The AfricaYam Project is making good and steady progress three years after inauguration. The Projects’ impressive scorecard were enumerated by the project leader, Dr Patrick Adebola and project breeder, Dr Asrat Amele during the 1st IITA yam scientists meeting held February 8 and 9, 2018 and chaired by IITA West Africa Regional Hub Director, Dr Robert Asiedu.
IITA Yam Scientists
The project focuses on enhancing food security and improving livelihood by increasing productivity and sustainability of yam cultivation and reducing the cost of yam for both producers and consumers in West Africa. The AfricaYam project is being coordinated at IITA with partners in Benin Republic, Cote D’Ivoire, Ghana and Nigeria.
Some of the achievements of the project so far include, provision of equipment and infrastructure for an effective breeding program for participating institutes in the four countries. The project has built five yam barns, seven screen houses and has acquired six vehicles for participating institutes to facilitate yam breeding activities.
Screen House in NRCRI, Umudike
New Yam Barn, IITA Ibadan
The project has also conducted a lot of specialised training to strengthen the partners’ capacity in data management and analysis, disease phenotyping, controlled pollination and monitoring and evaluation. Over 30 international and national staff have benefited from these trainings. The training on pollination has led to partners making more successful crosses to develop improved population. Yam database system (YamBase) was developed and is being utilised for breeding purpose. Through YamBase the project has been able to track information on breeding activities, manage accessions and improved trials. The database has been updated and now includes over 52,000 accessions, 7 breeding programs, 122 assayed traits, about 200,000 phenotype scores, and over 196 trials. The website functionality has been adapted to the breeder’s input and there is an increase in the usage of YamBase. The momentum of the increased usage is being maintained and Boyce Thompson Institute (BTI), Cornell University, USA is providing the needed support for its sustenance. Another achievement is the creation of a yam breeding community of practice (YCoP). The YCoP is on the Africa yam website and anyone working on yam can register and become a member and will be able to participate in the group’s activities. The project has also facilitated visits among partners of participating countries to learn and exchange ideas.
Yam Breeding Activity, Abuja
AfricaYam project in collaboration with international partners is exploring the use of genomic tools to fast-track yam breeding. To this end, the project has used next generation sequencing techniques to provide molecular data necessary for developing genomic tools to support yam breeding. Over 300 diversity panels have been whole genome sequenced. Polymorphic single nucleotide variants (SNPs) have been identified from the new DNA-based sequencing platforms for use as predictive breeding tools in yams. Good progress has also been made in phenotyping and genotyping new and existing D. alata and D. rotundata populations. Bioinformatics and biostatistics is also being used for the interpretation of all its data and the project is currently developing digital image capture for phenotyping for disease i.e. yam mosaic virus and yam anthracnose disease.
The project also made significant progress in variety development. New populations were developed and shared with participating countries to select and advance to different breeding stages leading to release of new web of varieties. Regional variety trials were successfully established in four participating countries with common set of genotypes that involved the two major and dominant species of yams in West Africa. In-country fast-track variety evaluation identified candidate clones for on-farm verification and release. The project also defined yam environments in West Africa to facilitate variety testing and release decision.
The project leader stated that the steady pace of new varietal releases that meet the preferences of end users is required to stimulate the establishment of the formal seed yam being developed by YIIFSWA-II. The project has developed standard and uniform breeding methods for yam germplasm exchange procedures and is currently in the process of establishing SOP for varietal trials, planting material increase and field phenotyping.