Advances in Classical Breeding and Application of Modern Breeding Tools for Food and Nutrition Security in Africa

Advances in Classical Breeding and Application of Modern Breeding Tools for Food and Nutrition Security in Africa

 

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Introduction

Africa is faced with two diverse but interlinked challenges in the 21st century: feeding a growing population and how to adapt to climate change. During the last two decades, the number of undernourished people on the continent has increased, indicating an increased importance of ensuring food security. To meet the rising demand for food, the only plausible option for Africa is to increase domestic supply that can benefit from the use of modern agriculture (the use of irrigation systems, chemical fertilizers, farm machinery, and large-scale monoculture farms for increased efficiency and yields). However, this model is increasingly proving to be unsustainable at the current scale. This is mainly due to the fact that many of the components of modern agriculture are heavily dependent on water, fossil fuels (for irrigation, fertilizer production, machinery, transportation) and phosphate rock (for phosphorus fertilizer), most of which are finite resources and are becoming increasingly scarce. Frequent droughts further constrain the amount of water available for cropping. Water scarcity is further aggravated by climate change. Climate change is having and will increasingly have more severe implications on food security in Africa. Climate change, which results from carbon emissions into the atmosphere, has resulted in an average increase in global temperatures which has several implications on food production. Crop productivity is expected to decrease in lower altitudes, especially in dry and tropical regions, and also decrease the area suitable for agriculture, and the length of the growing season particularly in arid and semi-arid areas. If this trend continues, wheat production is expected to disappear from Africa by the 2080s. If Africa is to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG number two), which is ending extreme poverty and hunger, it has to adopt a different strategy. The growth and expansion of the plant breeding profession provides an opportunity to deal with some of these big challenges faced by African countries to increase domestic supply. Crop improvement through development of ‘’smart’’ and nutritious varieties that yield under diseases, pests, limited water and input conditions, provides an opportunity to increase crop productivity to meet the ever-rising food demand under the heavily constrained production factors such as water and land.