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A training workshop on the detection of cassava viruses using Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) and symptoms has been held at the premises of the CSIR-Crops Research Institute. The three-day workshop which commenced on the 5th and ended on the 7th of April, 2022 drew participants from the Plant Protection and Regulatory Services Department (PPRSD) of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA), the Biotechnology and Nuclear Agriculture Research Institute (BNARI), Accra, the University of Energy and Natural Resources (UNER) Sunyani, the CSIR-PGRRI as well as the CSIR-CRI.

The hands-on practical training workshop was aimed at introducing participants to the use of symptoms and molecular tools, particularly, PCR, for the detection of the Cassava Mosaic Viruses (CMV) that are known to cause the Cassava Mosaic Virus disease.

Dr. Allen Oppong, Ghana Leader of the WAVE project, explaining a point to participants on the field

In his opening remarks on the first day, the Director of CSIR-CRI, Prof. Moses Brandford Mochiah, welcomed the participants to the Institute and entreated them to derive maximum benefits from the training as it would go a long way to help curb the effects of CMVs on cassava. He stressed on the importance of cassava as a leading root and tuber crop in Ghana, accounting for 21% of the country’s Agricultural Gross Domestic Products (AGDP) and how the devastating effects of viral diseases have constrained the crop’s production in recent years.

Some participants observing a diseased cassava plant on the field

The workshop is one of several activities under the Central and West African Virus Epidemiology (WAVE) for root and tuber crops project, which seeks to equip and prepare scientists, policy makers and other stakeholders on the need to take pre-emptive steps aimed at protecting citizens from famine caused by viral diseases. The project is being implemented in ten (10) different African countries with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) as well as the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (formerly UKAid) and CORAF and TheBlueDoveFoundation.

The Principal Investigator and the Ghana Leader of the Project, Dr. Allen Oppong, a senior research scientist of the Institute, recounted several achievements chalked by the project and was very hopeful that the workshop would contribute immensely towards the successes achieved so far. “My team and I are excited to train the next generation of scientists in this very important area of the detection of the CMV, and we are very optimistic that participants would have greatly increased their knowledge by the end of this workshop”, he added.

Dr. Ruth Prempeh taking the participants through one of the sessions in the laboratory

Led by WAVE project team member and senior research scientist, Dr. (Mrs.) Ruth N.A. Prempeh, participants were trained on symptom identification, DNA extraction, PCR, and agarose gel electrophoresis .  These comprised activities such as the sampling of leaves for genomic nucleic acid extraction, genomic DNA extraction from cassava using the CTAB method and nucleic acid quantification as well as setting up PCR tests to amplify viral strains that cause the CMV disease. Other activities covered at the training included loading an agarose gel with PCR product, running an agarose gel and viewing it using a UV transilluminator and scoring, using a micropipette, symptom observation and description.

Participants expressed their utmost satisfaction at the end of the training workshop and were very grateful to the WAVE project for the opportunity. “We have been equipped with so much knowledge and hands-on experience and we can’t wait to demonstrate what we’ve learnt in our respective Institutes and on the field”, Mr Robert Appiah, a participant, indicated.

“We pray that the WAVE project continues to receive sponsorships to organize many more of such workshops in the coming years, he added.

Dr. Allen Oppong was grateful to the participants for meticulously going through all the laboratory procedures and indicated that his outfit was ready to extend the training to even more Institution with the required sponsorship.

A participant being presented with his certificate at the end of the training
Dr. Allen Oppong, Ghana Leader of the WAVE Project
Dr. Ruth N.A. Prempeh