Agricultural Biotechnology Research

Biotechnology, can be defined as “any technique that uses living organisms, or substances from those organisms, to make or modify a product, to improve plants or animals, or to develop micro-organisms for specific uses.” It plays a very important role in agriculture because of its ability to modify plants, microorganisms, animals, and agricultural processes. In agriculture, biotechnology has found its applications in cell and tissue culture for disease cleaning and rapid propagation of plant species; in characterization of biological diversity at molecular level to identify and clone genes of economic significance; in marker development for enhanced breeding in animal and plant improvement using genomic information and using bioinformatics tools; in diagnostics for detecting plant and animal diseases and other pests using antibodies and nucleic acid probes; in gene cloning and identification for promoting or introgressing noble genes and traits in modern cultivars and breeds; and in genetic engineering of plant species, to introduce new traits and in aiding conventional plant breeding programs using molecular markers and other diverse techniques and tools. Thus, the biological techniques display unlimited potential to exploit the rich genetic diversity of the country.

The national biotechnology has launched the research directories that catalogues research activities to be conducted in the fiscal year of 2008. Accordingly, there are 24 activities on plant biotechnology case team, 9 activities on Microbial biotechnology and 16 activities on Animal Biotechnology at the National Agricultural Biotechnology Research center. Similarly there are 3 at Debre Zeit, 8 activities at Jimma and 8 activities at Melkassa Agricultural Research Centers. In total 68 activities or studies are being conducted at the four centers in 2008 budget year. Nationally, these all activities will be coordinated by National Agricultural Biotechnology Research Directorates and few other Regional Research Institute and Universities .

Plant Biotechnology Research 

Tissue culture applications

  • Tissue culture (in vitro)micropropagtion protocol has been optimized for several economically important food, industrial, spice and medicinal crop varieties. Most of these belong to the horticultural crops (Potato, Enset, Sweet potato, Geranium, Apple, Plum, Rosad amacena, 

Peach, Sugar cane, Aloe vera, Aloe debrana, Bamboo, Aloysia triphylla, Plum, Coffee, Anchote, Ethiopian dinich, Pineapple, Vanilla, Endod, Stevia, grapevine, Banana etc)

  •  Other tissue culture (TC) works include obtaining disease free high quality planting materials which will be disseminated to end users. Crop production was subject to huge loses before the introdution of tissue culture that enabled cleaned high quality planting material production for many of the commercial crops such as potato, sweet potato, apple, pineapple, coffee, and banana. 
  • Double haploid production protocol development to speed up conventional breeding system in crops like (Brassica, Barley, Wheat, Teff).
  •  An efficient in vitro screening of crop varieties for biotic and abiotic stress resistances such as in coffee and potato.
  •  Develop TC genetic transformation protocol for selected crops including (Enset and Maize).

 

Molecular technology application for selected 

crops

  • Molecular based characterization of selected crops for diversity analysis (Enset, Noug, Coffee, Barley, Field pea, wheat, Tef, Capsicum, Banana)
  • Mapping of QTLs associated with Biotic and abiotic stresses for selected crops (Wheat, Sorghum, Barley)
  •  Marker assisted selection to speed up conventional breeding system (Wheat and Maize)

Application of molecular tools for the diagnosis and indexing of major plant diseases 

  •  Molecular and serological diagnostic tools development for economically important viruses infecting elite crops (potato, sweet potato, taro, garlic)
  •  Assessment of GM Crops:GM crops assessment using quick detection kits and PCR (Cotton, Soya bean) 
  • Adoption and development of GM crops: Adoption of selected GM crops (Bt-Cotton)

 

Key outputs 

  •  Tissue culture (TC) protocols developed for elite crop varieties (Potato, Enset, Sweet potato, Geranium, Rosa damacena, Peach, Cassava, Pineapple, Aloe vera, Aloe debrana, Cardamom, Korarima, Stevia, Vanilla, Endod, Artemisia, Temir, Sugarcane, Lowland Bamboo, Apple, sugarcane (9 varieties), grape vine, Plum)
  • More than 0.5 million disease free planting materials disseminated to end users for crops like potato, sweet potato, apple, pineapple and banana.
  • Double haploid protocol developed for Brassica and Noug
  •  Molecular based characterization of selected crops for diversity analysis in enset, field pea, coffee, wheat, barley and noug.
  • Mapping of QTLs associated with drought tolerance (sorghum)
  •  Molecular and serological diagnostic detected for economically important virus infecting such crops like enset, cassava, potato, sweet potato, taro, garlic and others.
  • Report on GM Crops from fields and food samples from supermarkets were analyzed using quick detection kits & PCR methods
  • TC labs established at various centers and trained TC researchers from the different regions (OARI, SARI & ARARI).

 

Microbial Biotechnology Research 

Focus areas

1. Food Microbial Research 

  •  4 different studies on the development and promotion of probiotic Lactic Acid Bacteria (LAB) and Yeast starter cultures for dairy (cow and camel milk) and food fermentation. (4 Activates) 
  • Production and characterization of microbial extremophilic enzymes for food processing and utilization. 

