Mutation breeding improves food production

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Obrein Simasiku

Omuthiya

The Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry hopes to enhance food security by improving resilience to drought through mutation breeding. This was the proactive stance taken by the ministry last week when it concluded a training course on the scientific concept.

The purpose of the course was to provide participants with theoretical and practical information on mutation induction, mutation screening and breeding drought tolerance in crops.

The training was organised in conjunction with the African Regional Cooperative Agreement for Research (AFRA). It was attended by participants drawn from 15 African countries – Benin, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Coté d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Libya, Mauritius, Senegal, Sudan, Tunisia and Zambia – who all represented universities and research institutions in their respective countries.

“The expected outputs of this course were capacity building, technology transfer and awareness of opportunities in the application of nuclear techniques in plant breeding for improving resilience,” said the director in the Directorate of Agricultural Research and Development, Johanna Andowa, at the closure of the training which took place on Friday in Tsumeb.

Andowa said the gathering was indeed important as it contributed towards the need to ensure food security on the African continent.

The course covered lectures and practical sessions on mutation breeding procedures or methodologies and handling of mutated population, identification, evaluation and selection of breeding lines, genetics of drought stress tolerance, physiology of drought tolerance, pre-field or field screening methodologies for drought stress tolerance and field demonstration, and practical screening of cowpea, millet and sorghum under field conditions.

“While the focus of discussions was on developing improved crop varieties, we are hopeful that in future consideration will be given to other technologies which enhance food security. I therefore trust that while we seek to increase food production, an integrated approach will be adopted to ensure food safety and food protection, and to extend the storage life of harvests and food techniques which will also help us to achieve food security,” she added.

Andowa noted that what can be a driving force to meet the challenges of the 21st century are improvements in areas of breeding of new mutant varieties with a higher yield potential, more productive biomass for energy use, better nutrient composition for human health, better adaptation to climate change and variability, or a heightened potential to sequester carbon.

“It is my sincere hope that the knowledge and skills acquired will be put into practice as Africa strives to increase its agricultural production and productivity in order to feed the ever increasing population against the backdrop of dwindling resources,” concluded Andowa.

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