A key issue for implementation and sustainability of crop improvement is training and education. This includes preparing the next generation of plant breeders for innovative, productive careers in cultivar development, to address risks of food and nutritional insecurity. The need is for more well-educated scientists prepared to be immediately fruitful in contributing to an increased food supply for African nations.
To increase productivity, profitability and sustainability, small-scale farmers need greater access to affordable yield-enhancing inputs, including well-adapted, high-yield crop varieties for a wide range of agro-ecosystems. Intensified crop production depends on addressing environmental stress factors including plant disease, utilizing legumes in rotation to improve soil fertility, and deployment of yield-enhancing genetic technologies.
Recognizing plant breeding as a critical means through which to increase agricultural productivity and ensure food security, The Soybean Innovation Lab (SIL) has partnered with the University of Ghana (UG), Legon, and the West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI) to establish a high-caliber Master of Science degree program in Genetics and Plant Breeding.
A number of courses have been developed and shared to add to the UG/WACCI graduate curriculum, including Experimental Design and Statistical Analysis I and II, Population Genetics and Molecular Marker Analysis. Students have an opportunity to participate in a summer internship program in the USA where students visit private sector breeding programs and other seed industry operations as well as academic breeding programs centered on crop improvement. Furthermore, SIL has supported professional development of WACCI’s junior faculty through access to continuing education programs that provide instruction on use of genomic information in plant breeding and useful tools to facilitate applications.