Spring Lecture Series 2022 Detail

Fonio with Dr. Claire Billot, Dr. Adeline Barnaud, and Prof. Simon Krattinger

– Part of the CDA Spring Lecture Series.


Dr. Claire Billot, Dr. Adeline Barnaud, and Prof. Simon Krattinger will give a joint lecture on fonio.

On Zoom



CIRAD-KAUST joint lectures – hosted by Prof. Mark Tester.


From the Shade to the Light, the Fonio Towards New Challenges


Claire Billot

Director of AGAP Institute, BIOS department, CIRAD (France)

Adeline Barnaud

Co-Lead of the Dynadiv Team, DIADE unit, IRD (France)


In the face of global change, understanding the history and effects of social and biological processes on the evolutionary dynamics of crops is a real challenge to increase the efficiency of conservation and various uses of crop genetic resources. We present an overview of our research conducted within a broad network of collaborations on a neglected crop, fonio (Digitaria exilis). It is an important cereal for sub-Sahelian West African societies and plays a crucial role in the food and nutritional security of smallholder farming systems. We focus on the evolutionary history, impacts of human migration, and current genetic diversity structure, and provide an overview of ongoing research areas.

About the speakers

Claire Billot is a researcher at CIRAD, the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development. Originally trained in population genetics, she conducted research on the assessment and use of genetic diversity – first in marine biology, studying the effect of harvesting on the genetic diversity of different algae, plants and trees, and then focusing on the genetic diversity of crops (rice, sorghum, etc.). Her current research area focuses on the relationship between genetic diversity and human practices, with a particular emphasis on neglected crops (including fonio). Since mid-2020, Billot is Director of the AGAP Institute, a large joint research unit (+300 scientists) in Montpellier (France) focused on tropical and Mediterranean plant genetic improvement and crop adaptation.

[Adeline Barnaud coming soon]


Fonio Millet Genome Unlocks African Orphan Crop Diversity for Agriculture in a Changing Climate

Speaker: Simon Krattinger

Assistant Professor of Plant Science, Center for Desert Agriculture, KAUST (Saudi Arabia)

Lead of the Cereal Genetics and Genomics Lab, KAUST


Sustainable food production in the context of climate change necessitates diversification of agriculture and a more efficient utilization of plant genetic resources. Fonio millet (Digitaria exilis) is an orphan African cereal crop with a great potential for dryland agriculture. We established high-quality genomic resources to facilitate fonio improvement through molecular breeding. These include a chromosome-scale reference assembly and deep re-sequencing of 183 cultivated and wild Digitaria accessions, enabling insights into genetic diversity, population structure, and domestication.

About the speaker

Simon Krattinger obtained his PhD in 2009 from the University of Zurich, Switzerland. After spending three years as a Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellow at CSIRO Plant Industries in Canberra, Australia, he became an independent group leader at the University of Zurich supported by an Ambizione early career grant of the Swiss National Science Foundation. In 2017, Krattinger joined the Center for Desert Agriculture at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) as Assistant Professor.


This event occurred in the past. You can watch the recording on our YouTube channel.

Event Quick Information

24 Feb, 2022
03:00 PM - 04:00 PM