NextGen Cassava

The NextGen Cassava Breeding Project (NextGen) launched in 2012 with an ambitious mission: to empower smallholder farmers through innovative, sustainable cassava breeding. For 11 years, the NextGen project worked to deliver on that promise.

Through an international, cross-disciplinary project of 13 institutional partners collaborating across eight countries on four continents, the team blended advanced breeding technologies with equally sophisticated approaches to gathering market intelligence to meet the everyday needs of millions growing, processing, cooking and eating cassava— Africa’s second most important food crop. 

Project in a nutshell

Duration: 2012-2023

PI: Ronnie Coffman

Directors: 
Hale Tufan (2012-2016)
Chiedozie Egesi (2016-2023)

Funders:
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office
 

Total funding: $60 million

Pictured: Egesi, Tufan, Coffman

Egesi Tufan and Coffman

Smarter Cassava Breeding

Science doesn’t solve problems if it stays on the shelf. Working far beyond crop breeding, NextGen teams included social scientists, data scientists, food scientists, seed producers, farmers, processors and policymakers. Their combined talents ensured the dividends of NextGen’s work were accessible and in demand.

NextGen Cassava functioned across three divisions:

  • Breeding: To improve cassava populations and breeding pipelines and extensively test improved clones for variety release, the breeding division implemented breeding pipelines at four breeding programs in Africa: the National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI), Umudike, Nigeria; the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan, Nigeria; the National Crops Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI), Namulonge, Uganda; and the Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute (TARI), Ukiriguru, Tanzania. Pre-breeding for traits relevant to Africa and aid in germplasm acquisition was carried out in two other breeding programs in South America: the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa). Other centers, such as the United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) Pacific West and the University of Hawaii at Hilo, played roles as centers for phytosanitary certification and as international nurseries for cassava germplasm transfer in a disease-free environment.

    Breeding Division Leaders: Robert Kawuki, NaCRRI; Peter Kulakow, IITA
     
  • Research: To deliver high-valued varieties rapidly and efficiently, the research division developed and implemented technological advances, answered technology and research questions from breeders, and proposed new technologies breeders might not have considered. The Research Division was comprised of breeders and personnel at the Boyce Thompson Institute, Cornell University, USDA-ARS, Makerere University (Uganda), CIAT, and Embrapa. Research Division activities included: flowering and seed set; breeding scheme optimization; Cassavabase development; genomicprediction and decision analysis support; and bioinformatics for improving prediction accuracies.

    Research Team Leaders: Jean-Luc Jannick, Cornell University; Ismail Rabbi, IITA
     
  • Survey: To develop actionable breeding targets for product profiles that meet diversity and demand, the survey division oversaw country-specific studies on user typologies, associated trait preferences and descriptors, relative and economic weights of traits and large scale on- farm performance evaluation. These studies complemented gender-focused research on evaluating the economic value of gender-responsive breeding, foresight analysis and intrahousehold studies on trait prioritization. Acting like the marketing arm of a private seed company, it translated research from partner project RTBfoods, and conducted additional research to identify traits preferred by farmers for selected product quality.

    Survey Division Leader: Hale Ann Tufan, Cornell University

Impact

An enduring legacy

Pioneering a new model for crop breeding

NextGen experts radically transformed cassava breeding practices across sub-Saharan Africa and beyond. By blending advanced breeding techniques with market intelligence and community engagement, NextGen Cassava pioneered a new model for deploying advanced crop science to solve practical problems. The methods developed by NextGen Cassava now serve as a model for other crops, as the approach works faster and smarter to produce better varieties. Read the NextGen Cassava Impact Report to learn more.

impact report cover with backlit cassava plant

Development and deployment of cassava varieties in record time

By embracing an array of breeding innovations to reduce the time previously required to complete a breeding cycle from ten to just two years, NextGen developed improved varieties more rapidly. NextGen varieties were developed specifically in response to farmer demands and to help them take advantage of specific market opportunities. This created a strong foundation for African farmers to realize the potential of cassava as a reliable and sustainable source of food and income.