Achievements

  • 450 lactic acid bacteria isolates were collected from 9 milk samples and screened for starter function of which 250 isolates fulfilling the starter function were selected and their probiotic and molecular study is underway 
  • 150 Yeasts were isolated and being tested for their probiotic starter function 
  •  2 Microbial enzymes (Amylase and Protease) were produced by Bacillus species which were characterized on cultural, biochemical and physiological characteristics 

 

2. Feed Microbial Research 

  •  Improvement of nutrient quality and digestibility of fibrous feed by developing fiber degrading rumen microbes. 
  •  Improvement of nutrient composition and digestibility of lignified crop residues using white rot fungi

Achievements: 

  • The 27 chemicals required for culturing rumen bacteria are collected and being tested
  • Xylanase enzyme that hydrolyze the semi-cellulose part of grasses/feeds was isolated from white root fungi. It will be tested for its effect on improving nutrient quality and digestibility feeds. 

3. Agro-Industrial Waste Utilization Microbial Research 

  •  Production and Characterization of Microbial Enzymes to enhance the delignification of wood chips. 
  • Production of Single Cell Proteins (SCP) from Agro-Industrial Wastes using Yeasts

Achievements:

  •  Laccase enzyme that degrade the lignin part of woodchips was isolated from a white rot fungi.
  •  150 yeast isolates were collected from fermented Enset (Kocho) which will be evaluated for their potential to produce SCP.

 

Animal Biotechnology

Animal Biotechnology research has been commenced at Debre Zeit and Holetta Agricultural Research Centers in 2005. Various research activities have been undertaken in dairy cattle reproductive biotechnology such as; multiple ovulation and embryo transfer, estrus and ovulation synchronization, animal health biotechnology and molecular breeding and genetics.

 

Animal Biotechnology Research

  • Reproductive Biotechnology Research
  • Animal Health Biotechnology Research
  •  Molecular Genetics and Breeding Research

Current engagements

1. Reproductive Biotechnology Research 

Activities:-

  • Improvement of Productivity of Local Cattle Using Reproductive Biotechnology Tools (AI, Sexed Semen, Estrus synchronization,)
  •  Study of super ovulatory response, embryo quality and frozen thawed survivability of in vivo produced Boran (Bos indicus) cattle embryos in Ethiopia.
  • Development of business model for commercial embryo production and transfer for dairy 
  •  cattle genetic improvement and multiplication.
  • Multiplication of Boran cattle for future genetic improvement
  • Multiplication of High grade dairy cattle by MOET technology for future genetic improvement.

Achievements:-

  •  Two synchronization protocols were tested and more than 3000 local and crossbred dairy cows treated for synchronization in Welmera and Adea berga districts.
  • Various trainings given on multiple ovulation and embryo transfer and dairy animal were born in research centers using MOET Technology.
  •  Sexed semen was tested at center level.

2. Animal Health Biotechnology 

  • Identification and molecular characterization of major Mastitis causing pathogens in cattle.
  •  Identification and Molecular characterization of Major Infectious Causes of dairy cattle Reproductive disorder.
  •  Detection and Characterization of Bovine Rotavirus in diarrheic diary calves.
  •  Identification and characterization of major diarrhea causing pathogens in calves for development of Multiplex PCR panels.
  •  Comparative analysis of the expression of TLR2 and TLR4 in healthy and infected mammary tissues with E. coli, and S. aureus.
  • Molecular detection of Antimicrobial resistance of Staphylococcus spp. from bovine mastitis
  •  Molecular detection of antimicrobial resistance genes in E. coli isolated from market meat in Ethiopia.

Molecular Genetics and Breeding 

  •  Polymorphism of genes and microsatellite DNA markers associated with reproductive traits in dairy cattle breeds kept in Ethiopia.
  •  Identification of polymorphism at genes and microsatellite DNA marker loci and association with growth and reproductive traits in Sheep breeds. 
  •  Assessment of genetic origin, population structure and relationships between major Ethiopian cattle populations using molecular markers.
  •  Study of super ovulatory response, embryo quality and frozen thawed survivability of in vivo produced Boran (Bos indicus) cattle embryos in Ethiopia.
  • Improvement of Productivity of Local Cattle Using Reproductive Biotechnology Tools.
  •  Development of business model for commercial embryo production and transfer for dairy cattle genetic improvement and multiplication.
  • Multiplication of Boran cattle for future genetic improvement.
  • Multiplication of High grade dairy cattle by MOET technology for future genetic improvement.
  • Identification and Molecular characterization of Major Infectious Causes of dairy cattle Reproductive disorder in North and West Shoa.
  •  PCR Based Diagnosis of coccidiosis in broilers.
  • Detection and Characterization of Bovine Rotavirus in diarrheic diary calves. 
  • Identification and characterization of major diarrhea causing pathogens in calves for development of Multiplex PCR panels.
  •  Identification and characterization of major Mastitis causing pathogens in cattle.
  • Comparative analysis of the expression of TLR2 and TLR4 in healthy and infected mammary tissues with E. coli, and S. aureus.
  • Molecular detection of Antimicrobial resistance of Staphylococcus spp. from bovine mastitis.
  • Molecular detection of antimicrobial resistance genes in E. coli isolated from market meat in Ethiopia.
  • Study on the polymorphism of genes and microsatellite DNA markers and their relationship with reproductive traits in dairy cattle breeds kept in Ethiopia. 
  • Identification of polymorphism at genes and microsatellite DNA marker loci and association with growth and reproductive traits in Sheep breeds kept in Ethiopia. 
  •  Assessment genetic origin, population structure and relationships between major Ethiopian cattle populations using molecular markers.