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The Sweetpotato for Profit and Health Initiative (SPHI) SpeedBreeders’ and Genomics Community of Practice (CoP) held its 18th consultation meeting on 4th to 7th June 2019, at the VIP Grand Hotel, Maputo, Mozambique. The theme of the meeting was “Towards Modernization, Profiling and Characterization of Desired Varieties”.

Participants of the 18th SpeedBreeders’ and Genomics Community of Practice held in Maputo, Mozambique. (Photo Credit: F. Njunge)

The meeting was attended by 43 participants from 13 countries in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA): Madagascar Burkina Faso, Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Zambia, and Uganda.  There were also scientists from the USA and Peru participating.

The keynote address was delivered by Higino de Marrule, Minister of Agriculture and Food Security of Mozambique. In his speech he congratulated the breeders for all their hard work and urged them to continue with their research. “The world is facing food insecurity and malnutrition and orange-fleshed sweetpotato is playing a critical in helping governments mitigate these problems’’, he said.  He continued to note that climate change has affected countries such Mozambique and emphasized that the crop is important for the country, especially in rural areas

Dr. Craig Yencho of North Carolina State University (USA), who co-leads the CoP, and is the principal investigator of the Genomic Tools for Sweetpotato (GT4SP) Project, highlighted how fast the time has gone with GT4SP and SASHA project. In his remarks he noted that breeding is continually changing and doing so rapidly. “Keep in mind the needs of the world, and the potential of sweetpotato to help solve those needs”, he said.

Field trip

Participants visited the Southern Africa Sweetpotato Breeding Platform in Mozambique.

The first site was the Umbeluzi Research Station that has two pre-breeding trials established for high-throughput phenotyping of drought tolerance with two sets of germplasm. At Umbeluzi Research Station, two crossing blocks were established. The first crossing block has 20 parents from two distinct genepools and are genetically distant from each other. The second crossing block has 100 parents, from two distinct genepools. Participants also had a chance to practice phenotyping using Field App.

Field visit to the Southern Africa Sweetpotato Breeding Platform in Mozambique. (F. Njunge)

The breeders also had opportunity to see and learn how a drone is been used at the Umbeluzi drought study trial. The drone is been used for digital phenotyping and to capture data. The drone collects data such as chlorophyll, canopy cover and nitrogen levels on the sweetpotato trial field.  The video below shows the drone in action.

sweetpotatoknowledge on Twitter

Technology! This team from @Cipotato Lima demonstrate how they use a drone to collect data such as chlorophyll, canopy cover and Nitrogen on a #sweetpotato field. @MandradeCIP @USAIDMozambique @APA_CONFERENCE @lukawanjohi @CGIAR @JanLow1 @CGIARclimate @TedCarey1

The 2nd site visit was to the Nwalate farm, where there is a sweetpotato seedling nursery with 3,000 clones from 150 families. Rapid selection based on root flesh colour, vine vigor and multiplication rates was done on clones in the nursery. A total of 637 orange-fleshed clones were selected for advancement  and now are under evaluation as a modified Preliminary Trial (PT) at the site.

Visit to Quality Laboratory, Screenhouses and Physiology lab

In two  groups, the partipancts had to visit the Quality Laboratory, greenhouses and Physiology lab used by CIP Mozambique.

The quality laboratory at CIP in Maputo is used to conduct phenotypingwith near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS). Storage root samples from all field trials are sent to the laboratory for quality determination. The quality laboratory helps in the selection of key quality traits among the clones.

Greenhouses: CIP managess 15 greenhouses in Maputo, where maintenance and multiplication of clones and pre-basic seeds are carried out.

Physiology laboratory: This space is new and was officially opened by John Schopper and Maria Andrade. The laboratory with be used to conducthigh throughput phenotyping of drought tolerance mechanisms and sample preparation for 13C and 15N analysis is done.

Visit to Quality Laboratory, Screenhouses and Physiology lab

Catalogue Photography Demonstration

Another interesting session during the meeting was a short demonstration on how to take pictures of of different parts of a sweetpotato variety to be added to the new digital  sweetpotato catalogue. The Digital Sweetpotato Catalogue wants to promote the best performing varieties in sub-Saharan Africa. We are encouraging the taking and use of  standardized photos  when updating the online sweetpotato catalogue. The demonstration was led by Jolien Swanckaert, Luka Wanjohi and Faith Njoki.  %he participants learned how to select their plants, clean them and lay them out for photos. They also got a chance to learn about the recommended equipment and tools to use during catalogue photography.  A soft copy of the draft photography manual was shared with the breeders. The manual is a guide for standardizing the process, image quality and layout while taking photographs.

Catalogue Photography Demonstration. (Photos: J. Low)

Sensory evaluation of three steamed sweetpotato varieties

In an effort to gain insights into how the sweetpotato breeding community perceives different varieties of sweetpotato, Mukani Moyo a Post-doctoral Fellow Food Chemistry at the International Potato Center (CIP), conducted a shortconsumer evaluation study. Three sweetpotato varieties with different flesh colors from Maputo were utilized for this activity. They were washed, skinned and steamed for about 30 min (until soft) for participants attending the meeting in Maputo, Mozambique. The varieties were white-fleshed, orange-fleshed and purple-fleshed.

Steamed white-fleshed, orange-fleshed and purple-fleshed sweetpotato varieties. (Photo: J.Low)

The white and orange-fleshed varieties were purchased at a local market in Maputo whilst the purple fleshed variety was harvested from the CIP field in Maputo. After steaming, the roots were diced and each participant was presented with a plate containing pieces from the three varieties and asked to exhaustively describe the visual appearance, smell, touch/feel and taste of each variety using as many descriptors as possible. A total of 27 individuals participated in this activity. They were not trained prior to the tasting activity but were all consumers of sweetpotato

Sensory evaluation of three steamed sweetpotato varieties session. (Photo Credit: J.Low)

This is the 18th Annual Sweetpotato Speedbreeders meeting. However, it is the fifth meeting to be jointly sponsored by the Sweetpotato Action for Security and Health in Africa (SASHA) project led by the International Potato Center (CIP), and the Genomics Tools for Sweetpotato Improvement (GT4SP) project led by North Carolina State University. Both projects are supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. These two projects and various partners under the umbrella of the Sweetpotato for Profit and Health Initiative (SPHI) are committed to tackling climate change effects and malnutrition to contribute to improving the livelihoods of 10 million households in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) by 2020.

About Faith Njunge

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