Cornell University
NextGen Cassava

Project Objectives

 

Objective 1 addresses the need to identify methods to improve cassava flowering and seed set. Hormone sprays, day length variation, and grafting with plants that produce a strong flower-inducing stimulus, are tested as possible methods to overcome limitations in cassava breeding due to poor flowering and seed set. By the project end, methods to induce flowering in cassava will have been developed, giving breeders the ability to use poorly flowering cassava varieties in their breeding programs.

Objective Lead:

Tim Setter (Cornell)

Participants:

Chiedozie Egesi (NRCRI)
Peter Kulakow (IITA)
Anthony Pariyo (NaCRRI)
Ismail Rabbi (IITA)
Peter Hyde (Cornell)
Sarah Adeyemo (Cornell)

Objective 2 implements and empirically tests Genomic Selection in African breeding programs. A database (see Objective 3) and statistical tools for Genomic Selection implementation in cassava are developed, and breeders from the three partner breeding programs (NaCRRI, NRCRI and IITA) are trained in the principles and practice of Genomic Selection. One and two-year breeding cycles are tested at IITA, and NaCRRI and NRCRI respectively, to work through the logistics of accelerated breeding cycles that incorporate Genomic Selection into existing cassava breeding schemes. By the project end, all three partner breeding programs will have gained the human and infrastructure capacity to independently implement Genomic Selection to dramatically increase the rate of genetic gain in their cassava breeding programs.

Objective Lead:

Jean-Luc Jannick (USDA/ARS-Cornell)

Participants:

Yona Baguma (NaCRRI)
Chiedozie Egesi (NRCRI)
Martha Hamblin (Cornell)
Robert Kawuki (NaCRRI)
Peter Kulakow (IITA)
Ismail Rabbi (IITA)
Marnin Wolfe (Cornell)
Olumide Alabi (IITA)
Uche Okeke (IITA)
Alfred Ozimati (NaCRRI)
Ugochukwu Ikeogu (NRCRI)
Ariel Chan (Cornell)
Dunia Pino Del Carpio (Cornell)

Objective 3 gives cassava breeders and researchers access to data and tools in a centralized, user-friendly and reliable database. A database (Cassavabase, www.cassavabase.org) is developed that contains Genomic Selection algorithms and analysis capacity, a cassava genome browser, cassava ontology tools, phenotyping tools, and social networking. Tools are developed on Cassavabase that improve partner breeding program information tracking, streamline management of genotypic and phenotypic data, and pipeline that data through Genomic Selection prediction analyses. By the project end, Cassavabase will be fully hosted at IITA, providing a "one-stop shop" for cassava researchers and breeders worldwide.

Objective Lead:

Lukas Mueller (BTI)

Participants:

Martha Hamblin (Cornell)
Peter Kulakow (IITA)
Ismail Rabbi (IITA)
Naama Menda (BTI)
Isaak Tecle (BTI)
Dunia Pino Del Carpio (Cornell)

Objective 4 diversifies germplasm in African cassava breeding programs. Clones obtained from Latin American breeding programs are crossed with elite African germplasm developed by NaCRRI and NRCRI breeding programs. Promising progeny are then mainstreamed into each breeding program, as well as Genomic Selection schemes. By the project end, more than 100 Latin American clones will be crossed to elite African germplasm to incorporate unprecedented diversity into African cassava breeding programs.

Objective Lead:

Robert Kawuki (NaCRRI)

Participants:

Yona Baguma (NaCRRI)
Chiedozie Egesi (NRCRI)
Jean-Luc Jannink (USDA/ARS-Cornell)
Emmanuel Okogbenin (NRCRI)
Ismail Kayondo (NaCRRI)
Lydia Ezenwaka (NaCRRI)

Objective 5 builds a wide range of human and infrastructure capacity at NaCRRI, guided by priority areas and improvements determined by NaCRRI scientists and breeders. Infrastructure upgrades include construction of a germplasm (genetic resources) conservation facility and a nutrient profiling facility in addition to internet connectivity upgrades and high throughput DNA extraction capability development. Human capacity will be markedly strengthened through the training of eight MSc students, a peer mentorship program to build leadership, and exchange visits for expert scientists. By the project end, human and infrastructure capacity at NaCRRI will be significantly enhanced.

