Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Systems

Zimbabwe GCRF Foundation Award Visit

Our scientists and partners visit Zimbabwe as part of a GCRF foundation award.

Prof Liz Baggs and Dr Lumbani Mwafulirwa of The Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Security visited Zimbabwe to work on a project helping optimize root-microbe interactions for sustainable maize production in southern Africa. 


The UK team, which also included Dr Eric Paterson of the James Hutton Institute, interacted with in-country partners, visited field trial sites and engaged with farmers, extension workers and other local scientists.  Liz, Eric and Lumbani gave seminar presentations at an event co-organised by the Zimbabwe Plant Breeders Association (ZPBA), University of Zimbabwe Crop Science Department and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT-Zimbabwe), with participants drawn from local universities, seed and fertilizer companies and CIMMYT among other institutions/companies.


Image of in-country partners in Zimbabwe working with Global Acdemy staff.
Shavma on-farm research site where farmers are taking part in long-term conservation agriculture experiments. Photo Credit: J Cairns, CIMMYT
We have been investigating the extent of variation within maize germplasm (over 100 varieties/lines) relevant to cultivation in southern Africa, with respect to shaping root-associated microbial communities and impacts on soil functions underpinning productivity. We have quantified the impacts of maize cultivars on soil carbon and nutrient cycling processes, and how the cultivars interact with agricultural management and the environment. This work could benefit nutrient use efficiency through cultivar selection/breeding and soil organic matter management, and help ensure maize yield stability, resilience to low nutrient availability and, in turn, improve food security within the region. Thus, our engagement with ZPBA and maize seed companies, in particular, is a key impact pathway.

Dr Lumbani Mwafulirwa


The project, titled “Exploiting the potential of genotype microbiome interactions to promote sustainable soil health in southern Africa” is funded by the BBSRC through the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).  Other partners in the project are Dr Tim Daniell of the University of Sheffield and Drs Christian Thierfelder and Jill Cairns of CIMMYT Southern Africa Regional Office, Harare.