Supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, we are working with a team of world leading experts from Switzerland, USA, Germany and Mexico to develop the techniques to enable cowpea and sorghum plants to reproduce asexually.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) invited CSIRO to scope and lead a project entitled “Capturing Heterosis” that will use novel reproductive technologies for delivering increased crop yields in the subsistence crops, cowpea and sorghum to smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa.

CSIRO’s Dr Anna Koltunow is leading the project with the following organisations:

Hybrid children are able to outperform their plant parents through a process known as heterosis or hybrid vigour. Unfortunately this advantage only lasts one generation meaning a farmer must continue to buy seed produced from the parental lines. The aim of this project is to preserve hybrid vigour through asexual reproduction. If hybrid vigour could be captured and passed on to the next generation its seeds would be genetically identical to its hybrid parent enabling smallholder farmers to self-harvest high quality seed.

Yields of the major staple crops which provide food, fodder and fuel are low due to poor quality seed, poor soils, drought and high disease pressure. Reliable production of greater quantities of staple crops would ensure greater surety of food supply, and sale of what cannot be consumed would improve smallholder income. Read more about the project here.

For further details contact CSIRO:

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The Capturing Heterosis team met in Palm Cove, Queensland in April 2018 (pictured). Project partners from across the globe (Europe, North & South America and Australia) came together and successfully identified priorities for the remainder of the current project phase.

The team is excited about the forthcoming prospects of developing self-reproducing sorghum and cowpea hybrids to increase seed yields for smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa.

A new publication by Ping Che et. al. (2018) in Plant Biotechnology Journal called Developing A Flexible, High-Efficiency Agrobacterium-mediated Sorghum Transformation System with Broad Application. DOI 10.1111/pbi.12879
A new publication by Chamberlin and Lawit (2017) called Development and Observation of Mature Megagametophyte Cell-Specific Fluorescent Markers. It is published in Plant Germline Development, Methods in Molecular Biology. DOI 10.1007/978-1-4939-7286-9
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