Introduction

Twentieth-century advances in plant breeding and agricultural practices did much to help meet the increasing food, fiber, feed, and fuel needs of a burgeoning world population. As population growth continues through this century, those needs continue to increase while the amount of land and water available for production decreases. Climate change is impacting land and water availability further and altering the incidence of droughts, floods, and other severe weather events, as well as the distribution and prevalence of diseases and pests. Sustainably meeting the increasing food, feed and fiber needs of the world population in the face of these challenges requires continued successes in crop improvement for yield, resistance to pests and diseases, tolerance to adverse environmental conditions, quality, and nutrition. It is essential that, among other investments, educational and professional development opportunities prepare researchers, breeders and the public to take advantage of the most advanced methods. The best solutions will derive from systems approaches that integrate different technologies and analytical processes. It is also critical to equip our next generation of researchers to collaborate effectively across disciplinary, national and cultural boundaries.

Goals and Overview

The AfricaRice Advanced Crop Improvement (ACI) short course aims to build a network of collaborative young scientists that understand the importance of innovative plant science in addressing global problems. ACI builds on the highly successful Rice: Research to Production course held for 10 years at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines. In ACI, rice is retained as a model system, but the content is focused  on modern improvement strategies relevant to most crop species, including genomic selection and genome editing.  The course will bring together an international group of 20-24 students, postdocs, and early career professionals (ages 22 to 35) for two weeks. Classroom, lab, and field-based learning will be augmented by topical discussions on how advanced technologies and novel resources can be incorporated into crop improvement, and the sociological and economic issues for their acceptance by farmers and consumers.
A team class project, in collaboration with the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, will produce a concept note and podcasts of interviews of consumers, growers and scientists on issues related to the adoption of crops improved by various approaches. Graduates of the course will have a broader appreciation for international agriculture, collaborative approaches to science, and the possibilities for putting modern plant sciences into practice.

Agenda

The Agenda for the course can be viewed here.

Venue

The course will be held at the AfricaRice Training Center in St. Louis, Senegal, and at the CERAAS (Centre d’Etude Régional pour l’Amélioration de l’Adaptation à la Sécheresse / Regional Center for Plant Improvement and Adaptation to Drought) Research and Training Facility in Thiès, approximately a 1.5 h bus ride from St. Louis. More information can be found here.