Illumina, Inc. announced that the African Orphan Crops Consortium (AOCC) is the 2015 recipient of the Agricultural Greater Good Initiative grant. African Orphan Crops Consortium plans to use the grant of Illumina reagents and consumables to further its work studying the genetic diversity of 100 different species of African crops, particularly those grown by subsistence farmers. The grant program is designed to help identify measures that can increase crop yields and improve livestock welfare and productivity to alleviate poverty and hunger in the developing world.

The AOCC is a collaboration between the African Union – New Partnership for Africa’s Development, Mars, Incorporated, University of California, Davis, and a host of other private and not-for-profit partners. Crop species to be sequenced are commonly grown in backyards and small plots, making them critical nutritional staples to populations across Africa. The goal of the consortium is to use the sequences of crops to develop breeding programs and other methods of improving farming practices to increase crop yields and nutrition.

“We are very excited to receive this prestigious award. The Agricultural Greater Good Initiative is a perfect complement to the AOCC. With the award, we will sequence the transcriptomes for 50 species of African orphan crops to define the genes expressed in these species. All the work will be carried out in Africa,” said Allen Van Deynze, Director of Research at UC Davis and member of the Steering Committee for AOCC. “Our goal is to curb stunting due to malnutrition, an epidemic affecting 35 to 40 percent of Africans, by training breeders and improving crops important nutritionally to African diets.”

“Illumina is proud to advance food security in Africa through this Agricultural Greater Good Initiative grant and to provide AOCC researchers with the tools and technologies necessary to improve agricultural practices in Africa,” said Kirk Malloy, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Life Sciences at Illumina. “By unlocking the power of the genome, Illumina is enabling our collaborators to improve human health and well-being for those most in need.”

The Illumina Agricultural Greater Good Initiative grants, launched in 2011, are awarded annually at the Plant and Animal Genome Conference. The program spurs critically needed research that will increase the sustainability, productivity, and nutritional density of agriculturally important crop and livestock species. Grant recipients receive donations of Illumina products to support their projects.

For more information about Illumina products for agrigenomics, visit: www.illumina.com/agrigenomics.