A network of plant breeders across Africa continues to grow and produce results for farmers. Brought together by Peanut Innovation Lab projects and funding, a network of plant breeders in nine countries spanning West Africa and East and Southern Africa have been sharing germplasm and knowledge, which has led to new varieties in Malawi and soon will lead to another new variety in Zambia.
While plant breeders have worked with colleagues in neighboring countries for years, a Peanut Innovation Lab project to assess the genetic diversity of peanut across the continent has created a more formal network and equipped the group with a common data management platform and ontology to work together.
Beginning in 2018, the project called on breeders to nominate the lines that they use in their breeding programs, compiled those 1050 lines, performed DNA analysis, and selected 300 lines for a core collection to be phenotyped by all the breeders.
While that work has led to many successes and accomplishments – including repatriating Togo’s germplasm collection, which was lost in a power outage – 2021 brought a particular success in Zambia.
The groundnut breeder there – Lutangu Makweti – selected eight lines from the core collection to use as parents in the Zambian groundnut breeding program. The lines – which came from Uganda, Senegal and Togo – hold traits like resistance to early leaf spot and groundnut rosette disease. The increased diversity has been a boon to the breeding program, Makeweti said.
At the same time, a variety developed by the breeder in Uganda and part of the core collection – Serenut 14 – seems perfectly adapted to Zambia, and has been submitted for Distinctness, Uniformity, and Stability (DUS) tests and Value for Cultivation and Use (VCU) tests, and is expected to be released in Zambia in 2023.
When asked why the network has worked so well, one of the breeders said that they all see the benefit from having access to so many diverse lines, but most importantly they all trust each other. Going forward, the breeders are looking to welcome additional countries to the network and meet the demands for better groundnut varieties in Africa.