and University of Wisconsin.

Tanzania and partners tackle cassava disease

Tanzania’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives (MAFC) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have launched three new projects to support efforts to develop cassava varieties with resistance to Cassava Mosaic Disease (CMD) and Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD) and to establish more sustainable seed systems to provide smallholder farmers better access to such varieties.

The projects were launched during a cassava value chain event in Dar es Salaam that brought together representatives from the government, donor community, private sector and development partners.

Farmers in Tanzania and the region need access to planting materials of new improved varieties released in the country. Cassava is a very important crop not only for food security but it also has great potential as a cash crop through processing. The two diseases, especially CBSD, are a major problem and need to be urgently addressed.

The Cassava Varieties and Clean Seed to Combat CBSD and CMD (5CP) project will facilitate sharing of five of the best varieties from Tanzania, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, and Uganda for regional testing across the countries to speed up the development of varieties with dual resistance to the two diseases.

Building African breeders’ capacities

IITA and the West Africa Center for Crop Improvement (WACCI) have signed a memorandum of understanding aimed at increasing the number of plant breeders in Africa.

Under the agreement, WACCI, a center at the University of Ghana, will send postgraduate students to IITA for three years to carry out research in plant breeding. Students will have access to IITA facilities and will be supervised by senior IITA scientists.

The alliance with WACCI is expected to halt the dwindling number of plant breeders in Africa and boost IITA’s role in building capacity in the continent. Building capacities of breeders is one way of helping ensure food security in Africa.

In its 45 years of existence as Africa’s leading research partner, IITA has trained more than 74,000 people in Africa and elsewhere. Some of these beneficiaries today occupy strategic positions in Africa.

Boosting yam productivity in Ghana and Nigeria

IITA and partners recently launched the Yam Improvement for Income and Food Security in West Africa (YIIFSWA) project, supported by a US$12 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The project aims to boost yam productivity and double the incomes of three million yam small-holder farmers in West Africa. It will focus on increasing yields through better seed yam supply and improving markets for this underground, edible tuber.

A key priority of the project is to ensure that affordable higher-yielding pest- and disease-free seed yam are available to farmers, along with storage and handling technologies that can reduce postharvest loss. The project will also develop a host of new yam varieties that can address the challenges in yam production.

The project has major emphasis on training and capacity development of farmers and farmers’ organizations, and improvement of linkages of small-holder farmers to markets where a strong and steady demand for seed and ware yam allow them to realize the economic benefits of increased productivity.

IITA leads the 5-year project in collaboration with the national organizations of Ghana and Nigeria, the UK’s Natural Resources Institute (NRI), the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), and Catholic Relief Services (CRS).

For more information, visit www.iita.org/web/yiifswa.

Pro-vitamin A cassava released

Three pro-vitamin A cassava varieties released in December 2011 were launched recently by the Nigerian government. IITA, in partnership with the National Root Crops Research Institute, Nigeria, developed these varieties using traditional breeding methods in a HarvestPlus-funded project.

The varieties were released by the National Variety Release Committee of Nigeria as UMUCASS 36, UMUCASS 37, and UMUCASS 38; and are recognized as IITA genotypes TMS 01/1368, TMS 01/1412, and TMS 01/1371.

The project works with national partners and the private sector to ensure that the pro-vitamin A-rich varieties reach resource-poor farmers. The consumption of pro-vitamin A cassava could help Nigeria reduce economic losses in gross domestic product estimated at about $1.5 billion. Most importantly, it will also improve the nutrition of women and children who are the most vulnerable.

In developing countries, vitamin A deficiency remains a major bottleneck to improved nutrition with approximately 250,000 to 500,000 malnourished children going blind each year, half of whom die within a year of becoming blind. The prevalence of night blindness due to vitamin A deficiency is also high among pregnant women in many developing countries.

The yellow root color of the vitamin A-rich varieties is the product of over 20 years of breeding efforts for improved nutritional quality. Other partners in this biofortification work include the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa).