School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Maize Youth Innovator Award for UKZN Postdoc

Maize Youth Innovator Award for UKZN Postdoc

Dr Admire Shayanowako, a postdoctoral researcher at UKZN’s African Centre for Crop Improvement working under the supervision of Professors Mark Laing and Hussein Shimelis, received a MAIZE Innovator Youth Award from the CGIAR Research Program on Maize (MAIZE) at a ceremony in Lusaka, Zambia held as part of the Stress Tolerant Maize for Africa (STMA) project meeting.

According to the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), the awards are an initiative of MAIZE in collaboration with Young Professionals for Agricultural Research and Development. They recognise the contributions of young women and men under the age of 35 to innovation in African maize-based agri-food systems, including research for development, seed systems, agribusiness, and sustainable intensification.

In this second-year of the award, Shayanowako was one of five awardees, with the others coming from Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi and Uganda. Awards were made in the categories of Change Agent, Farmer, and Researcher. Shayanowako was recognised in the third category and had the opportunity to present his work at the STMA meeting.

The young, innovative awardees aim to inspire other young people to get involved in maize-based agri-food systems, and join a global network of young innovators in maize-based systems from around the world. This recognition also opens up opportunities for collaboration with MAIZE and its partner scientists in Africa for implementation or further development of their innovations.

Shayanowako graduated with his PhD in Plant Breeding from UKZN at the April graduation ceremonies. His research focused on integrated management of Striga asiatica (L.) Kuntze in maize through resistance breeding and biocontrol.

The parasitic weed Striga limits production and productivity in cereal crops in sub-Saharan Africa, causing massive losses. Shayanowako explored a biological control solution that would be more readily taken up by farmers than available control measures, which are often costly or not sufficiently effective.

His work attracted international interest and collaborations, including an invitation to participate in the Toothpick Project and the identification of quantitative trait loci conditioning Striga resistance in maize using genomic analysis through collaboration with the Biosciences eastern and central Africa – International Livestock Research Institute Hub in Kenya.

Shayanowako has published his research in the International Journal of Pest Management, MaydicaCereal Research Communications and Acta Agriculturae Scandinavica. He presented papers at the 2019 Combined Congress; the 2018 College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science Postgraduate Research and Innovation Symposium; the 12th Southern African Plant Breeding Symposium; and the 26th Asian-Pacific Weed Science Society Conference in Japan. He also received the Joseph Baynes Estate Pty Ltd Award for Agricultural and Environmental Science Innovation for 2018 in recognition of the work done for his PhD.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photograph: J.Bossue/CIMMYT