Driving effective breeding programmes for sweet potato in Uganda

Wednesday 23rd September 2020, 4:30pm

AbacusBio consultants have been collaborating with the International Potato Center (CIP) in Uganda to identify priorities and create solutions to identify traits that are important to stakeholders across the sweet potato supply chain.

In turn, such insight would inform breeding decisions, so that CIPís breeding endeavours can become much more market-driven than in the past.

AbacusBio company logo - credit AbacusBio

Providing insight to inform breeding decisions AbacusBio is committed to working towards a more secure, stable, and accessible supply chain from breeding programme design to farming and trading, to consumption.

AbacusBio is a highly respected science and technology consulting firm operating from offices in New Zealand and in the UK, based at Roslin Innovation Centre. The firm delivers world class solutions for clients across the agribusiness world. 

CIP is a research centre within the CGIAR, the global research partnership for a food secure future. Founded in 1971, the centre manages potato and orange fleshed sweet potato (OFSP) varieties across developing nations in Africa, South Asia, and Latin America, and helps deliver science-based solutions that enhance a stable, accessible, and nutritious food supply.

OFSP is a staple food crop in developing nations, where it is grown more than any other root crop. Largely popular for its nutritional value, the plant has multiple edible parts and through genetic improvement has become a very effective tool to deliver Vitamin A at a large scale, benefitting over 6.8 million households by the end of last year. Together with CIP, AbacusBio are identifying traits of importance in OFSP breeding.

The project team has carried out wide-scale surveys of stakeholders across the OFSP supply chain including consumers, vine multipliers, traders, and farmers. To execute the survey, the platform 1000Minds was utilised to quantitatively specify relative trait preferences. Along with other tools such as Surveygizmo software, the project team was able to determine socio-demographic and systematic drivers of trait priorities across supply chain groups and typologies.

"This is the first ever study of such nature completed in a breeding programme of CGIAR centers. We are able to better understand the relative importance of selected traits for future plant development and breeding programmes, identify how the market can be segmented based on trait preferences, and also define economic selection indexes to meet the needs of the wider industry."

Tim Byrne, AbacusBio Project Lead

CIPís Director of Research Hugo Campos highlights the comprehensiveness of the market intel study, desiring to replicate the approach in other countries where sweet potato breeding is a top priority. Such studies would be very relevant as well to any CGIAR breeding efforts willing to become more market-driven, and the partnership between CIP and AbacusBio was of mutual advantage, Hugo adds.

ďIt is a big leap forward in terms of how we are modernising our breeding operations."

Hugo Campos, CIP Director of Research

Named in the top ten organisations within the food security sector, Tim acknowledges that the work with CIP has also granted novel opportunities for AbacusBio to be globally recognised within this fast-growing space. The main objective of the project is to increase adoption of new varieties, a result of greater user engagement and buy-in for all OFSP stakeholders. At AbacusBio, they are committed to working towards a more secure, stable, and accessible supply chain from breeding programme design to farming and trading, to consumption.

"We are excited to be part of this global impact on food security and resilience, and continue to bridge our expertise in science and business to solve these challenges."

Tim Byrne, AbacusBio Project Lead

This collaboration was made available through the financial support of Excellence in Breeding, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, UKís Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, and the CGIAR-CRP Roots, Tubers & Banana.