IPBO organized the course “Modern breeding techniques of maize”

From August 20 till September 7, 2018, IPBO, the outreach cell of VIB organized a 19-day course, in collaboration with the VIB Center for Plant Systems Biology and UGent in Ghent, Belgium. This course was funded with support of VLIR-UOS, Ghent University, the Flemish Institute of Biotechnology (VIB) and the Marc and Nora van Montagu Fund. 16 African researchers, coming from Burkina Faso, DR Congo, Ethiopia, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Mali, Ghana and Tanzania, attended the course.
Maize is the most produced cereal worldwide. In Africa alone, more than 300 million people depend on maize as their main food crop, but is also very important as feed for their farm animals. Approximately 1 billion tons of maize are grown in more than 170 countries on about 180 million hectares of land. Maize production in Africa is in general however very low because the production stagnates at around 2 tons/hectare/year.

This course “Modern breeding techniques of maize” focused on (1) the latest scientific developments and tools to accelerate maize breeding (both conventional breeding and biotechnological techniques), (2) the latest essential insights in the regulatory framework and environmental risk assessment principles in Africa and Europe and (3) methods to collect reliable data that allow a thorough environmental risk assessment of new maize varieties

The program started with fundamental background sessions on maize breeding, the use of molecular markers in plant breeding, plant biotechnology, genetic transformation and new breeding techniques for maize. Experts from Europe and Africa gave an overview of all biotic and abiotic stresses affecting the growth of maize and possible solutions to overcome these threats. In these sessions, special emphasis was given on the effects of pests and diseases, fungal contamination, drought and soil fertility on the growth and yield of maize. The program also included practical exercises about maize phenotyping and visits to confined field trials and the research facilities of ILVO.

During the second week of this course, all participants were registered for the IPBO 2018 Conference “Scientific innovation for a sustainable development of African agriculture” and could present their work by an oral or poster presentation.

The course continued with both theory and exercises for the understanding of the basic principles and methodologies of crop safety and risk assessment.

The participants visited during the last week of the course also “Limagrain Nederland” in Rilland, the Netherlands. They got more insights in the breeding programs of the company and their interaction with the farmers.