The National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO) continues to be committed to generating relevant Technologies, Information, Management Practices, and Strategies (TIMPS) for agricultural development and socio- economic transformation. During the FY 2018/19.
NARO delivered on all her Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) including 20 varieties submitted for release and 70 production technologies developed (Table 1). Remarkably, NARO initiated a Competitive Grant Scheme (CGS) funding mode for GOU budget through which strategic research leading to products and commercialization are supported. Accordingly, twenty-one projects were funded under the GoU CGS mode and these projects will be operated for a period of three years.
Generation of agricultural technologies
- Crops research
In the crop sector, xx varieties out of the 20 candidate varieties submitted to the National Variety Release Committee of MAAIF were released (Table 2). The candidate varieties have superior attributes over the current existing varieties with respect to yield advantage, pest and disease resistance, adaptation to drought prone environments and culinary attributes. In addition, two (2) yellow rust resistant wheat lines, two (2) advanced maize lines and three (3) highland sorghum varieties are ready for advancement to the National Performance Trials (NPTs) prior to submission for consideration for release.
Table 2: Varieties submitted for release during the FY 2018/19
In addition, the following management practices were identified, developed and promoted;
- a) Mandi Plus cassava seed treatment technology for enhanced germination and vigour developed;
- b) One(1) foliar fertilizer and one(1) bio pesticide effective for cotton production were recommended for use;
- c) Five (5) out of eighteen (18) introduced Dutch potato varieties with capacity to yield over 30T/ha were identified to be adaptable to Ugandan condition.
As a step towards sustainable management of the burden of ticks and tick-borne diseases in the livestock industry, NARO developed three (3) specific anti-tick vaccines. In addition, a cocktail anti tick vaccine comprising of antigens from all the three tick species (brown ear tick, blue tick and bont-legged tick) was constituted. A controlled clinical trial involving 50 experimental cattle dominant breeds notably Friesian crosses (10), Zebu (20) and Ankole (20) breeds was established to validate the vaccines.
The experiment revealed high level of protection against target ticks. The vaccines are in final stages of clinical evaluation in line with World Health Organization protocols. Vaccines for foot and mouth disease, and African swine fever are also near ready.
To ensure sustainable capacity for future vaccine research and development, three staffs were supported at PhD level and a vaccine production and validation facility is underway at NaLIRRI- Nakyesasa hub.
In addition, NARO introduced a New Jersey Breed (Viking Jersey) and initiated efforts towards establishing in-vitro fertilisation, semen processing and genetic purity analysis facility to enable farmers to access high quality embryo and semen of proven breeds. Furthermore, NARO has started on an initiative to set up an Ankole bull stud to improve the productivity of the adapted Ankole cattle and other breeds.
A pasture-breeding and phenotyping platform was established by NARO. This is the largest pasture-breeding platform on the continent, which is currently providing a diversity of pasture species (accessions) to end-users.
In the fisheries sub-sector, efforts were geared towards generating relevant information to guide interventions in the sector. The following information has been documented;
- a) Impacts of fish cages on water quality and biota at SON cage fish farm; and
- b) Occurrence, abundance and diversity of micro plastics in sediment, water and fish,
- c) Light attraction technologies for enhanced harvest of Mukene on Lake Victoria were determined. The green (3.6 ± 0.9 Kghr-1) and white (2.3 ± 0.8 Kghr-1) light colours harvested high catch rates (>2Kghr-1). Generally, the catch rates increased with intensification of light intensity and varied with light source; the solar bulbs harvesting higher catch rates (12.1 ±2.9 kg hr-1) than the traditional pressure lamps (7.2 ±2.9 kg hr-1). Surface lights harvested higher catch rates (2.0 0.4 Kghr-1) than other light settings.
- d) In partnership with other institutions in the African Great Lakes Region, NaFIRRI developed best management practices (BMPs) for promoting environmentally, economically and socially sustainable cage aquaculture. The BMPS are consolidated in a mobile application, NARO Cage Aquaculture, which can be accessed by various stakeholders.
- e) Through MoUs, NaFIRRI has developed partnerships with key Government MDAs and CSOs to enhance freshwater biodiversity data sharing, use, and incorporation into decision-making and conservation. NaFIRRI is availing data and information in user-friendly formats and in easy to access platforms such as Global Biodiversity Information Facility.
- f) In an effort to establish a community conservation area on Lake Nyaguo (a shared lake between Pallisa, Kumi and Ngora districts), NaFIRRI facilitated the creation of ten Community Conservation Committees in 10 fishing villages around the lake. A draft management plan for the proposed conservation area has been developed.
- g) NaFIRRI in partnership with line institutions in DRC have supported integrated fisheries and water resources management on lakes Edward and Albert through guidance on fish stocks, appropriate fishing efforts and selection of areas suitable for cage aquaculture and fish breeding areas. NaFIRRI has developed a protocol that guides the extraction and characterisation of cyanotoxins in fish and water. NaFIRRI has determined the scale of plastic wastes in the Lake Victoria water environment and fish to initiate mitigation.
