Newswise — ST. LOUIS, MO, October 7, 2021 — The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the National Agricultural Seeds Council (NASC) in Abuja, Nigeria, for cooperation in seed certification molecular technologies and support to the national biotechnology strategy.  The objective of the partnership is to foster a collaborative relationship between both parties aimed at developing and implementing strategies that will enhance the use of molecular diagnostics technologies within the seed certification programs, explore and promote opportunities for bilateral scientific exchanges between the institutions, and organization of activities of mutual interest including expert consultations, trainings, conferences and workshops. The MoU was signed by Dr. Phillip Olusegun Ojo (director general, NASC) and Dr. Donald Mackenzie, executive director, Institute for International Crop Improvement (IICI), at the Danforth Center.

“Capacity building is an important part of our work at the IICI, and this agreement represents a key milestone and extension of our engagement with our partners in Nigeria,” said MacKenzie.  “Using cutting-edge molecular biology tools to certify seed meeting stringent trait purity standards will ensure that farmers reap the benefit of planting seed that performs up to expectations and provides the highest yield possible.”

Ms. Rebecca Mewase, head, molecular diagnostics facility, at NASC, received training at the Danforth Center in 2019 and again in 2021, and has brought those skills back to her lab in Abuja.  In the next phase of this training, Dr. Getu Duguma, senior manager, regulatory science at Danforth Center, will travel to Nigeria to extend this training to other NASC facilities and to collaborating national institutions.  Enhancing the molecular diagnostics capability at NASC in Abuja and in the region will help NASC realize its vision “to be recognized as Africa’s leading seed regulator, that fosters the emergence of a globally competitive seed sector, with planting material that is available, accessible and affordable for all farmers.”

MacKenzie recently led the regulatory submission process for PBR Cowpea, a variety that is resistant to the destructive insect Maruca. PBR Cowpea is the first public sector biotech food crop released in Africa, a landmark event that will help Nigeria achieve food security, reduce the use of pesticides and increase farmers’ income.  The ultimate success and impact of PBR cowpea, and other improved crop varieties, depends on a strong seed sector supported by a world class seed certification agency.

About the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center

Founded in 1998, the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center is a not-for-profit research institute with a mission to improve the human condition through plant science. Research, education and outreach aim to have impact at the nexus of food security and the environment, and position the St. Louis region as a world center for plant science. The Center’s work is funded through competitive grants from many sources, including the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Agency for International Development, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Follow us on Twitter at @DanforthCenter.

About the Institute for International Crop Improvement at the Danforth Center

The IICI is dedicated to improving the disease and pest resistance, nutritional content, and harvest of staple crops that are critical to the health and livelihood of smallholder farmers and the millions of people that depend on them for food and nutrition.  In addition to stabilizing communities by empowering farmers, these efforts promote agriculture-led growth by increasing sustainable farming productivity and strengthening productive, profitable, and inclusive agricultural systems.