Enhancing African orphan crops with genomics

The African Orphan Crops Consortium promotes the strategic, genome-enabled improvement of under-researched crops for biodiversity-based, nutritious food solutions in Africa. The African Plant Breeding Academy empowers the continent’s plant breeders to apply advanced genetic approaches and shared genetic solutions to the task of tailoring the immense diversity of underutilized crops to the needs of Africa’s producers, processors and consumers.

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Fig. 1: A range of African orphan crops considered priorities by the AOCC.

Dorcas Olubunmi Ibitoye, National Horticultural Research Institute (NIHORT), Nigeria (a); Jon Bančič, Scotland’s Rural College, UK (e); Eric Agoyi, University of Abomey-Calavi, Benin (f); Olagorite Adetula, NIHORT (g); Iago Hale (h); ICRAF (bd,i).

Fig. 2: Results of surveys of African plant breeders.


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The AOCC initiative is supported by the African Union’s Development Agency (AUDA, formerly the New Partnership for African Development). Other founding partners include World Agroforestry (ICRAF); Mars, Inc.; the University of California, Davis; and the World Wildlife Fund. Other core partners comprise a wide array of research-oriented and development-focused institutions engaged in science, technology provision, capacity building and advocacy: Agriculture Research Council (ARC-LNR, South Africa); Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA); Benson Hill; BGI; Bioscience Eastern and Central Africa–International Livestock Research Institute (BecA-ILRI); Corteva Agriscience; CyVerse; Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO); Ghent University; Google; Integrated Breeding Platform (IBP); Illumina; James Hutton Institute (JHI); KeyGene; LGC Genomics; Oxford Nanopore Technologies; Syngenta; Thermo Fisher Scientific; United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF); Wageningen University & Research (WUR); and World Food Programme (WFP). Many partners make substantial in-kind contributions to the initiative. World Agroforestry (ICRAF) authors gratefully acknowledge the support of the CGIAR’s funding partners for their work, including through the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry and the CGIAR Genebank Platform (https://www.cgiar.org/funders/). SRUC authors are grateful for Global Challenge Research Funding on orphan crops (project BB/P022537/1: Formulating Value Chains for Orphan Crops in Africa, 2017–2019, Foundation Award for Global Agriculture and Food Systems). We thank participants in orphan-crop surveys, particularly AfPBA alumni, and Cathy Watson (ICRAF) for helping to source images of orphan crops (Fig. 1).

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R.J., R.H.M., I.H., P.H., A.M., I.K.D., L.G. and A.V.D. wrote the manuscript. R.J., R.H.M., I.H., I.K.D., W.P., H.Y.-S., A.J.S. and A.V.D. formulated the content.

Correspondence to Ramni Jamnadass.

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Jamnadass, R., Mumm, R.H., Hale, I. et al. Enhancing African orphan crops with genomics. Nat Genet (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41588-020-0601-x

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