Pioneer Users Speak

Elliot Tembo works for Seed Co, a 70-year-old enterprise developing and marketing diverse crop seeds in Zimbabwe with operations in 13 other countries across Africa. Mr Tembo is also a member of the IBP User Committee representing the private sector. He is particularly keen to complement conventional breeding techniques with molecular tools to expedite breeding. “The IBP can assist Seed Co identify appropriate marker service providers and generate valuable genotypic data on our germplasm,” he says. “And we can most certainly benefit from the data-management and analytical tools that the IBP is developing.” Elliots involvement with the IBP serves as a useful case study for future engagement between the Platform and private seed companies in the developing world, particularly Africa where they play a crucial role in getting improved certified seeds to farmers. IBP proposes to recruit breeders in these companies into the communities of practice as well.


Prof Richard Trethowan of the University of Sydney, Australia, is involved in several user cases and leads a project supported by the Australian government. “We’ve used the informatics components of the IBP to establish the International Crop Information System (ICIS) at all project nodes and to maintain functional local databases,” he reports. “Now we need the IBP to provide query tools to help make sense of our data. We have pedigree, phenotypic and molecular data in ICIS but the tools we currently have for combining and analysing these data to make better plant-breeding decisions are not effective.” Richard is the Product Delivery C-ordinator for GCP's Wheat Research Initiative. The component of that Initiative that covers India and China will contribute towards food security for almost half of the world's population!


The multi-crop GCP legume project in Africa, amongst other interventions, fosters modern approaches to accelerate the breeding of cowpea varieties with improved productivity in drought-prone environments. “The IBP is a critical resource for developing optimised marker-assisted breeding approaches for national agricultural research systems in Africa,” comments Dr Jeff Ehlers, from the University of California, who heads the cowpea work. He anticipates that the IBP will facilitate processing of breeding data by supplying tools for genetic analysis, selection decisions, and for simulation and visualisation. He is particularly looking forward to the IBP phenotyping support services. Jeff is also mentor to the joint Cowpea and Soybean community of practice, and offers guidance to PhD students studying at the West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI) hosted by the University of Ghana.


“With the community of practice, all that is gained will be shared,” says Mrs Elizabeth Parkes of Ghana’s Crop Research Institute, in reference to the community of practice (CoP) for cassava breeders in Africa. This CoP brings together researchers from Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda, with a view to strengthening the capacity of country breeding programmes to combine both conventional and molecular breeding. CoP breeders are linked with mentors from CIAT (Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical; the International Center for Tropical Agriculture), Cornell University, EMBRAPA ( Empresa Brasileira de Pesquisa Agropecuária ; the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation) and IITA (International Institute of Tropical Agriculture). The members have benefitted from IBP’s Genotyping Support Service (GSS) and received training on analysis of genotypic and phenotypic data. GCP is also funding several PhD students working on cassava breeding in all of the four CoP countries.

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