Before IITA was set up in Ibadan, high-yielding soybean cultivars from the USA could not be grown in Africa without what is called rhizobia inoculation. This is a process that is far too expensive and technically complex for most farmers in the continent. Therefore, IITA designed a breeding program led by Edward Pulver, a physiologist/agronomist, and Eric Kueneman, a soybean breeder. The project was created to breed a new soybean that would grow in African soils with the high-yielding characteristic of USA-bred lines.

Picture of Drs Edward Pulver (left), and Eric Kueneman (right)

Drs Edward Pulver (left), and Eric Kueneman (right) led IITA’s soybean improvement program in the early days. Rice Today, Twitter, 2015, and Eric Kueneman, Google Plus

The team eventually used a traditional soybean cultivar from Southeast Asia that grew well in African soil, but was poor-yielding. Using a carefully thought out methodology, the IITA soybean breeding team was able to combine the two populations. This resulted in “new” soybean cultivars that yield well without artificial inoculation.

Ortiz, Rodomiro, compiler. 2017. IITA: 50 years after. International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan, Nigeria. 120 pages.