A new rain shelter for tea research in Southern Africa

Posted on May 03, 2011

Droughts occur periodically in all parts of the world with catastrophic consequences to agricultural production. Hence, the development of drought tolerant cultivars for all crops is an ongoing challenge for plant breeders. Rain shelters are mobile sheds that can be moved over experimental plots to control rainfall on plants and create on-demand droughts for research and development of prospective drought-tolerant cultivars. Currently, three such rain shelters are situated on the University’s Hatfield experimental farm.

The collaboration between UP and the Tea Research Foundation of Central Africa (TRFCA) in Malawi, identified the need for a rain shelter in Malawi in 2008. Dr Kumwenda and Dr Nyirenda from the TRFCA, Prof Zeno Apostolides (Department of Biochemistry) and Mr Nick Mphangwe, a PhD student from Malawi, developed the specifications for the rain shelter. Prof Jane Morris and Ms Ellen Nyakunu from the African Centre for Gene Technologies wrote a successful grant application to the European Union ¯ Secretariat of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP Secretariat) – Science and Technology Programme for this rain shelter in 2009.

The shelter will be situated at the TRFCA in Mulanje, Malawi. This facility will be primarily for demonstration purposes, to showcase the drought-tolerant cultivars of tea (Camellia sinensis) developed at the TRFCA and for other crops that are important in the region. Data collected from the facility will also be used in the PhD research of Mr Mphangwe and other postgraduate students working on molecular markers for drought tolerance in tea.

SABINA (Southern African Biochemistry and Informatics for Natural Products) is funded by the Carnegie Corporation as a Regional Initiative in Science and Education. The programme aims to grow human capacity in natural products research through training of PhD and MSc students in the partner institutions.

POL-SABINA (Policy and Support Actions for Southern African Natural Product Partnership) is funded through the European Union Africa-Caribbean-Pacific (EU-ACP) programme. The project will develop a Virtual Research Environment for SABINA; provide training courses and workshops on a number of topics such as project management, fund management etc.  It will also address intellectual property management in the SADC region.


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