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G4009.07.04: Capacity-building à la carte 2009 – Ensuring ‘good’ and relevant phenotypic data to feed molecular breeders: the need for long-term training of scientists of NARS partners to TLI Objective 1

Vadez, V., Nigam, N., Varshney, R.K.ORCID: 0000-0002-4562-9131, Mponda, O., Kapewa, T., Ndoye, O. and Faye, I. (2011) G4009.07.04: Capacity-building à la carte 2009 – Ensuring ‘good’ and relevant phenotypic data to feed molecular breeders: the need for long-term training of scientists of NARS partners to TLI Objective 1. Project Updates. CGIAR Generation Challenge Programme .


The Tropical Legume I project is targeting disease resistance and drought tolerance as the major traits limiting crop production of 4 legumes (groundnut, bean, cowpea and chickpea) in Sub-Saharan Africa. Skills to precisely phenotype these traits in a marker-assisted approach are key to the success of breeding in sub-Saharan Africa. For that, there is an urgent need to train a critical mass of plant breeders and technicians to the techniques and protocols that they will need to master to undertake breeding in their locations.

Drought traits phenotyping
Being the key trait targeted at the origin of the GCP, and being very complex, it has received most of the focus in the project. In Niger, Oumarou Halilou has taken part to the assessment of the groundnut reference collection in the field under fully irrigated and intermitted stress conditions. A number of publications are currently under development in relation to that work. In the scope of this work, Oumarou has learnt the logistics of running large field trials (>300 entries, 2 water treatments, 4 replications per treatment and entry), and related sampling. He has learnt about scoring of leaf wilting to assess when re-watering of the drought plot is needed, about sampling in the field, and sub-sampling at harvest to determine shelling percentage, seed number and seed size. In parallel to this, Oumarou have been involved in the assessment of putative component traits. This was his Master thesis from the Abdou Moumouni University in Niamey. He is now registered as a PhD student in the scope of TLI (G2010.1).

Nouhoun Belko, a PhD student registered at the University in Ouagadougou, has come to ICRISAT to assess putative traits related to the adaptation to terminal drought in a number of cowpea genotypes contrasting for drought yield in the field in his assessments made in Senegal. We have trained him to protocols that have been used to assess similar traits in other crops (See Kholova et al., 2010a and 2010b, J Exp. Bot.). In short, tolerant cowpea lines developed smaller leaf area, have lower leaf conductance under both low and high VPD, have leaf conductance being sensitive to high VPD. Therefore leaf conductance differences between tolerant and sensitive lines are higher under high VPD. Canopy temperature measurements were made and showed tight relationship with canopy conductance, provided they are measured at vegetative stage and at the time of the day with highest VPD. Tolerant cowpea lines have also a delayed transpiration decline upon progressive exposure to drought than sensitive lines. A matrix of traits assessed and values in tolerant/sensitive genotypes has been made that can be used as selection indices.

Root phenotyping
This replaced disease phenotyping, which was included at the time of developing the proposal, and which did not show high demand from partners. A specific demand was made from the Egerton University to have training in root assessment techniques and other possibly interesting aspects in chickpea. Mr Julius Kaunyangi then visited ICRISAT to be trained on drought, especially on root phenotyping. From this training, a small lysimetric facility will be developed at Egerton, instead of the PCV tubes that were initially planned. The lysimetric facility would open to a much wider range of possible use and generate much more informative data. The trainee then learnt how the system works, how to operate it and analyze data in a simple way, and would be capable of transferring it to Egerton subsequently.

Breeding and use of marker
Although this was not initially planned, Nouhoun Belko has taken part of the Center of Excellence in Genomics (CEG) course at ICRISAT headquarters in India, organized in March 2010.

The visit of Julius Kaunyangi also included a training at the Center of Excellence in Genomics (CEG) course at ICRISAT headquarters in India and targeted to chickpea (25 Oct – 19 Nov 2010). Other trainees (Issa Faye, Falalou Hamidou and others linked to the TLI project) under this activity took part of the CEG course, held 8-19 November 2010 at ICRISAT headquarters in India. Following this, two trainees (Philippo Machamba and Oumaru Halilou) stayed for 4 months to undertake training in phenotyping and breeding.

Links to previous work
In March 2008, a training course on phenotyping was organized at ICRISAT, in which a number of technicians and scientists were trained over 4 weeks on drought phenotyping and related to the Tropical Legume I project (TLI). These technicians and scientists spanned across the 4 crops of the TLI project. Although successful, a course on phenotyping is too short to fully grasp an approach that is complex and not the mere application of "recipes".

Next steps or challenges - How the findings will benefit crop improvement
There is obviously a critical need to train young scientists but also research technician to undertake the tasks of modern breeding programs. This will require long term training, since not all the skills needed can be acquired in short training courses.

Item Type: Others
Publisher: CIMMYT
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