A high resolution genetic linkage map of cassava published in G3

Cassava roots affected by cassava brown streak diseases - the linkage maps will help breeders in their efforts to develop varieties resistant to this deadly disease.
Cassava roots affected by cassava brown streak diseases – the linkage map will help scientists in their efforts to develop varieties resistant to this and other  deadly diseases.   Photo by J. Legg

A high-resolution linkage map and chromosome scale-genome assembly for cassava by a group of international researchers, including some from IITA, has been published in G3 Genes Genomes Genetics, and highlighted by the Genetics Society of America (http://www.g3journal.org/content/5/1/133.full).

The linkage map was generated by combining 10 genetic maps from 14 diverse parents from African cassava breeding projects including those of IITA in East Africa and Nigeria. It was a collaborative effort  aomg researchers from  IITA, the Agricultural Research Institute (ARI) of Tanzania, National Crops Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI) in Uganda, National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI) in Nigeria and the University of Berkeley/ Joint Genome Institute, USA.

It was accomplished through two collaborative projects funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. One of them, administered by IITA, focuses on the development of mapping populations, and the other, by  University of Arizona, focuses on improving the cassava genome sequence.

According to Dr Morag Ferguson, IITA’s Cassava Molecular Geneticist, the maps have allowed the aligning of DNA sequence fragments into larger fragments or scaffolds, so that now 90% of the cassava genome assembly is contained in only 30 large fragments, whereas previously it was made up of approximately 13,000 pieces.

“This will be a valuable tool in a number of research areas from diversity assessments to functional genomics and will ultimately assist researchers to efficiently identify and use genetic variation for improved productivity, disease resistance, enhanced nutrition and to develop varieties for industrial processing amongst other applications,’ she said.

This is good news for small-holder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa where currently the crop’s production is greatly threatened by two viral diseases, cassava mosaic disease (CMD) and cassava brown streak disease (CBSD).

N2Africa inspires farmers in Tanzania to use fertilizers to boost bean production

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A farmer evaluates beans with NPK fertilizer applied.

The N2Africa project recently held a field day for smallholder farmers in Kwemashai Village, Lushoto District, Tanga Region, in Tanzania. The event allowed farmers to compare the different legume farming treatments being tested by the project.

The farmers evaluated how well the beans grew when applied either Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium (NPK) fertilizer, Monopotassium phosphate (PK) fertilizer or farm yard manure, when each of the fertilizers was mixed with the farmyard manure, and when no fertilizers whatsoever were used.

Overall, the farmers were impressed with the performance of beans grown using a mixture of organic and inorganic fertilizers and many said they were ready to invest in inorganic fertilizers to boost crop production. Currently, only a few farmers use fertilizers, and it’s usually small quantities of farmyard manure.

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A section of the over 200 farmers who attended the Farmers field day at the project’s demo plot.

The one-day event held on 21 January 2015 and was attended by over 200 farmers drawn from surrounding villages and the project research team and partners including local government officials, local politicians, and agricultural extension officers.

Promising technologies

One of the farmers, Fatuma Salim, said she was impressed with the combination of NPK and manure, and NPK alone. “The beans are growing very well and look very promising. In my farm, I only apply manure on beans but from these demonstrations I have seen the results of adding NPK fertilizers  to the manure. I am excited to try using NPK or the combination of manure and NPK for better results. ”

Honesmo Temba from Chakechake village said the use of fertilizers combined with manure shows promise of increasing the yield of beans which in turn will motivate farmers to grow the crop more and earn more income.

“I came here to Kwemashai Village to learn from the demo plots about the types of fertilizer technologies farmers can effectively use to get high yields. This is important as it can provide an opportunity for farmers to generate income for the benefit of their families. These technologies show we can increase the production of beans and this will encourage farmers to grow more beans. The children will also be well fed and this will make them more attentive in class.”

He added, “Plants are like human beings. Human beings require better nutrients for growth, health, and thinking capacity, the same applies to beans.”

DSCN7402Speaking during the field day, Professor Ken Giller from Wagenigen University and the N2Africa project leader, noted that poor soils lacking important minerals such as nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous were a major constraint to farmers and one of the reasons behind the low yield in their fields.

He said he was pleased with the enthusiasm and interest shown by the farmers on the technologies being demonstrated. “Though the N2Africa project has been working in Tanzania for only one and half years, it already looks promising just by the farmers’ interest in these technologies. We hope that they will now invest and start applying some of them,” he said.

Tackling market issues DSCN7283 Dr Frederick Baijukya, an Agronomist with IITA and the Country Coordinator for N2Africa in Tanzania, assured the farmers that the project will work hand-in-hand with them and the authorities to address the challenges they were facing in bean farming including lack of markets. He further urged them to form associations to help in marketing their crops. He said the project’s next step will be to ensure that farmers have access to the promising technologies that they have selected.

