From June 11 to 15, members of the cassava research community came together in Cotonou, Benin to participate in the Global Cassava Partnership for the 21st Century (GCP21) conference. NextGen Cassava was well represented, with 23 project members in attendance and several NextGen-led presentations and sessions.
Header Image:Hernán Ceballos of CIAT describes how trait introgression can produce cassava with a single recessive trait, without losing other good qualities like high yield. Breeding methods like these allow efficient production of cassava varieties with desired qualities.
After a full day of plenary sessions to kick off the conference, Day 2 began a series of presentations organized by topic. Mercy Diebiru-Ojo, the first NextGen-supported PhD student to graduate from the West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI) program at the University of Ghana and who now works at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) Nigeria, delivered a presentation on Semi-Autotropic Hydroponics as a method of fast cassava reproduction in the “Seed Systems” session. Kiddo Mtunda from the Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute, project co-lead for Tanzania, also presented on Tanzanian seed systems.
Day 3’s presentations from Hernán Ceballos and Luis Augusto Becerra of the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), Morag Ferguson of IITA Kenya, and Peter Kulakow of IITA Nigeria focused on breeding methods and technology, as part of the “Biodiversity and Genetic Resources” session. Ernest Mwebaze of Makerere University contributed to the “Diagnostic, Surveillance and Contingent Plans” session with his work on phenotyping technology.
On Thursday (Day 4), Ann Ritah Nanyonjo from NaCRRI Uganda—a NextGen-supported Master’s student at Makerere University—presented her research as part of the “Gender and Youth” session. Hernán and Peter led another session on breeding, where three representatives from the National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI) in Nigeria participated: Damian Njoku spoke about genetic improvement of cassava for post-harvest physiological deterioration; Lydia Ezenwaka (who recently earned her PhD from WACCI), presenting her thesis research on cassava green mite; and Simon Peter Abah, demonstrating the results of his recent work on cassava flowering induction techniques. Alfredo Alves of Embrapa presented as part of the “Climatic Change, Environmental Impact and Abiotic Stress” session.
Friday brought another round of plenary sessions from NextGen researchers. Ismail Rabbi of IITA Nigeria spoke about cassava biodiversity, while NextGen project manager Chiedozie Egesi giving an overview of the NextGen project and our successes with molecular cassava breeding.
During GCP21, Hernán Ceballos and Alfred Dixon (‘Dr. Cassava’) of IITA Nigeria jointly received the Golden Cassava Prize for their substantial contributions to the field of cassava research. Read more about the award here.
Overall, the meeting was a successful and productive opportunity to strengthen partnerships and learn from our collaborators and peers in cassava research. We look forward to joining the next meeting!