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14th SpeedBreeders and genomics annual meeting takes place in Uganda

NAIROBI, KENYA: May 28, 2015 – Sweetpotato Breeders from 12 African countries will meet in Colline Hotel, Mukono, Uganda between June 2-5 2015 for the this 14th Annual Sweetpotato Breeders’ Meeting.

In this second meeting to be held in Uganda, the Sweetpotato Speed Breeders will discuss progress and challenges faced in improving sweetpotato breeds. The meeting will be officially opened by the Director General of the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO), Dr. Ambrose Agona. The event features 20 plenary presentations and a field trip to Namulonge field site, where participants will engage in an on-farm trail field practical.

This 14th annual meeting is jointly organized by the International Potato Centre (CIP) as part of the Swetpotato Action for Security and Health in Africa (SASHA) project and the Genomic Tools for Sweetpotato Improvement (GT4SP) Project activity. It also invites national program sweetpotato breeders supported by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).

Sweetpotato is the third most important food crop in East Africa in terms of production and the fourth most important in Southern Africa. Sweetpotato is also an important source of income for small scale farmers through sale of storage roots, vines and processed products in rural and urban markets, and for animal feed.  As in other parts of SSA, sweetpotato in Uganda is predominantly grown by poor smallholder farmers, especially women.

However, sweetpotato production faces many challenges, such as devastating sweetpotato weevils, virus infections and the ravages of long dry spells. There is a lack of reliable markets for sweetpotato in many areas where sweetpotato is produced, and a growing range of consumer preferences makes it even more difficult to market the produce. Sweetpotato breeders in Africa therefore still have a lot to do to address these challenges. Already, Eight SSA countries have released 46 new sweetpotato varieties, 37 of which are orange-fleshed.

For the first time, the Sweetpotato Speed Breeders will be joined by participants from the new Sweetpotato Genomic Tools for Sweetpotato Improvement Project. The genomics team has come at the right time to develop genomic tools to solve some of these major bottlenecks and to accelerate sweetpotato breeding.

Speaking about the breeding work done by the Sweetpotato Speed Breeders, Dr. Ambrose Agona, the Director General of NARO says, “The breeding component, of which you are all part, includes developing efficient population improvement programs at a sub‐regional level in SSA as well as participatory varietal selection at the national level. This approach enables rapid ongoing development of new varieties to contribute to improved farmer incomes and to deliver nutritional benefits to consumers, especially women and children.”

For more information contact:

Robert Mwanga: R.Mwanga@cgiar.org

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