Dioscorea (or yam) is a vital cash crop in the developing world and particularly for farmers in Africa and throughout the tropics. A critical need for growing yam economically is to develop low-cost plant growth systems that permit production and breeding of yam crops that are free from disease, resistant to stress and highly productive. Costs of breeding must be minimal for shareholder farmers to ensure food security. This research project is developing the low-cost methods to generate disease-free yam tubers, which are the underground edible stems that can also serve as starting material for continued propagation. The project is developing an efficient and improved bioreactor, or vessel, that will enable proliferation of 'starter' yams from non-seed tissue, such as leaves, stems or flowers. By hormonal and nutrient manipulation in the bioreactor, the project will develop inexpensive methods to propagate disease-free and stress-resistant strains of yams. The project collaborates with the University of Ibadan in Nigeria and the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture in Kenya to reduce costs for shareholder farmers by improving bioreactor technology. In the process, undergraduate students will be trained and educated in advanced breeding methods. Web-based resources and multimedia efforts will help educate the public, other researchers and farmers. The project includes direct involvement of researchers in Africa and direct educational programs with smallholder farmers.
Temporary immersion bioreactor (TIB) systems will be developed utilizing open-source and inexpensive technology to generate plants as inexpensively as possible in a format that can be translated into relatively low-technology implementation environments. The specific focus on Dioscorea (yam) species provides a target plant species that has important economic impact on countries such as Nigeria where it is an important food source and cash crop to smallholder farmers. Since tissue culture methods of yam are minimally developed, the work will include other plant species such as Musa (banana) and cassava, which have efficient regeneration systems in place, while further developing tissue culture methods for yam. Recent advances in TIB systems have demonstrated the ability to inexpensively control the composition of the liquid as well as the gas phase. Therefore, a focus of the research is to utilize this control to improve the rates of plant production. Genomics and bioinformatics have made it possible to quickly identify embryogenic proteins. These proteins will be produced by expression in bacteria, and then tested for ability to improve embryogenesis in yam and more generally in plants. A web resource will be generated to facilitate collaboration that identifies people, methods and literature as well as provide a forum for disseminating the results of the research through videos, instructions, etc. The project will culminate with a workshop held in Africa to engage and educate yam stakeholders with a focus on providing education to farmers and others to take advantage of the open technology that has been developed.
|Effective start/end date
|6/1/16 → 5/31/23
- National Science Foundation: $647,733.00