The village chairman Mr Yauto Abdish Mahongi, thanked the project for helping farmers to increase the production of beans. “Most bean farmers do not apply fertilizers. This project is helping raise awareness among farmers through these demonstrations that are giving farmers the opportunity to see for themselves how fertilizers can improve their yield. Therefore on behalf of Kwemashai village, I would like to thank the project for supporting us. We are happy to be among the selected beneficiaries and we promise to support it all the way.”

About N2Africa

The N2Africa project, led by Wageningen University and implemented by the International Institute of Tropical Agricultural (IITA) and many other partners, encourages farmers to grow legumes for food and nutrition security, to increase their incomes as well as to improve soil health through nitrogen fixation. N2Africa promotes improved technologies to smallholder legume farmers that include the use of improved seeds, appropriate fertilizers, inoculants, and good agronomic practices to increase yield.

more images

story and photos – Eveline Massam

N2Africa project launched in Tanzania

Putting biological nitrogen fixation to work for smallholder farmers

also find more info on the project’s newsletter, the podcast

USAID cowpea and groundnut project holds stakeholder consultation

Project implementers and stakeholders involved in the USAID cowpea/groundnut scaling project in Nigeria met in Kano last week. The 19-22 January consultation is part of a series of in-country meetings being held to establish a common understanding of the project.

The project, Taking Cowpeas and Groundnuts to Scale in West Africa, covers four target countries—Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, and Senegal. It is being initiated by IITA (cowpea) and ICRISAT (groundnut), in collaboration with national partners, value chain players, and the private sector, with funding from the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

In the Kano meeting, participants discussed project goals, milestones, and activities; agreed on roles, responsibilities, and accountabilities, and drafted workplans and implementation plans for the first year of the project.

The meeting was attended by more than 100 participants involved in cowpea and groundnut research and value chain development.  They sat down for three days in breakout groups to tackle specific issues on seed systems, improved technologies (varieties, agronomic practices, postharvest management, and utilization), markets, knowledge dissemination and extension for both groundnut and cowpea, and to identify strategies that would address these issues.

The main objective of the cowpea component of the project that IITA is leading is to increase sustainable demand-driven production and productivity in smallholder farmers’ fields in the four target countries using best-bet production technologies in Feed the Future (FtF) communities through a strong partnership among USAID, IITA, and other key national partners. FtF is the US Government’s global hunger and food security initiative. It is exploring the expansion of partnerships with the CGIAR and related partners around a targeted set of technologies for the promotion and   large-scale dissemination of improved cowpea technologies.

The project focuses on scaling out technologies that enhance the production and productivity of cowpea in the four West African countries where the crop is very important for food and nutrition security.

Project outputs include the setting up of Innovation Platforms, creating awareness about improved technologies, establishing solid partnerships, and providing breeder and foundation seeds to support the seed system. These are expected to result in increased demand for improved cowpea seeds, crop management, and cowpea storage technologies. In turn this will lead to adoption and greater production of cowpea in project areas; increased income for farmers, seed companies, agro-dealers, cowpea food vendors; improved nutrition of children and the most vulnerable groups in the community and better availability of cowpea in the market.

Dr Alfred Dixon, Head of IITA’s Partnership Coordination Office, in his closing remarks, thanked the participants. “Your expert advice and perspectives during the discussions will help the project in developing the final strategic document.

This is one of those projects that I am sure will make a difference because it is paying attention to sustainability and on ensuring the deliverables and outcomes through engagement with key national partners.”

IFAD/IITA HQCF value chain project team meet with partners to plan 2015 activities

IFAD-IITA (Copy)From 20 to 21 January 2015, the IFAD/IITA High Quality Cassava Flour (HQCF) value chain project hosted its partners and Farm Managers from the different project sites in Nigeria including the National Roots Crops Research Institute, (NRCRI) Umudike, at IITA headquarters in Ibadan.

The meeting was organized to deliberate on the activities of the previous year and to plan for 2015. Welcoming the project partners, Bamidele Alenkhe said that he believed the outcome of the two-day exercise would prepare all partners better for the activities in 2015.

The meeting also provided a platform for partners to interact and brainstorm on the modalities to successfully achieve the aims and objectives of the project in 2015.

Dr Richardson Okechukwu, who leads the production activities of the project, emphasized its aims and objectives which included reducing poverty, the cost of producing cassava, and the rate of unemployment among the youth. The IITA Youth Agripreneurs also showcased their activities at Osogun Cassava Farm, Oyo State. The previous year’s budget was reviewed; production constraints were discussed and measures to solve them were agreed.

At the end of the two-day progress meeting, Pastor Femi Salami, Director, Oamsal Nigeria Ltd., on behalf of the other partners, thanked the IFAD/IITA project for giving them the opportunity to be involved and promised their unfailing support in 2015.

