MaRCCI has a research wing headed by Dr. Isaac Dramadri, helped by Dr. Sharon Tusiime and Mr. Richard Tusiime. Oversight of the research programme is provided by Senior Breeders, Dr. Albert Chiteka and Prof. Paul Gibson who is also the Deputy Director of the Centre, and the Centre Director, Dr. Richard Edema.
This research programme is designed to support the training programme and to cooperate with national and regional breeding efforts. It currently supports two crops, cowpea and sorghum as model crops to demonstrate best-breeding practices to both students in the PhD and MSc training programmes of MaRCCI and scientists in the region.  Other crops may be added later.

To initiate model breeding programs that demonstrate best-breeding practices and lead to release of improved varieties to meet the food security needs of the region.

To develop high yielding, early maturing and stress resilient cow-pea and sorghum varieties for Uganda.

Cowpea Breeding

The cowpea breeding programme was initiated in 2014 with 250 cowpea accessions, including Ugandan released varieties and land races, and lines from IITA, Ghana and Brazil.

The germplasm base has been expanded to include 384 subsets of a world cowpea collection (Minicore) and 261 MAGIC lines obtained from the University of California at Riverside. These lines are fully SNP genotyped and are being exploited to map genes controlling multiple traits. Already phenotypically characterized and coupled with marker data, this germplasm base allows for a precise choice of donor parents for hybridization.

From the parental lines, over 300 populations have been created that possess unique traits, including higher yield, earliness, tolerance to drought stress, resistance to diseases (scab, cercopora leafspot and fusarium wilt) and insects (Flower bud thrips and bruchids) and preferred seed size & color. Populations are being advanced for further testing and release.

From the initial 250 accessions, the top 30 high-yielding and adaptable lines have progressed to advanced yield trials, and are being tested in multiple locations before entry into the National Performance Trial.Our ten-year cowpea breeding plan is shown on the opposite figure.

Ten Year Cowpea Breeding Plan

Verticall Timeline

Germplasm assembly (IITA, UCR, Rest of the world)

Year 1

Verticall Timeline

Characterization of germplasm (phenotypic and molecular)

Year 2

Verticall Timeline

Continous evaluation of germplasm select adaptable lines chose parents and initiate hybridization

Year 3

Verticall Timeline

Extensive multi location testing of selected lines. Advancing populatins and deriving lines (F2:3)

Year 4

Verticall Timeline

Conduct PVS with farmers. Advanced top performing lines to NPT. Evaluation of derived lines and advancing to next generation.

Year 5

Verticall Timeline

Submit top candidate lines for DUS test. Continous evaluation and advancing the derived lines.

Year 6

Verticall Timeline

Prepare for release of adapted and high performing lines Initiate Preliminary yield trials of derived lines

Year 7

Verticall Timeline

Conduct AYT of derived lines in multiple locations. Invite farmers to participate

Year 8

Verticall Timeline

NPT of the best performing derived lines

Year 9

Verticall Timeline

Submit top performing derived lines for DUS. Prepare for release.

Year 10

Sorghum Breeding

The sorghum research programme plans to assemble and catalogue diverse local and international accessions. An initial germplasm of sorghum cultivars has already been obtained from Purdue University, USA that includes 96 Multi-parents Advanced Generation Inter-Cross (MAGIC) lines and over 200 hybrids. This germplasm is being tested in Uganda for agronomic performance and adaptability. The 96 MAGIC lines, fully genotyped with over 96K SNPs identified, can be exploited for multiple traits of interest, including tolerance to drought stress.

Students Training

The cowpea and sorghum breeding programmes offer opportunity for practical plant breeding training sessions to our graduate students. They participate in every stage of the breeding pipeline, which provides an excellent harmony of class theory with actual breeding practice.   The two breeding programmes also host students’ thesis research projects. Currently, they are 5 MSc students working on cowpea, 1 MSc on sorghum, and 10 undergraduates.  Two PhD and 4 MSc students have completed their research projects in cowpea. Students’ research projects are designed to tackle traits that relate to the overall programme breeding objectives.