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July 19th, 2018 / B4FA.org

West African researchers have committed to prevent the spread of virulent cassava brown streak disease with the West African Virus Epidemiology (WAVE) project, based in Bingerville, near Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. Funded by the Gates Foundation, the project covers West Africa Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Nigeria and Togo and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and aims to fill gaps in knowledge about West Africa’s vulnerabilities to the whitefly-borne disease, including susceptibility of local cassava varieties and preventing the spread of the disease, as well as initiatives to help boost yields. “In outbreaks in central Africa, it has wiped out between 90 and 100 per cent of cassava production… It’s now heading towards West Africa,” said WAVE principal investigator Justin Pita. “It is a very big threat. It has to be taken very seriously.”

It has also been reported from Uganda that a Chinese millet variety, the foxtail millet, is helping Ugandan farmers gain higher yields and cope with dry conditions. Foxtail millet yields up to two tonnes per acre, is drought tolerant and matures in 75 days, faster than the finger millet farmers in this region have traditionally grown. The Chinese millet is not only being enjoyed by Ugandans; some is sold to Chinese consumers as well. The success is a result of a South-South cooperation program introduced to Uganda by the UN. Since 2012, Chinese experts have been working with farmers in Uganda to provide assistance and technology transfer and have since helped introduce more than 17 new varieties including hybrid rice, maize and cabbages.

In global biotech news, researchers at Washington University in St Louis have engineered a bacterium that can make use of atmospheric nitrogen. This may be a huge breakthrough for the future of fertilizer: if plants can be engineered to likewise fix nitrogen from the air, it could reduce the need for applying traditional nitrogen-based fertilizers that cause environmental problems due to runoff. The scientists next plan to further identify the subset of genes necessary for nitrogen fixation and work with plant scientists to apply the principle to nitrogen-fixing plants, essentially engineering plants to generate their own fertilizer.

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Headlines

Researchers move to contain cassava disease in West Africa
Today, Nigeria

How Chinese millet gives Ugandan farmers hope
The Observer

Researchers engineer bacteria that create fertilizer out of thin air
WUSTL

AgBio news

Ethiopia: Researchers find increased yields in wheat farms using ‘certified seeds’
AllAfrica

Togo conducts the pilot stage of AfDB pan-African manioc development project
TOGO First

Kenya: Good yields expected in first sorghum harvest
AllAfrica

Kenya: Government licenses Mahyco to import GMO cotton seeds
EcoFin Agency

Scientists call for commercialisation of GM seeds In Nigeria
The Independent

Grow more food and mitigate climate change? Agricultural soil data could help
CGIAR

Nigeria: Federal government wants agricultural biotech to tackle food insecurity
New Telegraph

Viewpoint: Rapid advance of gene editing tools will make biotech regulations obsolete
Genetic Literacy Project

Device to fight cassava diseases launched
AllAfrica

Birthplace of African rice domestication found in Mali
ISAAA

India’s genetically modified crop area fifth largest in world
Indian Express

Bt eggplant improving lives in Bangladesh
Cornell

China is spearheading the future of agriculture
Real Clear Science

Bringing traditional grains back in vogue: Biofortified sorghum debuts in India
Mongabay

With this startup’s help, gene-editing tech will soon be everywhere
Fast Company

CRISPR can speed up nature – and change how we grow food
Wired

Best practices

After 500 million years of working the land, Uganda’s soils undergoing last key changes – soil scientist
Daily Monitor

Retaining forests benefits African farmers, new study finds
Landscape News

Cameroon: ‘Cucumber farming offers many opportunities for youths’
AllAfrica

Biodiversity

Reviving bananas with indigenous wisdom
SIANI

Madagascan bananas may soon be extinct
CABI

Saving the seed: A bank that secures the future of agriculture
Mongabay

Climate change

How climate change impacts the concentration of key nutrients in crops: New policy note examines the link between rising CO2 levels and declining nutritional content for major crops
CGIAR

Cape Town is only the beginning – the whole world is facing a water crisis
Huffington Post

Zimbabwe: Climate change takes toll
AllAfrica

Ban Ki-moon to chair global commission on adaptation
Channel News Asia

Development

AfDB provides $40m seed money for TAAT projects in 27 countries
World Stage

Money woes undermine pan-African science guidance
SciDevNet

How Nigeria’s low investment on seeds undermines food security
Daily Trust

The just-launched £8 million global research fund to avert food crisis and increase capacity and research across Africa
The Maravi Post

Kenya getting late for food safety action
Business Daily

Malabo Montpellier for entire Africa agriculture mechanisation by 2025
The Maravi Post

NEPAD’s transformation into the African Union Development Agency
NEPAD

Energy and innovation

Read this paper on the experience of the AgTrials initiative, an effort to build an online database of agricultural trials applying principles of interoperability and open access
F1000Research

Food security

Uganda: Why banana is under threat
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali

Global food security: Insights from USDA projections
Devex

Games boost student nutrition in Nigerian schools
The Conversation

Kenyan food security lessons, opportunities
Business Daily

Urban agriculture could transform food security
SciDevNet

Pests and diseases

Fall armyworm in Rwanda
ICIPE

The GM debate

As European Court ponders regulatory fate of CRISPR and other New Breeding Techniques, anti-biotechnology groups lobby for GMO-like restrictions
Genetic Literacy Project

Zambia: Choppies shops allowed to import GMOs
Zambian Watchdog

Kenyan farmer: On cusp of a biotech revolution, Africa faces resistance from Europe and anti-GMO activists
Genetic Literacy Project

Opposition to Nigeria’s GMO crops “political sabotage”
Alliance for Science

Opportunities

Opportunities for researchers via Thrive Network for Sustainable Agriculture Researchers: July 2018
CGIAR

WACCI International Conference on Food and Nutrition Security: “The march towards a hunger-free Africa” October 3-4 2018, WACCI Conference Facility, University of Ghana
WACCI

Event: Bindura University of Science Education – 1st Int’l conference on food security and climate change 4-5 October 2018, Monomotapa Hotel, Harare, Zimbabwe
Bindura University of Science Education

Opportunity: Open call for Mobility Grants under the BIOFISA programme
Ruforum

Opportunity: Applications for Africa Plant Breeding Academy Class IV (2018 — 2019) now being accepted
University of California, Davis

Resources

The future of food depends on biodiversity
FAO

The State of the World’s Forests
FAO

Genome Editing in Agriculture: Methods, Applications, and Governance
ISAAA