This week, progress on research efforts geared towards the improvement of the genetic potential and productivity of two most cultivated yam species in Africa will be the focus of the deliberations of scientists convening for the annual meeting of the AfricaYam project at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Ibadan.
The meetings, which will take place during 20-24 March, will also provide a platform for stakeholders to review the current standing of the project in relation to project goals. AfricaYam was initiated in 2015 to use the latest technologies in plant breeding to develop high-yielding varieties of white yam (Dioscorea rotundata) and water yam (D. alata) that will show great promise in resisting infestation by nematodes, viruses, and anthracnose, known to greatly limit productivity in West Africa’s most preferred staple crop.
Every year, sub-Saharan Africa produces no less than 54 million tons of yams from about 4.6 million hectares of land. But this output is only 40% compared with cassava production in the continent. Farmers are unable to cope with the demand for the crop which is further constrained by low yield and losses in storage.
“In Africa, one very important constraint limiting productivity for most smallholder farmers apart from climate change, diseases and pests infestation is production cost. The AfricaYam project recognizes this challenge and is developing yam varieties that will make yam production more profitable for farmers. The project is also exploring environment friendly technologies to breed quality yam varieties that will meet the demands of farmers in the region,” said Patrick Adebola, Plant Breeder/Geneticist, and the AfricaYam project leader.
The project is also seeking to enhance active yam breeding programs in Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Benin—the countries in West Africa producing over 95% of Africa’s yam. It will employ faster and more precise genomic tools to improve the efficiency of yam breeding programs as well as improve yam genotypes adapted to production systems and suited to market preferences.
AfricaYam is led by IITA in partnership with the National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI)-Umudike, Ebonyi State University (EBSU), Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Savanna Agricultural Research Institute, le Centre National de Recherche Agronomique (CNRA), and l’Université d’Abomey-Calavi (UAC), Dassa Center, Benin.
The project also receives support from the Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement (CIRAD), France; the Iwate Biotechnology Research Center (IBRC), Japan; the James Hutton Institute (JHI), UK; Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences (JIRCAS), Japan; and the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research (BTI), Cornell University, USA.