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African Plant Breeding Academy Will Sequence 100 Traditional Food Crops

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The African Orphan Crops Consortium today launched the African Plant Breeding Academy to train 250 plant breeders and technicians in genomics and marker-assisted selection for crop improvement over a five-year period.

The academy, which will be located at the World Agroforestry Centre in Nairobi, will help further the goal of the AOCC to sequence, assemble, and annotate the genomes of 100 traditional African food crops, in order to develop strains with greater nutritional content. The data derived from the collaboration will be made publicly available.

The consortium includes the African Union - New Partnership for Africa's Development; Mars, Inc.; World Agroforestry Centre; BGI; Life Technologies; World Wildlife Fund; University of California, Davis; iPlant Collaborative and Biosciences eastern and central Africa - International Livestock Research Institute.

"To date, the entire world has genetically sequenced 57 plant species and this uncommon public-private collaboration, based in Africa with Chinese and US support, will nearly triple this number over the next four years," Tony Simons, the director general of the World Agroforestry Centre, said in a statement.

The first orphan crop to be sequenced will be baobab, which is called the "wonder tree" in Africa because it produces fruit with high antioxidant and potassium levels.

"The partnerships allow African breeders to take advantage of the latest technologies to rapidly advance development of crops that are important to African diets and health," Allen Van Deynze, director of research at UC Davis' Seed Biotechnology Center, said in a statement.