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Grantees Profile

Geoffrey Onaga

Country (Nationality)


Grantee Title

Project: Harnessing Oryza glaberrima genomic resources for rice disease resistance in a changing climate

Grantee Description

Research area:

Plant disease resistance in a changing climate

Host Organisation & country:

Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice), Cote d’Ivoire


Rice is becoming a more significant food crop in Africa; however, drought stress and increased nitrogen fertilizer use to boost rice production intensify the impact of rice blast disease, posing a threat to the region's rice industry and food security. Dr. Onaga’s research will utilize genomic approaches to identify and map rice genomic regions and develop stable markers and breeding lines for resistances to rice blast in a changing climate and crop intensification systems, using African rice species which are adopted to African conditions. In addition, the project will strengthen institutional bioinformatics and molecular biology capabilities.

Grantee Description

Dr. Geoffrey Onaga works at the Africa Rice Center in Cote d'Ivoire as an associate principal scientist in the Genetic Diversity Improvement (GDI) program. His dissertation focused on genomic studies in rice-rice blast interaction at high temperature, and he received his Ph.D. in Plant Pathology from Georg-August Universität in Göttingen, Germany. His post-doctoral research focused on rice-pathogen interaction and pathogen population biology at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

Dr. Onaga's long-term goal is to use molecular biology and bioinformatic approaches to better understand plant biotic and abiotic interactions. He aims to create a research expertise on rice disease mitigation in a changing climate and crop intensification systems, train young African scientists, and conduct research to guide policymakers in making better crop disease management decisions.

Project: Harnessing Oryza glaberrima genomic resources for rice disease resistance in a changing climate

The Plant disease resistance in a changing climate (PDRCC) project that he is embracing aims to combine genomic/bioinformatic approaches to identify stable rice traits for improving rice blast resistance in drought situations under increasing nitrogen fertilizer use. Rice blast is a devastating disease that causes up to 100% rice yield losses in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Inadequate rice cultivars suited to prevent the detrimental impact of nitrogen fertilization on cultivar resistance compromises improving cultivar resilience to rice blast in the region. The African rice species, Oryza glaberrima, is adapted to SSA and is a rich source of genes for biotic and abiotic stress resistance. There have been no genomic studies on O. glaberrima critical traits to mitigate the combined effect of rice blast, drought, and nitrogen fertilization, even though the influence of drought and nitrogen fertilization on plant-pathogen interaction has been investigated. By bringing together bioinformaticians, breeders, and plant pathologists, this project will generate new insights on rice-rice blast interaction, develop new resistant breeding lines, build capacity, and broaden our collaboration, all of which are critical for accelerating rice breeding and ensuring rice production sustainability in SSA in the face of climate change.