Copyright 2018 - #

Makerere University Regional Centre for Crop Improvement (MaRCCI) Hosts Training on Digital Data Collection and Management in Plant Breeding

Prof. Bernard Bashaasha speaking

About eighty plant breeders and researchers from Uganda and other countries converged at Makerere University Agricultural Research Institute (MUARIK) to undergo training on Digital Data Collection and Management in plant breeding from 26th November-1st December 2017.

The training focusing on combined use of digital data capture via the Fieldbook App and information management via the Breeding Management System (BMS) was officially opened by the Vice Chancellor Makerere University represented by Prof. Bernard Bashaasha who is also Principal College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) on 28th November, 2017.

The training drew renown international resource persons from the US, Canada, Senegal and Kenya. They included Dr. Graham McLaren (BMS Global Deployment Manager), Dr. Trevor Rife from Kansas State University (developer of a set of tablet data tools called PhenoApps, of which the Fieldbook App is a part, and is the premier field data capture application for plant breeders).

Dr. Graham McLaren - one of the trainers presenting

Other course facilitators were Dr. Alioune Mbow (BMS Regional Deployment Manager for West & Central Africa, and leader of breeding modernization project that also span East  Africa) and Mable Mulyana ( BMS Regional Support Specialist for East  Africa).

The course also attracted Senior academics from KNUST (Ghana) and UNZA (Zambia), Company representatives from SEEDCO, Zambia, and NASECO, Uganda; Scientists from NaCRRI, NaSARRI, AbiZardi, NabwinZardi, and the Coffee Research Institute; Researchers from CIAT and IITA; Academic and research staff from Makerere University and students of MaRCCI.

Some of the participants during the opening ceremony


The training was hosted by Makerere University Regional Centre for Crop Improvement (MaRCCI).

It was sponsored by PhenoApps (Kansas State University, NSF BREAD Grant), Integrated Breeding Platform/Breeding Management system, MaRCCI via World Bank Africa Centres of Excellence Project and AGRA (Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa /IMCDA Project).

While opening the training on behalf of the Vice Chancellor Makerere University, Prof. Bernard Bashaasha extended appreciation to the MaRCCI project leaders and partners for starting off on a good footing with diverse areas of coverage including the launching of this training on Digital Data Collection and Management in Plant Breeding.

“It is three months when an MoU was signed and I am happy with the progress. This is something commendable and happy to associate with”, He said.

Prof. Bashaasha underscored the role of Agriculture as the main source of livelihood for majority of populations in Sub-Saharan Africa Uganda inclusive. He was optimistic that the training will be rewarding and useful to the participants and their respective countries.

Principal CAES Prof. Benard Bashaasha and Deputy Centre Director Prof. Paul Gibson

“The workshop is a  well represented  multi-crop, multi-institute, multi-country activity focusing on making plant breeding more productive in delivering varieties that will reduce hunger by meeting the farmers’ needs and the value-chain needs”, Part of the speech read.

Prof. Bashaasha conveyed Management appreciation for the distinguished trainers who came through the support provided by their projects, as a generous gift to students and associated cooperators.

“We are very grateful to have such competent support for Makerere’s efforts to modernize data collection and handling.  Thank you for what you are doing for us. It is my expectation that this workshop will enhance the skill and effectiveness of the already very accomplished group seated in this room”, said Prof. Bashaasha.

As CAES, the Principal said the college appreciates the mutual benefits of working closely with NARO, CIAT, IITA, and other institutes and was pursuing a more formal arrangement that would allow even closer cooperation. 

He also described such workshops as fora for providing opportunity for interaction among researchers with common interests to share experiences and consider cooperative initiative.

 “Last night different institutions in this group met to develop a joint national strategy of how to improve the capture, accuracy and use of phenotypic data in crop research.  There are also side meetings discussing cooperative efforts on cowpea and sorghum research.  Also, interactions are occurring regarding MaRCCI’s cooperation with the University of Zambia and with Kwame-Nkruma university in Ghana”, the Professor disclosed.

He commended participants for taking the initiative to cooperate across institutions in order to increase the impact, pledging the university’s commitment to support such initiatives. 

Some of the participants

The Deputy Centre Director for MaRCCI Prof. Paul Gibson noted that plant breeding is progressing and the issue of digital capturing of data and management is becoming critical as one of the aspects of modernizing breeding programmes.

Prof. Gibson observed that many interventions are needed to maximize the production of food through plant breeding as one of the key activities.

“Here in Africa phenotyping applications are beginning to have an impact in all breeding programmes. The breeding process in universities, research institutes and private companies take long time like 6-8 years to get the final crop variety released”. He said.

He added that these types of tools and molecular techniques characterize the pontential and precise techniques that simplify data capturing and management.

Prof. Paul Gibson (Standing) speaking to participants as Prof. Bashaasha looks on

“More efficient data collection, processing, and higher quality of data are key ingredients in the success of plant breeding, and this training workshop contributes substantially to moving in that direction.  Managing that data via an effective database, such as BMS, enhances the local programs as well as greatly facilitates multi-country projects”, the Professor explained.

About MaRCCI

Makerere University won a $6 million USD World Bank Grant for the establishment of the Regional Centre of Excellence in Crop Improvement within the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

The Makerere University Regional Centre for Crop Improvement (MaRCCI) is an expansion of current activities of the Makerere University Regional Graduate Programs in Plant Breeding.

Some more of the female trainees during the training at CAEC

The main goals are  to strengthen the PhD program in Plant Breeding in Biotechnology, the MSc in Plant Breeding and Seed Systems, applied research in various crops, and outreach activities to improve Ugandan agriculture through enhancing the skills of public and private personnel supporting crop breeding and production activities.

 The grant provides for additional scientific and support staff and enhancement of facilities and equipment with the goal of modernizing and expanding the teaching, research, and service activities of MaRCCI in a sustainable manner.

The Center’s general management is administered through the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at Makerere University. The Principal of the College provides overall oversight to MaRCCI activities. Day-to-day operations are managed by Dr. Richard Edema, who is the Project Manager (PI) and the Center Director (CD), assisted by Deputy Director, Prof. Paul Gibson, and the entire MaRCCI team.

Report compiled by:

Jane Anyango

Communication Officer, CAES


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