Pioneering research from the Centre for Tropical Livestock Genetics and Health (CTLGH) and its strategic partners to help support the development of more productive, profitable and sustainable small-holder poultry systems in sub-Saharan Africa has been highlighted at a recent event.
The major outputs from the Poultry Genomics programme of the Centre and other related research was highlighted at the event ‘Tropical poultry production: research towards sustainable systems’. The online event attracted over 200 registrations from researchers, breeders, government agencies and other stakeholders from around the globe, including 21 different African countries, Pakistan, Europe, Australia and the USA.
You can watch a recording of the event at the bottom of this page.
CTLGH is a strategic partnership between the Roslin Institute, Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). The aim of the event was to share the knowledge, innovations and genomic tools generated by its researchers over the last five years in order to help provide relevant and practical solutions for tropical smallholder poultry farmers.
Enhancing Tropical Smallholder Poultry Systems
At the event, Tadelle Dessie, Director of African Chicken Genetic Gains (ACGG) programme, a major partner of CTLGH, explained that by boosting the productivity of village poultry systems, the income, nutrition and employment opportunities for small holder farmers, the majority of whom are women, would also be improved.
When ACGG surveyed smallholder poultry farmers from multiple African countries, results showed that farmers desire birds with a high survival rate, that grow bigger and faster and lay more eggs. Village producers also have a strong preference for coloured birds, with good scavenging ability and that are resilient to disease. The survey also showed however that farmer preferences vary across the continent, as does the productivity levels of different breeds – mainly due to the different environmental conditions and disease challenges the birds face.
The partnership between CTLGH and ACGG is key to improve a variety of breeds and ecotypes that smallholder farmers across sub-Saharan Africa can choose from that will be both productive and resilient in the specific environment in which they are reared and fulfil the preferences of the individual farmer.
CTLGH Research Advances
Nutrition undoubtedly plays a major part in the productivity and health of birds. CTLGH researchers have found that suboptimal nutrition of chickens raised in (semi) scavenging conditions in villages has a negative effect on both the productivity and the ability of the bird to resist endemic enteric disease. Dr Nick Sparks from SRUC reported that the findings of this research, conducted at ILRI’s poultry research unit in Ethiopia, have identified more productive birds as being at greater risk. The work is now being extended to dual-purpose and indigenous birds.
CTLGH researchers and partners have also identified several key health and productivity traits in indigenous Ethiopian chickens raised under scavenging conditions. Dr Androniki Psifidi from the Roslin Institute and the Royal Veterinary College explained that the findings of this work suggest that genetic selection to improve these traits is feasible and could have huge implications for improving the health, productivity and resilience of indigenous poultry in Ethiopia in the future. Read more here
Research funded by the Centre has also advanced understanding about how indigenous African poultry populations have adapted to their environment in order to survive harsh tropical climate and scavenging conditions. CTLGH researcher Dr Almas Gheyas from the Roslin Institute described how, by using a novel approach of integrating ecological niche modelling with genomics, key environmental drivers of adaptation have been identified followed by finding their genomic association. This will help improve the tropical adaptability of dual purpose breeds for smallholder poultry farmers in the future. Read more here
Researchers from CTLGH have also developed technology that enables beneficial genes to be transferred from one breed of chicken into another using sire dam surrogate mating. Dr Mike McGrew from the Roslin Institute explained how this technology can also play a vital part in the ex-situ conservation of DNA from African chicken breeds and help safeguard genetic diversity of indigenous poultry in the future. Read more here
Other Research Advances
The seminar also highlighted exciting new advances in poultry research being conducted by CTLGH’s strategic partners and collaborators that will help underpin future research in tropical poultry production.
Researchers have developed a mini-gut model to aid chicken gut health research. Professor Lonneke Vervelde from the Roslin Institute explained how these inside–out organoids will support future studies to compare the inherent gut health of commercial hybrid birds and indigenous birds. By learning more about the effect of different nutrition, pathogens and heat stress on gut health and function, improved indigenous poultry populations can be bred. Read more here
Edible vaccines for chickens that could be mixed into feed may also be a very real possibility in the future. A study led by Dr Kate Sutton from Roslin Institute have identified a novel oil formulation for vaccine delivery via the oral route that has proved successful in inducing a significant immune response to model antigens in chickens. The group are now looking to incorporate two potential Eimeria antigens to develop a potential vaccine against this major parasitic threat in chickens. Edible vaccines are particularly attractive for tropical poultry and smallholder systems that lack the cold chain resources required to transport and store existing chicken vaccines.
Professor Appolinaire Djikeng, Director of CTLGH is excited for the future of the Centre and poultry genomics research. He commented:
“This event highlighted just some of the new knowledge, innovations and genomic tools and resources created by CTLGH researchers and its partners. Together, with the help of our partners in farmer facing organisations, these outputs will with help increase the productivity and resilience of smallholder poultry systems in Africa.”
The event was organised by Professor Georgios Banos, CTLGH Project leader based at SRUC and Professor Olivier Hanotte, CTLGH Poultry Genomics Research Programme leader based at ILRI. It was funded by a Global Impact Accelerator Award from the University of Edinburgh, as part of its annual Scottish Funding Council – Global Challenges Research Fund (SFC-GCRF) allocation, and builds on CTLGH’s current capacity building and knowledge exchange activities in Africa.
**CTLGH receives funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), the UK Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), the UK Biotechnology and Biological Science Research Council (BBSRC) and Jersey Overseas Aid (JOA)**