Illumina has selected the African Orphan Crops Consortium (AOCC) as the recipient of its 2015 Agricultural Greater Good Initiative award. The award, granted annually at the International Plant & Animal Genome Conference, spurs critically needed research aimed at improving sustainability, productivity, and nutritional density in crop and livestock species important to impoverished and malnourished populations around the world.
AOCC studies genetic diversity in 100 species of crops commonly grown in backyards and on small plots by populations across Africa. Using their grant of Illumina products, the organization will sequence transcriptomes of 50 crops and use new information about their genetic diversity to develop breeding tools and training programs aimed at increasing crop yields and ultimately improving nutrition for subsistence farmers.
The Agricultural Greater Good Initiative, launched in 2011, is an Illumina program focused on the role genomics can play in addressing global hunger. When Mike Thompson, Associate Director for Market Development at Illumina, realized that the Illumina genomics tools being used in the agricultural market could be applied to help address malnutrition in the developing world, he engaged Illumina colleagues in developing the framework for the program.
“Nutrition is fundamental to human health,” said Thompson. “Agrigenomics illustrates that improving health through genomics is broader than clinical applications in cancer, reproductive health, and genetic disease. This program demonstrates the impact that Illumina technologies can have improving food security for those most in need.”
Past award recipients have included government agencies, NGOs, and individual researchers studying a range of crops and livestock species that are agriculturally important to populations in the developing world. Notable past projects have included a program to create breeding tools and training programs for rice growers led by the International Rice Research Institute, and a USDA-led effort leveraging the International Goat Genome Consortium array, which identified traits associated with goat heartiness in dry climates to improve breeding programs in Africa, the Middle East, and India.