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Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Sorghum and Millet

Improving Sorghum Adaptation in West Africa with a Genomics-Enabled Breeding Network (SAWAGEN)

Lead institution: Kansas State University
Award amount: $1,435,147
Focus countries: Niger, Senegal

Highlights of Morris's research

Principal investigator: Geoffrey Morris
U.S. collaborating institutions: Kansas State University
International collaborating institutions:Senegal - Institut Sénégalais de Recherches Agricoles (ISRA), Centre d’Etudes Régional pour l’Amélioration de l’Adaptation à la Sécheresse (CERAAS), Centre National de Recherche Agronomique (CNRA); Niger - International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique du Niger (INRAN), LSDS (farmer organization), HALAL (farmer organization); Burkina Faso - Institut de l'Environnement et de Recherches Agricole (INERA); Togo - Institut Togolais de Recherche Agronomique (ITRA); France - Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement (CIRAD)

Challenge: Despite some important successes in sorghum breeding in West Africa, the overall impact of sorghum improvement has not yet met stakeholder expectations on varietal adoption, increased farm income, or improved nutritional status. SAWAGEN brings existing R&D capacity together into a network to regularly deliver sorghum varieties that are adapted to West African environments, adopted by smallholder farmers, and appreciated by value-chain actors.

Approach: The SAWAGEN network brings together NARS breeders, NARS researchers, international collaborators, and farmer organizations. To align missions and leverage expertise among diverse scientists and stakeholders, we use a goal-directed hypothesis-driven (GoHy) method for program planning and adaptive management. At the core of the network are four early-career NARS breeders in Senegal (ISRA), Burkina Faso (INERA), Togo (ITRA), and Niger (INRAN), who were trained in genomics-enabled breeding during phase-I (SMIL and/or WACCI).

Products: SAWAGEN's top priority is to develop new versions of locally-preferred varieties that carry stress-resilience traits by the project's end in 2023. Each NARS breeder has identified 2–3 product concepts that will be delivered to smallholders within a 5–10 year time frame. The varieties will be under testing in farmers’ fields - in partnership with farmer organizations - by 2023. SAWAGEN's other major product is the R&D network itself, with four platforms designed to scale beyond the current participants and beyond the end of the project.

Implementation: Varietal development will be carried out in the Local Adaptation Breeding Platform with marker-assisted backcross of known stress tolerance alleles into locally-preferred varieties and participatory evaluation. The foundation for delivery of future products will be laid with the Broad Adaptation Breeding Platform (gender-responsiveness training, germplasm exchange, recurrent population development, multi-environment trials); the Genetic Mapping Research Platform (genome-wide marker discovery, genetic mapping, marker development); and the Physiological Mapping Research (trait discovery, trait validation, ideotype definition).

For more information about the project, contact:

Dr. Geoffrey Morris, Assistant Professor
Kansas State University
2004 Throckmorton Plant Science Center
Manhattan, KS 66506
+1-785-532-3397
gpmorris@ksu.edu