Research in the forestry sub-sector focused on improving the hydrocarbon-sawdust blending that led to an increase in the combustibility of saw dust fuel lighters by 5%. High value fuel lighters of improved blend of wax and saw dust were produced. In addition, a new design of a wood waste fuel cook stove prototype was produced and is to be commercialised.
To address the burden of eucalyptus pests, Glycaspis brimblecombei (red gum lerp psyllid) hotspot sites were established in Western and S.W. Uganda for the release of the parasitoid. Further, procedures for implementation of options for control of eucalyptus pests (Red gum Lerp Psyllid and Bronze bug) were developed and are being implemented.
Tea genetic diversity using Genomic DNA extraction method was conducted for 63 accessions to determine the best breeding pipelines. Further, laboratory analysis of 22 tea accessions for biochemical attributes was conducted. Preliminary results show that all the 22 accessions picked are fast fermenters implying they are good for black tea and not green tea. The analysis also showed that all the tea accessions had good and high cup quality.
First prototype of the NARO Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs)-safe Liquid Smoke Distiller developed. The distiller is yet to be tested on-station then commercialized. Additionally, a second generation of the NARO PAH-Safe smoking kiln technology designs (NAROFIK-3) is underway. The new designs are expected to lead to better quality management systems for processing smoked fish products.
- Protocols for development of a nutrient dense Market-Smart AroNutro Instant Maize Snack were developed. The snack is intended to contribute to reducing impacts of malnutrition and reducing food losses. An innovative technology transfer model that facilitates market access for the product was developed and is yet to be tested. The approach will engage the private sector, incubatee enterprises and producer groups as a strategy to enhance commercialisation.
- A proto type of the fish smoking kiln which considerably reduced levels of all the four carcinogenic elements of PAH from average total of 40,000 ppb to 23.8 ppb was developed.
- Nutritional analysis established that indigenous tomato accessions contain high amounts of vitamins (Vitamin A and C), anti- oxidants, minerals (calcium phosphorus and potassium) and lycopene as compared to the exotic variety (control).
The cassava biotechnology research in Uganda is primarily focused on addressing the challenge of devastating diseases, namely, cassava brown streak disease (CBSD) and cassava mosaic disease (CMD). Transgenic RNAi technology based on fusing coat protein (CP) sequences from Ugandan cassava brown streak virus (UCBSV) and Cassava brown streak virus (CBSV) to create an inverted repeat construct (p5001) has been demonstrated to provide robust and durable high level resistance to CBSD in the field.
During 2018-2019, studies undertaken include those for two product pathways have been adopted for delivery of transgenic virus resistant cassava varieties, transgenic lead event regulatory field trial, genetic engineering experiments, and updates are as below.
- Product 1A: Combining transgenic CBSD resistance with inherent CMD resistance via conventional breeding. We crossed two lead CBSD-resistant transgenic events of cultivar TME 204 to five CMD-resistant farmer-preferred conventional cassava varieties, generated two F1 populations. Under this strategy, the following achievements were made during 2018/2019;
- 43 CBSD and CMD resistant progenies with functional transgene inheritance out of 116 evaluated were advanced to yield selection trial currently on-going at Namulonge and Serere. These were selected from initial crosses made at Kandara, Kenya. At 6 MAP (March 2019), the transgenic clones were still largely free of CBSD and CMD.
- From seed of the second crossing trial at Kasese, 1,555 transgenic F1 progenies belonging to 28 families were transplanted at Namulonge. At 10 MAP (March 2019), 558 were identified to be free of CMD and CBSD (on leaves, stems and storage roots). A proportion of these will be advanced to a yield trial following results of virus, dry matter and cyanide analysis.
- Product 1B: New transformations for CBSD resistance in farmer-preferred CMD1- type cultivars. A total of 28 lines consisting of 21 transgenic events (11 NASE 13, 5 NASE 14, 5 98/0505) were planted at Namulonge. At 6 MAP (March 2019), all the 11 transgenic lines are still free of CBSD and CMD (0%), while the controls have 35% to 89% CBSD incidence.
- Regulatory field trials. These were conducted to generate comparative data on the field performance of selected virus resistant cassava transgenic events and non- transgenic conventional varieties. The second regulatory field trial (RFT-ST2) was harvested and the third (RFT-ST3) planted in December 2018. Field performance regulatory data collected shows that lead events are comparable to non-transgenic version TME 204 variety. A total of 78 samples were collected to obtain plant materials for comparative food compositional analyses and molecular characterization, and these laboratory assessments are underway.
- Cassava Genetic transformation. One (1) transformation protocol was optimized, 3 farmer preferred cassava varieties (NASE 13, NASE 19 & NAROCASS 1) transformed and over 200 plantlets from 30 lines weaned in the screen house for further evaluation. One (1) cassava variety (TME 204) was transformed with genes for enhanced nitrogen uptake and utilization, and 15 events generated.
