From May 2011 to May 2013, the Africa-Brazil Marketplace sponsored a project to introduce Napier grass elite lines for screening for stunt resistance to provide feed for improved smallholder dairy productivity.
The project was a partnership between the Forage genebank of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and EMBRAPA Dairy Cattle (Juiz de Fora) in Brazil. Both institutes have complementary research programs and maintain genebanks of Napier grass germplasm.
The project aimed to identify unique materials and exchange improved Napier grass germplasm from the collections maintained at ILRI and EMBRAPA.
Innovative methods of targeting germplasm for introduction were used on 171 genotypes to select unique genotypes for exchange, concentrating on elite lines from Brazil (but not at ILRI) and germplasm from ILRI that is not in Brazil.
Nine unique genotypes from the collection at ILRI were transferred to EMBRAPA in 2012 under the Standard Material Transfer Agreement (SMTA) of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. These materials are already being used in Brazil to help develop higher yielding smut resistant lines that can then be released globally to provide a genetic solution to control this devastating disease.
Fifty three genotypes of germplasm and elite breeding lines from EMBRAPA were received at ILRI in 2013 under an SMTA and are currently being established and checked for diseases of quarantine significance. They will be multiplied for further screening for adaptation, biomass and disease tolerance. These materials are available for users under an MTA with EMBRAPA.
This important exchange of germplasm greatly increases the diversity of the Napier grass collection at ILRI, enhancing the potential to find suitable types tolerant to emerging diseases in Africa (smut and stunt) but also drought tolerant types. The availability of a larger pool of Napier grass germplasm for research and evaluation for selection of superior better adapted and more productive types for smallholder farmers will support the smallholder dairy sector in East Africa. Among the materials from Brazil there are also short leafy genotypes that have potential for grazing and use in beef and small ruminant meat production systems and more extensive dairy systems.
53 new accessions of Napier grass were received at the Forage Genebank in Addis Ababa in early August 2013. Asebe and Yeshi planting and labeling the cuttings into pots and the materials vigorously growing after 4 months, in December 2013.
The new accessions from Brazil being being tested for phytoplasma in the Forage Plant Health Laboratory, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.