By: Beth Ann Luedeker

Three cotton researchers from throughout Africa have teamed up with Texas A&M Soil and Crop Sciences professors as part of the Borlaug International Agricultural Science and Technology Fellowship Program.

Adama Ouattrata, Gapili Naoura and Larbouga Bourgou
Three Borlaug Fellows working with faculty from the Soil and Crop Sciences Department to share knowlege about cotton breeding. From left to right are: Adama Ouattrata, Dr. Gapili Naoura and Dr. Larbouga Bourgou.

Dr. Gapili Naoura, Adama Ouattrata and Dr. Larbouga Bourgou will be working with Drs. Jane Dever, Jake Mowrer and David Stelly in College Station and Lubbock until they return to their home countries in late November.

The Aggie professors will each make a reciprocal visit to the home country of the Fellow with whom they are working to see how they are using practices and technologies learned while in Texas.

Funded through the USDA - Foreign Agriculture Service, the Fellows program is designed to promote food security and economic growth in developing and middle-income countries by providing training and collaborative research opportunities.

Fellows are selected based on a variety of criteria, including their academic and professional research interests, level of scientific competence, aptitude for research, leadership potential and the likelihood of bringing new ideas back to their home institution.

Dr. Naoura working in lab
Dr. Naoura works with Master’s student Kubra Velioglu in Dr. Stelly's cotton breeding lab

Dr. Bourgou is a cotton breeder from Burkina Faso in western Africa, one of the highest cotton production countries in Africa. He works in cotton variety development, focused on earlier generation of seed multiplication for cotton companies there.

“I first met Dr. Bourgou during a visit to Burkina Faso in 2015 as a technical advisor to a USDA-FAS funded development project, “Revenue thorugh Cotton Livelihood, Trade and Equity” (RECOLTE),” and was impressed with his passion for cotton breeding and enhancing genetic diversity in breeding populations for western Africa,” said Dever, a Professor at the TAMU AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Lubbock.

“I am delighted to be hosting him and working together to develop breeding gene pool populations to select new high quality cotton varieties adapted to African growing conditions,” Dever said.

Bourgou has personally assembled 350 locally collected accessions to conserve and rejuvenate genetic resources, and through the fellowship he will continue to characterize those accessions and evaluate how to best utilize them for cotton improvement.

Dr. Naoura is from Chad, a country in north-central Africa. He was a sorghum breeder until about two years ago, when he began working with cotton. He is now working to develop cotton varieties suited to production in Chad.

Robert Vaughn places liquid in test tube with others looking on
Drs. Naoura and Bourgou observe Research Associate Dr. Robert Vaughn in Dr. Stelly's cotton breeding lab.

“We are trying to share knowledge about germplasm, germplasm resources, relatively cost-effective DNA extraction methods, hands-on experience with PCR-based SNP genotyping and more, all in the context of breeding,” said Stelly, a professor and cotton breeder in College Station.

“A part of the discussion is how SNP genotyping can be useful in Gapili’s breeding program and possibly adapted to other Chad crop programs,” he said.

Adama Ouattara is also from Burkina Faso, where he is a cotton production scientist.

He and Dr. Mowrer are studying the effect of potassium nutrition on water stress resistance in cotton. They have designed a greenhouse study to evaluate the effect of potassium fertilization on early plant growth under repeated cycles of imposed water stress.

“Our visitors are impressive and eager to learn more, which makes our job for training fun and relatively easy,” said Stelly. “Clearly the screening system that is used to identify trainees is very, very good.”