Varieties developed by the project include:

  • Organizations:
    International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)
    National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI)
  • Breeders:  Peter Kulakow, Alfred Dixon, Ismail Rabbi, Elizabeth Parkes, Damian Njoku and Chiedozie Egesi
  • Collaborators: Busie Maziya-Dixon, Bela Teeken, Tessy Madu, Ugo Chijioke
  • Pest/Disease Tolerance: Resistant to cassava mosaic disease (CMD), resistant to cassava anthracnose disease (CAD); resistant to cassava mealybug (CM); moderately resistant to cassava bacterial blight (CBB), tolerant to cassava green mite (CGM).
  • Organizations:
    International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)
    National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI)
  • Breeders: Peter Kulakow, Alfred Dixon, Ismail Rabbi, Elizabeth Parkes, Njoku Damian and Chiedozie N. Egesi
  • Collaborators: Busie Maziya-Dixon, Bela Teeken, Tessy Madu, Ugo Chijioke
  • Pest/Disease Tolerance: Resistant to cassava mosaic disease (CMD), resistant to cassava anthracnose disease (CAD); resistant to cassava mealybug (CM); moderately resistant to cassava bacterial blight (CBB), tolerant to cassava green mite (CGM).
  • Organizations:
    National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI)
    International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)
  • Breeders: Chiedozie Egesi, Damian Njoku, Lydia Jiwuba, Ismail Rabbi and Elizabeth Parkes
  • Collaborators: Joseph Onyeka, Tessy Madu, Ugo Chijioke, Bela Teeken
  • Pest/Disease Tolerance: Resistant to cassava mosaic disease (CMD), resistant to cassava anthracnose disease (CAD); resistant to cassava mealybug (CM); moderately resistant to cassava bacterial blight (CBB), tolerant to cassava green mite (CGM)
  • Organization:
    International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)
  • Breeders: Chiedozie Egesi, Peter Kulakow, Damian Njoku, Ismail Rabbi, Elizabeth Parkes, Charles Amadi, Mercy Diebiru-Ojo, and Alfred Dixon
  • Collaborators: Maria Okoro, Joseph Onyeka, Busie Maziya-Dixon
  • Pest/Disease Tolerance: Resistant to cassava anthracnose disease (CAD), resistant to cassava mealybug (CM), moderately resistant to cassava bacterial blight (CBB), resistant to cassava mosaic disease (CMD), tolerant to cassava green mite (CGM)
  • Organization:
    International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)
    National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI)
  • Breeders: Peter Kulakow, Alfred Dixon, Ismail Rabbi, Elizabeth Parkes, Damian Njoku and Chiedozie Egesi
  • Collaborators: Busie Maziya-Dixon, Bela Teeken, Tessy Madu, Ugo Chijioke
  • Pest/Disease Tolerance: Resistant to cassava mosaic disease (CMD), resistant to cassava anthracnose disease (CAD); resistant to cassava mealybug (CM); moderately resistant to cassava bacterial blight (CBB), tolerant to cassava green mite (CGM).

Global Network for Cassava Innovation

NextGen built a balanced, inclusive global partnership that valued diverse research domains. The result: the development in record time of some of the best cassava varieties the world has ever seen and their rapid embrace in the field and market.