Objective Lead:

Yona Baguma (NaCRRI)

Participants:

Richard Edema (Makerere University)
Paul Gibson (Makerere University)
Robert Kawuki (NaCRRI)
Grace Nakabonge (NaCRRI)

Objective 6 seeks to establish a biotechnology and biosafety awareness initiative in Uganda. The initiative aims to facilitate informed decision-making by contributing to increasing public understanding of agricultural biotechnology, and building public confidence in biosafety regulatory system. A hub will be established to serve as a source of accurate information, and to provide a forum to truly engage the Ugandan public in lectures and debates around agricultural biotechnology and biosafety. By the project end, the biotechnology and biosafety education and awareness initiative will have reached out to the scientific community, youth, cultural and faith-based groups, Executive arm of government, and women involved in agriculture to build greater understanding and awareness of biotechnology and biosafety in Uganda.

Objective Lead:

Yona Baguma (NaCRRI)

Participants:

Barbara Mugwanya (NaCRRI)
Gilbert Gurimsa (NaCRRI)

Objective 7 seeks to enhance Genomic Selection prediction models and crossing strategies by linking with cassava whole genome sequencing efforts. Many thousands of new single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) markers are identified through whole genome sequencing, which can be deployed to compare SNP markers derived from different sources, fill in missing haplotype information, and integrate this information to improve genotype-phenotype associations in Genomic Selection prediction models. Close integration between Cassavabase and Phytozome portals will enable breeders to examine the mechanistic basis of their traits of interest, while research to distinguish introgressed chromosome segments and predict SNP segregation will help refine crossing strategies. By the project end, cassava Genomic Selection prediction models will have greatly improved in accuracy, and breeders will gain tools to better understand traits of interest and use them in targeted crossing strategies.

Objective Lead:

Jean-Luc Jannick (USDA/ARS-Cornell)

Participants:

Jessen Bredeson (UC-Berkeley)
Martha Hamblin (Cornell)
Simon Prochnik (DOE-JGI)
Roberto Lozano (Cornell)
Dunia Pino Del Carpio

Global Germplasm Exchange Facility Initiative

The threats posed by cassava diseases greatly restrict germplasm movement between different cassava producing regions across the globe. The Global Germplasm Exchange Facility initiative will involve collaboration between IITA and CIAT, under coordination of NEXTGEN Cassava, to pilot the creation of a germplasm exchange facility located outside of all major cassava growing regions. The facility will be used to make crosses between germplasm from these breeding programs, free of disease pressure and threat of disease spread. If successful, the pilot will be scaled out to provide global access to disease-free progeny of crosses between elite African and Latin American germplasm. Contact: Peter Kulakow

Gender Responsive Cassava Breeding Initiative

Women perform much of the work associated with agricultural production in Africa. Cassava, in particular, is considered a "woman's crop," with women overseeing production and processing most of the cassava grown across the continent. Yet, there is little information on gender-disaggregated data to indicate the specific trait preferences of women in cassava production and processing. Because cassava breeders lack information on gendered cassava traits, they are unable to fully cater to the needs of women farmers, resulting in the release of inappropriate varieties that are not widely adopted. The NEXTGEN Cassava Gender Responsive Cassava Breeding Initiative, will support "Gender responsive breeders" who will be formally trained in both gender studies and plant breeding, creating a new hybrid discipline. These gender responsive breeding experts will be in the unique position of possessing both the skills to capture gender disaggregated data for cassava production and processing, and interpret this data into meaningful trait information for breeders. The gender responsive breeding experts trained through this initiative will help guide partner breeding programs to truly mainstream gender into their breeding programs, ushering in a new era in gender conscious plant breeding. Contact: Hale Tufan