Genetic Engineering of Maize for Drought Tolerance In Eastern And Central Africa
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Maize, the most important staple food crop in East and Central Africa (ECA), is affected by drought – the single most important abiotic factor responsible for up to 70% maize loss. In the year 2008, a project funded to a tune of USD350, 000 by USAID through ASARECA was initiated. The objective of the project was to develop and avail drought tolerant engineered maize genotypes adapted to ECA. This was done using genetic engineering approaches of gene up-regulation, under-regulation (silencing) and drought inducible expression of candidate genes. To date 15 tropical maize genotypes have successfully been transformed with drought conferring genes; Annexinp35, Annat1, NHX1, XvPrx2, XvSAP1, IPT, CBF 1, amiRNA1 and amiRNA3 . The maize genotypes developed using these genetic engineering technologies are being advanced and evaluated in the glass house at Kenyatta University in preparation for drought stress experiments and field trials. The genetically engineered maize lines are: one Ethiopian open pollinated variety (OPV), one temperate line, eight Sudanese genotypes , one Tanzanian OPV and five CIMMYT inbred lines. The research products ready for uptake and utilization are the base sequence of a drought tolerance gene that has been isolated and cloned and optimized protocols for regeneration of maize germplasm adapted to ECA. Seventeen partners from around the globe have been identified and are playing different roles and responsibilities in the development of drought tolerant transgenic maize. Scientists from ECA region are being trained on genetic engineering at MSc. and PhD. Level. To avail drought tolerant engineered maize genotypes to farmers in ECA region more studies involving the generated maize lines are critical and this will be done by building synergies for up-scaling the utilization of findings of this research.