ICGEB UNOSSC EMPOWER Fellow, Ruvarashe Mhuruyengwe (from Zimbabwe) with colleague in South Africa harvesting Sorghum samples.

What is the Sorghum microbiome project?

The Sorghum microbiome is a collaborative project with ICGEB Scientific Coordinator, Vittorio Venturi’s Bacteriology Group in Trieste, Italy and Lara Donaldson’s Plant Systems Biology Group in Cape Town, South Africa

With collaborators across Africa, the team in Cape Town has trained two short-term Fellows: Ms. Ruvarashe Mhuruyengwe (from Zimbabwe) and Dr. Valter Nuaila (from Mozambique). These fellowships, offered under calls with partners at UNOSSC (Empower) and the UN Technology Bank and UNESCO/TWAS (PACTS), have led to further training, with Ms. Mhuruyengwe returning to ICGEB on an Arturo Falaschi Fellowship to do her PhD, and Dr. Valter Nuaila receiving an ICGEB CRP Grant to continue collaborative work. Ms. Bianca Delport has also joined the project as a PhD student through the ICGEB South African Women in Biotechnology Programme (SAWBP). The project also involves collaboration between the ICGEB labs and Associate Professor Steven Runo at Kenyatta University, Kenya (a former ICGEB CRP holder).

Other collaborators include Dr. Joseph Mulema at CABI, Kenya and Dr. Charles Mutengwa at the University of Fort Hare, South Africa (an ICGEB HDI CRP holder) and Dr Lisa Rothmann at the University of Free State (UFS), South Africa. “This year we have received almost 300 samples from Dr. Runo in Kenya and harvested almost 300 samples from around South Africa (Eastern Cape, Free State, Kwa Zulu Natal, Mpumalanga, and Limpopo provinces) and we are still expecting to receive some more samples from the North West.” Confirms Dr. Lara Donaldson. “We are hoping that we will be able to work together with researchers on this project to access these lines in future.”

The plan is to continue to expand the project and collect more samples in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique in the next season and to continue to grow our collaborative network across the continent.