Molecular Breeding

iita bioscience center molecular breedingMolecular Breeding or Marker assisted breeding (MAB) is the process of using the results of DNA tests to assist in the selection of individuals to become the parents in the next generation of a genetic improvement program. The choice among various methods of MAB depends on the complexity of the trait and a prior knowledge on the gene (s) or segments of chromosomes (known as quantitative trait loci (QTL). Molecular markers facilitate conventional breeding, improve selection efficiency, reduce cost for developing new varieties, and/or quality control (ensuring line purity and genetic identity). In IITA, in collaboration with partners, various schemes of MB are being employed to accelerate variety development in cassava, maize, and cowpea whereas; genomic resource development or preparation is underway for yam, banana, and soybean.

Current projects

  • Genome Selection (GS) in cassava
  • Marker-assisted Recurrent Selection (MARS) in maize
  • Marker-assisted selection (MAS) for disease resistance in cassava, yam, soybean, cowpea
  • Development of markers associated with quality traits in maize, cassava, and banana

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Molecular Characterization

iita biosicence center - geneyic engineeringThe Genetic Resource Center of IITA possess tens of thousands of germplasm accessions for clonally propagated and seed crops. As a result of the sheer size of these accessions, there is a need to develop strategies which use innovative technologies for characterizing genetic diversity and efficient utilization for germplasm enhancement. Molecular characterization or DNA fingerprinting using molecular markers is an important process that provides valuable data to detect variation at DNA level and to assess genetic diversity in crops and their wild relatives, which in turn helps in selection of diverse parents in crop improvement programs. DNA markers are used to evaluate the genetic variation in gene banks, as well as to identify phylogenetic and molecular structure of crops and their associated wild species. It also plays an important role in developing conservation strategies such as identification of duplicates or mismatches in rationalising ex situ germplasm collections. Molecular markers can also be used to certify varieties, determine the presence or absence of diseases and assess the reproductive biology of species, among other applications.

Current projects

  • Genotype-by-sequencing in cassava, yam, maize
  • Metabolomics in cassava, yam, and banana
  • Molecular fingerprinting of cocoa germplasm from five countries in West and Central Africa (Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, Togo and Cote d'Ivoire) using SNPs for identification of true-to-type genotypes and assessment of genetic diversity.
  • Genotyping by sequencing (GBS) of yam genotypes including popular varieties, landraces conserved in international collection and breeding populations such as crossing block materials, mapping population parents and progenies as well as genotypes with historical morphological data for 5-6 years
  • Development of a linkage map in Dioscorea alata and identification of QTL (s) for anthracnose disease
  • Identification of molecular markers associated with nitrogen use efficiency in Dioscorea rotundata and D. alata
  • Genotyping of germplasm including landraces, breeding populations and wild species of Dioscorea using molecular markers such as SSRs

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Plant Genetic Engineering

iita bioscience center - research areasGenetic engineering (aka Transgenics) is the introduction and stable integration of genes into the genome and their expression in a transgenic plant that offers a better alternative for the genetic improvement of crops not amenable to conventional cross breeding. The successful genetic transformation in plants requires the production of normal, fertile plants expressing the newly inserted gene(s). The process of genetic transformation involves several distinct steps, namely identification of a useful gene (s), the cloning of the gene into a suitable plasmid vector, delivery of the vector into plant cell followed by expression and inheritance of the foreign DNA encoding a polypeptide. With the advent of plant biotechnology and the rapid development of gene transfer techniques, the potential to introduce desirable character traits is no longer restricted to those occurring in close relatives. Despite technical difficulties of transforming a monocot species, transformation protocols are available at IITA for many banana cultivars. Development of stable and reproducible transformation and regeneration technologies opened new horizons in banana breeding. Due to lack of cross-fertile wild relatives in many banana-producing areas, as well as the male and female sterility of most edible cultivars and clonal mode of propagation, gene flow is not an issue for this crop, making a transgenic approach even more attractive.

Current projects

  • Banana with Resistance against Xanthomonas wilt
  • Nematode resistant plantain
  • CBSD resistant cassava

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Molecular Pathogen Diagnosticsresearch diagnostics

CGIAR centers have played a significant role in the development and application of molecular tools for the characterization, detection and diagnosis of disease causing agents. Molecular diagnostics programs focus has been generally on developing tools and technologies for better understanding of disease ecology, diagnosis and monitoring of biological systems to prevent trans-boundary spread of pests and pathogens, and their negative impacts on plant health, crop production and quality of the produce. Greater emphasizes has been on the development of simple and accurate tools and procedures for rapid diagnosis of pathogens and pests of the food and horticultural crops in sub-Saharan Africa.




Research quality evaluation Recent drastic changes in Africa are also leading the transformation of regional agricultural system and its products. "Value addition" is a way to amplify the role of agriculture and its products that retains tremendous potential to improve the livelihoods of the poor in Africa. Thought it will be emphasized more along the changes of regional agricultural system, the fundamental scientific information to generate breeding strategies for value addition of various crops especially for local consumption is currently lacking.

To fill the gap, some activities were started to establish the methodology to evaluate the quality of grains and tubers, which can be utilized for the characterization of the germplasm in IITA GRC, and selection of breeding materials. Currently, FT-IR 6400 (JASCO), which facilitated with the units for both Near- and Mid-Infrared scanning capacities, Grain scanner (Satake) for the evaluation of grain size and color, color evaluation system consisted of standard color chart, handheld scanner and tablet computer have been introduced by EDITS project, and are available for use.

Current projects

  • Evaluation and Utilization of Diverse Genetic Materials in Tropical Field Crops (EDITS): Strategic approach to develop value-added cowpea varieties with higher food and nutrition quality (EDITS-cowpea)

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