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MRA 1 Plant Breeding and Germplasm

Principal Investigators:

Dr. Brian Diers
University of Illinois

Curriculum Vitae

Dr. Brian Diers is an Associate Head Professor in the Department of Crop Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Dr. Diers is the Co-Principal Investigator of the Soybean Innovation Lab (SIL) Plant Breeding & Germplasm research area. Dr. Diers collaborates with the leading national soybean breeders in Ghana, Ethiopia and Zambia to develop high-yielding, disease and drought-resistant soybean varieties. This is accomplished through the introduction of high-yielding, diverse cultivars from the U.S. Germplasm Collection, crossed with locally adapted African varieties. Dr. Diers also provides mentorship to the partner African breeders through U.S. and African-based technical training and guidance and through the provision of research equipment necessary to increase the scale and efficiency of the national African soybean breeding programs.


Dr. Randall Nelson 
University of Illinois

Curriculum Vitae

Dr. Randall Nelson is a Professor of Plant Breeding and Genetics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and also serves as a Research Leader for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service in the Soybean/Maize Germplasm, Pathology and Genetics Research division. Dr. Nelson is collaborating with African research partners to identify new, highyielding soybean varieties adapted to low latitude environments. Dr. Nelson is also collaborating to develop cultivars that are resistant to rust and bacteria pustule, can more efficiently fix nitrogen, can better tolerate the low phosphorus commonly found in tropical soils, and can be easily processed for household consumption. 



Associate Investigators:

Dr. Nicholas Denwar
Savanna Agricultural Research Institute (SARI)

Curriculum Vitae

Dr. Nicholas Denwar is a Research Scientist in Genetics and Plant Breeding at the Savanna Agricultural Research Institute (SARI) in Tamale, Ghana. Dr. Denwar is an integral partner of the Soybean Innovation Lab’s germplasm and breeding efforts which seeks to identify new, high-yielding varieties that are adapted to low latitude environments. Dr. Denwar received his PhD in Agronomy from Texas Tech University’s Department of Plant and Soil Science in Lubbock, Texas. Before working with SARI, Dr. Denwar served as an Agricultural Extension Office with the Ghanaian Ministry of Food and Agriculture. Dr. Denwar also holds degrees from the University of Ghana, Legon and the University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, Ghana



Dr. Godfree Chigeza
International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)

Dr. Godfree Chigeza is the head soybean breeder for the Regional Hub for Southern Africa with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA). Dr. Chigeza received his PhD in Plant Breeding from the University of KwaZulu Natal in South Africa and was the Breeder Project Lead for MRI Zambia, Syngenta Africa and Middle East (AME) before joining the Soybean Innovation Lab (SIL) project. Dr. Chigeza has extensive experience in plant breeding and field management and is a key research collaborator for the SIL plant breeding and germplasm efforts. Dr. Chigeza is collaborating with CoPrincipal Investigators of the SIL Plant Breeding & Germplasm research area, Dr. Brian Diers and Dr. Randall Nelson, to develop high-yielding, disease and drought-resistant soybean varieties for Sub-Saharan Africa.


Dr. Felix Fritschi
University of Missouri

Dr. Felix Fritschi is an Associate Professor in the Division of Plant Sciences at the University of Missouri. Dr. Fritschi’s research focuses on plant responses to abiotic stress. In particular, he focuses on the effects of water deficit and heat on plant growth and productivity. Dr. Fritschi leads the Soybean Innovation Lab’s (SIL) research focused on soybean phosphorous (P) uptake and efficiency. Dr. Fritschi collaborates with SIL African plant breeding partners to improve soybean adaptation to soils with low P availability. Such soils are common in many tropical environments and are particularly common in Sub-Saharan Africa. Low phosphorous availability can be due to low levels of phosphorous in the soil, acidic soils that tie up phosphorous, or a combination of both factors. Dr. Fritschi is also collaborating with the N2Africa initiative


Dr. Abush Tesfaye
Jimma Agricultural Research Center

Curriculum Vitae

Dr. Abush Tesfaye is a soybean specialist with nearly 13 years of professional experience conducting agricultural research for the Jimma Agricultural Research Center in Ethiopia. Dr. Tesfaye received his PhD in Plant Breeding from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa and his BSc and MSc from the Haramaya University in Ethiopia. Dr. Tesfaye has conducted research on genetic analysis of soybean for performance under high and low phosphorous conditions and researched the adaptability of released soybean varieties for regions in Ethiopia. He has extensive experience in training, awareness building and research for development in changing community attitudes towards growth and development.

Andrew Scaboo
University of Missouri

Curriculum Vitae

Prior to joining the team at the University of Missouri in 2012 as a senior research scientist, Scaboo worked as a post-doctoral Research Geneticist with the USDA-ARS soybean breeding program at North Carolina State University. He previously earned Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees from the University of Tennessee, and his doctorate at University of Arkansas. Scaboo’s current research centers around developing soybean varieties for northern Missouri with improved genetics yield potential, high oleic oil content, nematode resistance and abiotic (drought and flood) and biotic stress tolerance. Through the role he has held since 2012 leading the Northern Missouri Soybean Breeding Program, he has overseen more than 45,000 field test plots in his first two years of research supported by Missouri soybean farmers and their checkoff.

Dr. Glen Hartman
Dr. Glen Hartman is a professor in the Department of Crop Sciences at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and a research plant pathologist with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service. Dr. Hartman is collaborating with the Soybean Innovation Lab to develop a new diagnostic guide for the identification of soybean diseases and pests specifically designed for use in Africa.