Project Description

1. PROJECT TITLE
Building capacity in agro-biotechnology to improve tomato yield in wilt-endemic areas of Nigeria and Ghana.

2. PROJECT SUMMARY
Tomato is one of the world’s most important crops due to the high value of its fruits both for fresh market consumption and in numerous types of processed products.  A major constraint to tomato cultivation is damage caused by diseases; the most devastating being bacterial and fungal wilts.  Wilt leads to an average yield loss of 50% in tomato.  It reduces farmers’ income and family’s intake of vitamin A.  It constitutes serious threat to food security in sub-Saharan Africa.   This project will apply molecular marker technique to breed wilt-resistant tomato lines for farmers in Nigeria and Ghana.  It will also train scientists from NARS and agro-industries on this technique.  It shall characterise the strains and races of bacterial and fungal wilt pathogens in identified endemic areas of Nigeria and Ghana, screen local and exotic cultivars for resistance to the strains of bacterial and the three races of fungal wilt pathogens. It shall end with breeding schemes aimed at producing tomato lines with multiple resistance to bacterial and fungal wilts.  Outcomes are wilt-resistant tomato lines, 50% increase in tomato yield, capacity building in marker-assisted breeding for disease resistance, and sustainable collaboration between scientists in Ghana and Nigeria.

3. PROJECT PARTNERS
There are six partners, two from Ghana and four from Nigeria.  It is a south-south cooperative project.  Lead partner is the University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (UNAAB), Nigeria.  See Project Partners for more information

4. PROJECT INFORMATION
4.1        Project Background
Mrs. P. D. Kaledzi and her student, Mr. Adu Boakye, both of KNUST, Kumasi, Ghana visited our University (UNAAB, Nigeria) in December 2009.  Their visit was facilitated by the Coordinator of a EPA project in UNAAB, Prof. O.O. Aiyelaagbe.  Research groups were encouraged to discuss possible areas of research collaboration with the visitors.  I took them round UNAAB’s Biotechnology Centre and later sat down to discuss possible area of partnership.  We agreed that tomato wilt was a menace in Nigeria and Ghana, and Mrs. Kaledzi, a breeder, was interested in a proposed marker-assisted breeding for production of tomato lines with combined resistance to bacterial and fungal wilts, as well as good taste and colour.  The partnership shall present 5 students/staff each for professional training in the three phases of the study.  There shall be a joint study on morphological and molecular characterization of bacterial and fungal wilt pathogens in the countries’ wilt-endemic areas.  Joint activities also include collection of tomato germplasms in the two countries and overseas.  The participating scientists and students shall however come to UNAAB during molecular screening of collected germplasms, and during the breeding schemes for lines with combined resistance.  Finally, there shall be farmers’ participatory field evaluation of resistant lines.

4.2 Project Overview
Thirty staff and students of the University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (UNAAB), Nigeria and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Kumasi, Ghana shall undergo three professional update training in:-
1) Modern techniques in soil sample collection for microbial analysis, morphological and molecular characterization of wilt bacteria and fungi;
2) Identification of molecular markers for trait detection, primer design and marker-assisted screening for disease resistance; and
3) Multilocational evaluation and marker-assisted breeding for disease resistance. 
After each training, field research related to the training will be conducted.  Farmers’ fields in wilt-endemic areas shall be visited. 
The following field research activities are related to each training :-
Research Activities Related to Training 1 :

  1. Collection of soil samples in wilt-endemic areas of Nigeria and Ghana
  2. Morphological and molecular characterization of strains of Ralstonia solanacearum (Rs) and races of Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. lycopersici (Fol) in the soil samples.

Research Activities Related to Training 2

  1. Collection of tomato germplasms in Nigeria, Ghana and World Vegetable Centre in Tanzania.
  2. Identification of loci in tomato germplasms that are resistant to the identified strains of Rs and races of Fol.
  3. Development of primers associated with identified resistant loci.
  4. Marker-assisted screening of tomato germplasms for resistance to strains of Rs and races of Fol.

Research Activities Related to Training 3

  1. Multilocational evaluation of tomato germplasms for disease resistance.
  2. Breeding scheme to produce tomato lines with combined resistance to strains of Rs and races of Fol.
  3. Marker-assisted selection of tomato lines with combined resistance to the pathogens.
  4. Farmers’ participatory approach for on-farm evaluation of resistant lines of tomato.

5. INSTITUTIONAL NEEDS AND LOCAL CONTEXT
This proposal focuses on agricultural biotechnology.  It supports an on-going project in the University of Agriculture, Abeokuta.  The current proposal is aimed at solving the problem of acute shortage of expertise in agricultural biotechnology techniques among otherwise well trained Nigerian and Ghanaian scientists in Universities and National Agricultural Research System (NARS).  The Biotechnology Centre of UNAAB, Nigeria, has been addressing this by setting up a small but functional molecular biology laboratory, and organizing annual short training courses in basic molecular biology techniques for local scientists.  The courses were to demystify gene cloning and other molecular biology techniques, so that local scientists can use them in getting the country to benefit from the enormous potentials of modern biotechnology.  In this wise, we variously had the support of IITA, American Society for Microbiology, etc.  Last year, 2009, the training had the sponsorship of World Bank and ICGEB, Italy.  The participants, who came from North Africa, South America, etc., had free tuition, accommodation and feeding.  In 2009 also, we had a World Bank-assisted Science and Technology Education Post-Basic (STEP-B) grant worth over 450,000 USD.  I am a component officer to that project.  Research in the area of agricultural biotechnology is one of the University’s strategies to achieve MDG’s goal of food security in the mandate states.
DelPHE’s funding of this project will produce three trained scientists in modern agricultural biotechnology, comprising of 1 Masters and two Ph.D degree candidates.  Two of the three beneficiaries are female.  It will also enhance professional skills of twenty-seven other staff in the two partner institutions, through update training.

6. EXPECTED OUTPUTS AND OUTCOMES
Outputs

  1. Joint research work and publication involving staff of two universities in two HEI countries.
  2. A new programme of training and research for scientists and students in two universities of HEI countries, based on need assessment of farmers.
  3. Improved networking, sharing of laboratory facilities and exchange of students and information between staff of two Universities.

Outcomes

  1. Tomato accessions that are resistant to strains and races of bacterial and fungal wilt pathogens identified and new tomato lines combining the two resistant loci developed.
  2. Two Ph.D and one M.Agric students acquire professional skills in marker-assisted breeding and selection for disease resistance.  Seventeen others, staff inclusive, receive professional training update in marker-assisted techniques of crop breeding and protection
  3. Change in perception of farmers as to the invincibility of tomato wilts.  Having been involved in the participatory evaluation of resistance, farmers gradually overcome fear for tomato wilts, and are encouraged to cultivate the crop more.

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