Acga Cheng

Leading Speaker for plant biology conference-Acga Cheng

Title: There is far more to underutilised cereals than meets the eye

Acga Cheng

University of Malaya, Malaysia


Acga Cheng received her PhD from the National University of Malaysia, and has recently became a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. Her research interests lie in the area of molecular biology and plant genetics. She is currently a Senior Lecturer at the University of Malaya, Malaysia. In recent years, she has focused on the development of a handful of potential underutilised crops, notably teff, which has been hailed as one of the most promising crops for the future. The ultimate aim of her current research is to improve global food and nutrition security.


The genetics and biology of three current trending underutilised cereal crops; namely amaranth, quinoa and teff will be discussed. The specific climate resilient traits possessed by each of these cereal crops will also be discusssed, providing an in-depth understanding of their growth and development under extreme conditions.

A warmer world can have both positive and negative impacts on agriculture. Nonetheless, many recent studies have, unfortunately, point to the latter. The prevalent changes in climate have instigated a causal effect on the consistency of food productions in a world where population and food demands continue to escalate. These occurrences are expected to trigger a major influx of price hikes in basic commodities, which could, subsequently, lead to an imminent food crisis. Although the inception of the Green Revolution a half-century ago has drastically improved the productivity of several major staples, preeminently the big three cereals; wheat (Triticum aestivum), maize (Zea mays), and rice (Oryza sativa), it has unexceptionally also done some harm to the environment by virtue of pollution and erosion. While there is no single recipe for achieving food security, laying the first stone on having a more diversified food sources and agricultural systems could be the foundation of addressing this issue. Recently, unlocking the potential of underutilised cereals has been considered as one of the primary strategies for climate resilient agriculture. A concerted global effort is crucial in keeping the momentum going, especially when the possibilities are endless with the recent advances in agricultural biotechnology. This paper will present a sound evidence-based knowledge on the genetics and biology of three trending underutilised cereal crops; namely amaranth (Amaranthus hypochondriacus), quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa), and teff (Eragrostis tef). This paper will also discuss the specific climate resilient traits possessed by each of these cereal crops; painting a vivid picture of the promising potential of these cereals as the next big three which could, perhaps, save a hotter and hungrier world.