Faculty of Agricultural Sciences research projects and publication
We are a center of excellence in Vegetable Research, especially African indigenous vegetables. We realize that a number of these plants are increasing playing an important role in meeting the nutritional and health needs of many households globally. Current research activity in the rich source of diversity present within the African continent, does not match the potential value of these plants. There has been very little consolidated effort awards proper conservation, management, improvement and promotion of valuable germplasm. It is on this note that the department has set itself up in the following major focus areas:
Different local communities all over Africa use plants of Solanaceae family for various purposes. A comprehensive database on the uses, production, processing and informal markets for the various crops will not only enhance their value, but also promote their use across different platforms. Our main approach in our work is participatory.
Due to limited research, there is a knowledge gap on the basic biology of these species. There is need to undertake more comprehensive studies on the cytogentic, biochemical; and molecular components, as well as develop molecular tools and proper ontology for future characterization of African indigenous plants. There is general lack of expertise in Africa for advanced research that would enhance knowledge of African indigenous vegetables. The faculty trains Master and PhD level scientists who will contribute to enhancing and utilization of these crops and promote their contribution to poverty alleviation and food security. We also do value chain analyses to build the capacity of small holder farmers through supporting formation and coordination of self-help groups to effectively transition from subsistence levels to commercial farming for improved incomes and livelihoods.
Nutrition and health:
The increasing concerns on narrowing food diversity and the recognition of the potential role of vegetables in combating micro-nutrient deficiencies, call for renewed research interest in underutilized nutritious vegetables such as those of the African Indigenous Vegetables. Effort to document the micro-nutrient and bioactive components of these plants, as well as establish systems for human intervention have begun for some species.
Seed systems remain an important aspects of improving crop production and is an invaluable component of enhancing the utilization of African indigenous vegetables crops. There is need to identify relevant stakeholders, if any, in seed production, seed markets, quality management and regulation, as well as determine optimum seed management conditions for the benefit of the producers and consumers. Under Dutch funding from NWO/WOTRO, we conducted research on a gender responsive commercial seed system for African indigenous vegetables. This was in partnership with Hanze University of Applied Sciences and CHAIN Uganda. Further, the crop improvement programs at the Department of Agriculture continue to conduct research and develop seed systems for lesser known indigenous known indigenous vegetables such as Solanum scabrum and Solanum villosum, Vigna spp. Amranthus spp and Hibiscuss spp.
UCU currently hosts the Afri-Sol network (ww.Afri-Sol.org) which is a network of scientists and other stakeholders with interest in Solanaceae species in Africa. Afri-Sol is affiliated to the Sol Genomics Network (ww.solgenomics.net). We have published denovo genome of Solanum aethiopicum in conjunction with the African Orphan Crops Consortium. The data will be added in the global genomics and later used in molecular breeding programs. S. aethiopicum is an important vegetable widely cultivated and utilized in most African countries. We also assembling the transcriptome of S. aethiopicum in order to understand different functional pathways utilized by the plant during various processes. Other research interests include improving S. aethiopicum production efficiency for small holder farmers targeting drought stress and disease resistance. The latter work is in collaboration with the World Vegetable Center, National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB) and World Agroforestry Center and funded by BBSRC/GCRE, UK. Beyond that, we are developing S. aethiopicum varieties so far we have submitted some lines for variety registration and release in Uganda. Other areas of research interest include drought tolerance and post-harvest loss management.