Humidtropics works with farmers to choose best-bet farm practices

An IITA  project is working jointly with farmers and members of Innovation Platforms at selected field sites in Nigeria in choosing best-bet farm practices. Farmers in four locations in two States have been participating in field evaluation trials to test and choose the best combination of cassava growth types, legumes, and management practices in their farms.

The Cassava/Legume Intensification Project, funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), is being undertaken in Nigeria, Kenya, and DR Congo, and works on three components: seed systems, social science/agribusiness, and natural resources management (NRM).  The project is mapped under the CGIAR Research Program on Integrated Systems for the Humid Tropics (Humidtropics).

Humidtropics, and through it, the project, uses participatory rural appraisal, a research methodology that employs participatory tools such as focus group discussions or village-level discussions to understand rural problems. The process involves the full collaboration of stakeholders, for instance, farmers, rural people, and policymakers, in all stages of the “research” process—from defining the problem to conducting the research and thus identifying solutions to farm problems in their specific context.

A series of demonstrations and Farmers’ field days were organized recently to get feedback from farmers on the options that suit their situation, and determine their reasons for favoring or rejecting these options. Dr Christine Kreye, IFAD cassava intensification-NRM project leader for Nigeria, said “The outcome of these field days will be used to prepare options for farmers on their own farms in the next wet season, and ‘recruit’ interested farmers for these on-farm trials.”

All the farms are cocoa-based systems that also grow cassava for food security and additional cash income. The demonstrations and trials were undertaken in Akinyele, Iddo, Lagelu, and Ogo-Oluwa Local Government Areas (LGA) in Oyo State, and Osunwoyin, Ayedire LGA and Iwara, Atakunmosa East LGA in Ogun State.

The project provides planting materials (except for the local variety), inputs, and know-how; the farming community provides land, labor, and information. The project also manages the demonstration trial jointly with the farmers. After planting, at mid-term, and at harvest, researchers ask the farmers to evaluate all practices.

The “treatments” in the demonstration plots featured farmers’ current or local practice, and several best-bet options (e.g., cassava monocrop, cassava–legume intercrop to demonstrate high yield options), and several treatments where factors such as planting density, fertilizer application, and others are changed or tested.

Specifically, the demonstration farms used the following management practices: sole cassava using the varieties TME 419 (erect plant type/growth habit and 30572 (branching plant type) at 1 m × 1 m spacing and different options involving fertilizer (NPK), cassava–legume intercropping, spacing with a legume intercrop, and legume type (cowpea, groundnut, soybean).

For the farmers’ trials, farmers will grow cassava in 2 to 4 management packages that were developed jointly during the demonstration trial phase. Farmers manage these trials by themselves. They also agree to provide information through a field book provided for the purpose, facilitate sample collection, and allow field visits from other farmers. The project provides planting material, inputs, and advice.

Seminar on corruption-free leadership held in IITA

More than 100 young people attached to IITA under Nigeria’s National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme, met at the IITA conference center in Ibadan on 28 January 2015 to discuss concepts of corruption and how it affects leadership in agriculture.

Kwame Akuffo-Akoto, IITA Deputy Director General, Corporate Services welcomed participants on behalf of the Director General Dr Nteranya Sanginga. In his keynote address, he said IITA is applying zero tolerance concerning corruption. “Anticorruption has to be one of the pillars of an inclusive growth strategy in the agricultural sector if the poor are to benefit. We all know that the harmful effects of corruption are especially severe on the poor mainly because they mostly rely on the provision of public services, and are least capable of paying the extra costs that are associated with bribery, fraud, and misappropriation.“

IITA applies a whistle blowing policy to encourage people to report suspected cases without fear of victimization or repercussions.

Corruption is undeniably rampant and a principal factor limiting development in Nigeria. In reflection of the bane due to corruption in the leadership systems, Transparency International in its Corruption Perceptions Index for 2014, ranked Nigeria as one of the most corrupt nations in the world.

Mr Bolu Onasanya, CEO and Founder of Bonas Consulting, was the guest speaker. He said bad leadership was the primary impediment to Nigeria’s attaining its desirable standard in governance.

Mr Onasanya also stated that bad governance,leadership and corruption were responsible for the lack of necessary infrastructure in the country, and its current stagnation. He urged the youths to learn to do little things in extraordinary ways as they had great roles to play to phase off corruption.

“Your attitude towards work, events, and the people around you tells a lot about what you will eventually do if given power because power ignites what you have already formed inside of you,” he said.

A presentation by Rasheed Dauda, Senior Internal Auditor; IITA Internal Audit Unit, titled “occupational fraud awareness”  buttressed IITA’s efforts in ensuring everything possible to promote a fraud-free working space.

IITA Corps members during the seminar.
IITA Corps members during the seminar.