Building synergy between sweetpotato breeding and seed systems in East and Central Africa

SweetGAINS (Genetic Advances and Innovative Seed Systems) is a program to accelerate and expand the development and dissemination of nutrient rich, climate-resilient sweetpotato varieties to benefit millions of African families. Over the next three years, SweetGAINS, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will employ cutting-edge science and methodologies through CIP’s regional breeding platforms in East and Central Africa to modernize national sweetpotato breeding programs on the continent. At the same time, CIP will catalyze the creation of seed systems that deliver quality sweetpotato planting material to resource-poor farmers in Africa.

SweetGAINS CoP Participants
The participants of the SweetGAINS speedbreed and seed systems community of practice.

In support of this project, the SweetGAINS SpeedBreed and Seed Community of Practice (CoP) held its first meeting in Kigali, Rwanda from 19-22 February this year.  The attendees discussed ways to build synergies between sweetpotato breeding and seed systems for delivering improved varieties to African consumers and markets. In addition to interested farmers and business professionals, members of the Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resources Development Board (RAB) were in attendance.

Dr. Charles Bucagu, the Deputy Director General of RAB, opened the meeting by lauding the steady progress made by the team to implement and institutionalize the sweetpotato business approach to basic seed production.

Hugo Campos, CIP Research Director and SweetGAINS Project Director, noted that developing product profiles was a crucial step for a successful breeding program.

“Product profiles,” he told the gathering, “are a concept designed to enhance the impact of breeding programs by focusing efforts on development of varieties designed to be successful in target markets.”

Under the SweetGAINS project, breeders will make use of these product profiles to ensure varieties being developed are not only nutritious, resilient and high-yielding but that they have the taste, texture, cooking quality, and other characteristics that farmers and consumers want. Then the breeding can be targeted accordingly.

Participants also discussed electronic data capture and management. This method uses the Field Book app which enables breeders to record data while in the field and move it easily between applications to be analysed later.  The app conveniently eliminates use of pen and paper to take notes and record observations on field research plots resulting in better accuracy.

Members following some of the group sessions.

Members also learned how to use SweetPotatoBase for data management. Sweetpotatobase is a free online system developed by the Solgenomics team from Boyce Thompson Institute at Cornell University for breeding data. The website provides a comprehensive suite of search, management and analysis tools for breeding. Field Book is now integrated with Sweetpotatobase and CIP’s Highly Interactive Data Analysis Platform (HIDAP) to allow for easy creation of electronic field books and uploading of data to these platforms.

The SpeedBreed and Seed Community of Practice merges the sweetpotato breeding network CoP with the sweetpotato seed systems and crop management CoP to ensure integration between breeding outputs and early generation seed availability. Its vision is to strengthen links between breeding activities and commercial seed producer’s contributions to accelerated dissemination and adoption of market-preferred varieties.

Learn more about SweetGAINS here.


Blog by Faith Njunge