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Plant breeding academy to improve nutrition

Baobab fruit has ten times the antioxidant level of oranges (© Yannick Ott/Flickr)
Baobab fruit has ten times the antioxidant level of oranges
© Yannick Ott/Flickr

The African Plant Breeding Academy has been established in Nairobi, Kenya, by the African Orphan Crops Consortium (AOCC)* to improve the livelihoods of Africa's smallholder farmers, reduce hunger and boost Africa's food supply. The Academy will use the latest scientific equipment and techniques to genetically sequence, assemble and annotate the genomes of 100 traditional African food crops to guide the development of more robust products with higher nutritional content, that are able to better withstand climate change, pests and disease. Plant breeders and technicians will also be trained in genomics and marker-assisted selection for crop improvement.

The first crop to be sequenced will be baobab. Its gluten-free fruit has ten times the antioxidant level of oranges, twice the calcium of spinach, three times the vitamin C of oranges, and four times more potassium than banana. All data produced will be made publically available.

* The consortium includes: African Union - New Partnership for Africa's Development (AU-NEPAD), Mars Incorporated, World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI), Life Technologies Corporation, World Wildlife Fund, University of California, Davis, iPlant Collaborative, and Biosciences eastern and central Africa - International Livestock Research Institute (BecA - ILRI Hub).

Date published: December 2013

 

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