- Ag-biotech and biosafety education. Uganda Biosciences Information Center (UBIC) is an information and knowledge sharing hub of NARO hosted by the National Crop Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI). UBIC aims to facilitate informed decision making by enhancing appreciation of agricultural biotechnology, and building public confidence in the biosafety regulatory system. In FY 2018/19, UBIC recorded milestones towards the institution of a positive policy environment, enhancing appreciation of biotech and biosafety by farmers and community leaders, and integrating biotechnology in the formal education system.
(i) UBIC was instrumental in supporting the passage of the Genetic Engineering Regulatory Act by the
Parliament of Uganda in November 2018. UBIC engaged members of Parliament include the
Speaker and the Committee of Agriculture, staff of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation including the Minister and the Permanent Secretary, to mention a few.
(ii) We facilitated balanced, fact-based and objective discourse on modern biosciences in Uganda. In 2018, we endeavored to achieve this through sharing knowledge and information on agricultural biotechnology research in Uganda by engaging over 250 farmers, extension workers, community, religious and cultural leaders. We also organized three biotechnology and biosafety sensitization workshops and four screenings of the Food Evolution movie, which attracted over 6000 Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA) staff, media, students and educators as well as members of the general public. Three of these screenings were organized in collaboration with the Cornell Alliance for Science. At four national expos, close to 2000 visitors to our stalls were directly engaged and exposed to advances in modern agricultural biotechnology in Uganda.
(iii) UBIC acknowledges that it is critical to build capacity of youth to ensure sustained impact. Through our schools’ outreach and mentorship programme, we made noteworthy progress in magnifying the relevance of modern biosciences and supporting their integration into the formal education system. Consequently, arrangements are in advanced stages—with the National Curriculum Development Center (NCDC) and the Ministry of Education—to integrate modern biosciences in the national schools’ curriculum. We also conducted a week-long training workshop in which over 50 teachers from high schools nationwide learnt about ag-biotech and biosafety innovations at NaCRRI. Additionally, we organized a national university debate in which over 2000 students and educators from ten universities. Our annual flagship activity-the National Biotechnology Essay Writing Contest is running for its sixth edition climaxing March 2019. Partnerships were strengthened with over 13 universities and tertiary institutions, 50 schools, the NCDC and the Ministry of Education. Many more school going youths are expected to be exposed to modern biotechnology research and development through this initiative.
Socioeconomic and cross-cutting research
Gender mainstreaming in agricultural research for development NARO has registered considerable achievements in the implementation of its gender and Diversity programs. At the grass level, in an effort ensure that all gender categories of persons benefit including; children, women, youth, the elderly and persons with disabilities from its technology development and dissemination initiatives, the organization has endeavoured to developed technologies in various disciplines including agricultural engineering, crops, livestock and fishers to cater for production challenges such as lack of improved technologies, limited production skills, burden of food and nutrition security, labour concerns, workload burden especially for women, and income concerns among others.
In this regard, prevailing gender concerns in agricultural research projects at institutional and grassroots level are often analysed and integrated into the different technology generation and dissemination interventions for different sub-project activities. The major gender concerns addressed are: women’s limited voice and decision-making ability, lack of access and control over production factors (land, finance, in-and output markets), limited engagement in research, extension and capacity building processes, poor access to technology, limited interests of youth in agriculture, food, income insecurity and poor nutrition.
NARO has also engaged in the management of social risks. Capacity of the local communities including institute workers, staff and community personnel to address the social concerns such as: child-labour, HIV/AIDS, gender and sexual harassment has been built in a number of NARO institutes. Under infrastructural developments, where necessary, buildings and other infrastructure have been embedded with gender and other vulnerable groups e.g. People with Disabilities, considerations to ensure that harm and discomfort are not caused to the people utilizing them.
Current status and distribution of S. molesta in water bodies in Uganda determined
Field surveys were conducted to determine the current number of water bodies (including wetlands in the Kyoga lake basin and catchment areas) infested by invasive Kariba weed (Salvinia molesta). Of the 15 areas visited, Kibimba dam (Bugiri district), Leye dam (Kole district), Abuket (Ngora district), Okole wetlands (Oyam district) were heavily infested with the Kariba weed. Capacity has been built among fishing communities and BMUs through sensitization and training on bio-control and management of Kariba weed. Weevil rearing facilities were refurbished to increase capacity of producing weevils for field releases.
Studies conducted to establish demand for selected products
To provide information to guide development and commercialization of product lines that respond to niche markets, studies have been conducted along selected value chains to establish demand;
Ascertained the potential for production and consumer demand of specialty tea (Green, white, silver, purple, yellow) in Uganda.
Analysed maize markets to guide AroNutro Instant Maize product definition and positioning.