Page 12 - National Poultry Newspaper
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Grant to improve poultry production worldwide
THROUGHOUT Af- rica, chickens are vital to family nourishment, in- come and food security.
But African poultry production is threatened by an extremely virulent Newcastle disease virus that can decimate entire flocks within days.
UC Davis researchers are leading an internation- al effort to identify genes crucial to breeding chick- ens with enhanced resist- ance to Newcastle disease and heat stress.
Their project – the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Genomics to Im- prove Poultry – recently received a $US5 mil- lion award from the US Agency for International Development to continue
its work improving poul- try production in Afri- ca and throughout the world.
UC Davis geneticist and the animal science pro- fessor leading the inter- national multidisciplinary team Huaijun Zhou said, “This project will help protect chickens from deadly Newcastle disease in areas where poultry vaccinations are not fea- sible, as well as boost the effectiveness of vaccina- tions.”
“Increasing the produc- tion of chickens and eggs can have a dramatic im- pact on nourishment and livelihoods in poor, rural communities.”
Small, backyard flocks are a staple for households
in developing countries and provide the income and sustenance families need to survive.
Raising indigenous chickens is a relatively minor investment com- pared to cattle, goats and other livestock because birds scavenge for food and live outdoors without housing.
Indigenous chickens are predominantly raised by women and children.
“Eggs are an almost complete protein, rich in both macro and micronu- trients, including essential fatty acids, choline, vita- mins A and B12, which are usually deficient in poor families and not all available in other foods,” Zhou said.
“Chicken meat and eggs are crucial to helping pro- tect children from stunt- ing and other forms of malnutrition.”
Devastating Newcastle disease
Newcastle disease is the number-one avian virus on the continent.
It’s highly contagious and kills about 750 mil- lion chickens annually in Africa alone.
The disease is controlled through vaccinations in the US and other devel- oped countries, but many families in rural villages don’t have access to reli- able vaccines.
Zhou and his team are using genetics and genomics to improve host immunity to New-
castle disease infection. “We’re working to iden- tify chicken genes and ge- netic markers associated with resistance to New- castle disease and heat stress, as well as genetic markers related to egg production and growth
rate,” Zhou said.
“This genomic approach
won’t replace vaccina- tions, but rather comple- ment them by providing enhanced immunity.”
One of the most difficult aspects of the project is disease and heat resist- ance, as well as produc- tion and growth rate, are complex traits, which means they are controlled by many genes working together.
“Each gene involved
tends to contribute a small genetic effect, mak- ing them hard to detect,” Zhou said.
“It’s a tremendous chal- lenge.”
The Feed the Future In- novation Lab for Genom- ics to Improve Poultry was launched in 2013 with a $6 million award from USAID.
With this new five- year, $5 million award, the team will continue to home in on genes of in- terest.
“We have already iden- tified hundreds of ge- netic markers associated with Newcastle disease resistance and heat resil- ience, and there is more work to be done,” Zhou said.
The team has also ex- panded the workforce needed to sustainably im- prove smallholder poul- try production in Africa by renovating facilities at universities in Tanzania and Ghana, training scien- tists, supporting students and building partnerships with private, governmen- tal and non-profit poultry groups.
“We’re conducting mar- ket assessment and devel- oping business models so these discoveries can be scaled up and applied to assist local poultry pro- ducers,” Zhou said.
“Our goal is to provide lasting impact to the health and welfare of fam- ilies in Africa and across the world.”
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Page 12 – National Poultry Newspaper, December 2018/January 2019
Subeditor M: 0433 390 001
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