Our partners around the globe included:

  • International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) - Nigeria
  • National Crops Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI) - Uganda
  • West African Center for Crop Improvement  (WACCI) - Ghana
  • National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI) - Nigeria
  • Makerere University - Uganda
  • Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute (TARI) - Tanzania
  • Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA) - Brazil
  • International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) - Colombia
  • Liebniz Institute (DSMZ) - Germany
  • Cornell University - USA
  • Boyce Thompson Institute (BTI) - USA
  • University of Hawaii - USA
  • Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA-ARS) - USA
  • Ronnie Coffman, principal investigator (2012-2023)
  • Hale Tufan, project director, (2012-2016)
  • Chiedozie Egesi, project director, (2016-2023)
  • Canaan Boyer, program manager, Cornell University (2016-2023)
  • Maria Andrade, International Potato Center, Mozambique
  • Ben Hayes, The University of Queensland, Australia
  • Carlos Iglesias, North Carolina State University, USA
  • David Meyer, Corteva, USA (retired)
  • Steve Rounsley, Inari Agriculture, USA

Next Generation Scientists

With support from NextGen, dozens of young people have turned their passions into career pathways that are building capacity in Africa’s agriculture breeding programs. NextGen Fellows have obtained advanced degrees from Cornell University, the West African Center for Crop Improvement (WACCI, a partnership between the University of Ghana and Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences), Makerere University Regional Centre for Crop Improvement in Uganda, and others.

  • Simon Peter Abah, Nigeria, Ph.D., West African Center for Crop Improvement
  • Olumide Alabi, Nigeria, Ph.D., West African Center for Crop Improvement
  • Chinedozi Amaefule, Nigeria, Ph.D., Cornell University
  • Esther Amuge, Uganda, MSc, Makerere University Regional Centre for Crop Improvement
  • Chukwuka Ano, Nigeria, MSc, Makerere University Regional Centre for Crop Improvement
  • Moshood Bakare, Nigeria, Ph.D., Cornell University
  • Ireti Balogun, Nigeria, Ph.D., University of Otago
  • Ariel Chan, USA, Ph.D., Cornell University
  • Mercy Diebiru-Ojo, Nigeria, Ph.D., West African Center for Crop Improvement
  • Lydia Ezenwaka, Nigeria, Ph.D., West African Center for Crop Improvement
  • Francisca Gwandu, Tanzania, MSc, Makerere University Regional Centre for Crop Improvement
  • Ugochukwu Ikeogu, Nigeria, Ph.D., Cornell University
  • Paula Iragaba, Uganda, Ph.D., Cornell University
  • Ismail Kayondo, Uganda, Ph.D., West African Center for Crop Improvement
  • Roberto Lozano, Peru, Ph.D., Cornell University
  • Wilifred Magangi, Kenya, MSc, Makerere University Regional Centre for Crop Improvement
  • Francis Manze, Uganda, MSc, Makerere University Regional Centre for Crop Improvement
  • Joseph Mbe, Nigeria, Ph.D., West African Center for Crop Improvement
  • Emmanuel Mrema, Tanzania,  MSc, Makerere University Regional Centre for Crop Improvement and Ph.D., West African Center for Crop Improvement
  • Yasmin Musa, South Sudan, MSc, Makerere University Regional Centre for Crop Improvement
  • Leah Nandudu, Uganda, Ph.D., Cornell University
  • Ann Ritah Nanyonjo, Uganda, MSc, Makerere University Regional Centre for Crop Improvement
  • Severin Ntivuguruzwa, Rwanda, MSc, Makerere University Regional Centre for Crop Improvement
  • Uche Okeke, Nigeria, Ph.D., Cornell University
  • Adhiambo Okul, Kenya, MSc, Makerere University Regional Centre for Crop Improvement
  • Queen Okwu, Nigeria, Ph.D., West African Center for Crop Improvement
  • Deborah Oluwasanya, Nigeria, Ph.D., ornell University
  • Mikidadi Omari, Tanzania, MSc, and Ph.D., Makerere University Regional Centre for Crop Improvement
  • Durodola Owoade, Nigeria, MSc, University of Ibadan
  • Alfred Ozimati, Uganda, Ph.D., Cornell University
  • Karoline Sichalwe, Tanzania, Ph.D., Makerere University Regional Centre for Crop Improvement
  • Kelechi Uchendu, Nigeria, Ph.D., West African Center for Crop Improvement
  • Acquilino Wani, South Sudan, MSc, Makerere University Regional Centre for Crop Improvement