Breeding hope: DTMA breeding course held in Zimbabwe

A training course on maize breeding was held in Harare, Zimbabwe, during 16-31 August 2010 to share new breeding methods and technologies. The course, which was jointly organized by the Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa (DTMA) project and the Department of Research and Specialist Services (DR&SS) of the Zimbabwe Ministry of Agriculture, welcomed 57 participants from the private sector and various national agricultural research systems (NARS) from almost all of the DTMA countries. The Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) project through African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) sponsored 10 NARS participants project while the SIMLESA and NSIMA projects also sponsored participants from countries participating in their respective projects. Most of the private sector participants were fully or partially funded by their seed companies.

The course was organized to equip the participants with the knowledge and skill of how to breed maize with desirable traits, such as drought tolerance, disease and insect resistance, good yield, good storability, good quality, and adaptability to other various stresses. Because technology development plays such a large role in maize breeding, the course also updated participants on the application of relevant new technologies such as marker-assisted breeding; use of transgenics in maize improvement; the application of advanced information technology tools in maize breeding; and the use of doubled haploid technology to accelerate the development of maize inbred lines. Although its focus was on maize, the course also covered some more widely applicable, commonly-used plant breeding techniques such as choosing desirable parents for breeding programs.

Also, the course participants observed the maize-breeding process firsthand when they visited the on-going CIMMYT and DR&SS drought screening trials at breeding nurseries in Chiredzi, Chisumbanje, and Mzarabani.

The course was organized and coordinated by Cosmos Magorokosho and Dan Makumbi, maize breeders for the Global Maize Program (GMP), while Mr. Ngoni Masoka, Permanent Secretary of the Zimbabwe Ministry of Agriculture, officially opened the event with a short note given by Boddupalli Prasanna, GMP director.
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