In the news...

August 23rd, 2018 /

This week in plant science news, the complete sequence of the wheat genome has now been mapped, and is published in Science. The dataset, generated after 13 years of collaborative and interdisciplinary research by the International Wheat Sequencing Consortium, will help plant breeders more quickly develop more nutritious, disease- and climate-resilient crops in the face of climate change and population growth.

An article by the John Innes Centre – one of the 73 scientific institutions involved in the research – notes that sequencing the wheat genome has been a “huge challenge” because it is so big. “As well as its enormity, it has three sub-genomes and a large part of it is composed of repetitive elements,” says the article. “This means that vast parts of the genome are very similar, if not identical, to each other. This has made it difficult, until now, to distinguish each sub-genome and to put together the genome into its correct order.” In addition to the paper detailing the specifics of the wheat genome, Science published a supplementary paper by a team led by the John Innes Centre, which provides researchers and breeders with additional information and resources to help illuminate how wheat genes affect traits.

After last week’s announcement that the Fall armyworm had arrived in India, concerns continue to escalate in Africa this week as officials in Sudan report the appearance of the pest – known there as the autumn cluster worm – in the South Kordofan region, describing it as a food security threat. Meanwhile, Ugandan farmers are successfully using a mobile app to check their crops for armyworm infestation. Launched jointly by the Ugandan ministry of agriculture and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the app, called The Fall Armyworm Monitoring and Early Warning System (Famews), allows farmers to positively identify armyworm and upload data to a global web-based platform, allowing areas to be monitored in real time and helping to coordinate pest-control responses.

We also pay our respects to former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who died earlier this week. Besides being the first sub-Saharan African to hold the United Nations’ top post – from 1997 to 2006 – Mr Annan also served as the founding chair of Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), the organization dedicated to modernizing African agriculture. In a statement, AGRA wrote: “Mr. Annan was a tremendous leader of progress in the world, improving the lives of millions of individuals in Africa and beyond through his work. It is his call for a uniquely African green revolution to ensure that Africa can feed itself that led to AGRA’s creation in 2006 to improve the incomes and livelihoods of Africa’s smallholder farmers.”

We welcome questions, comments and story links to [email protected]. Please also visit for further reading and useful resources – and follow us on Twitter or Facebook to keep up with daily news and join the conversation. We look forward to hearing from you!


Previously grainy wheat genome comes into focus
John Innes Centre

Wheat gene map to help ‘feed the world’

India mounts awareness campaign as maize-eating moth detected

Sudan: Fall armyworm danger to food security in South Kordofan

Ugandan farmers to use app to identify Fall armyworm
The East African

AGRA, Rockefeller Foundation remember Kofi Annan
The Fence Post

AgBio news

Generating a high quality genome sequence of bread wheat
Wheat Genome

Farmers set to make more profits from hybrid rice in Kenya

Biotechnology, media, and food security in Nigeria

Anti-GMO activists lose landmark court case in Nigeria
Alliance for Science

USDA unveils new gene-stacking tool to prevent plant diseases
The Scientist

Nina Fedoroff: Trait-based regulation of GM plants is on the horizon – at last!

Argentina introduces GMO potato to combat virus that destroys up to 70% of nation’s crop
Genetic Literacy Project

Video: Saving the orange
American Seed Trade Association

Kenya bets on strong regulations to boost safety of GM crops

Opinion: Trait-based regulation of GM plants is on the horizon – at last!

USDA unveils new gene-stacking tool to prevent plant diseases
The Scientist

Africa’s emerging agriculture leaders visit Southern Queensland
The University of Queensland

Viewpoint: Why we shouldn’t be deterred by CRISPR’s ‘rollercoaster year’
Genetic Literacy Project

Video: Ancient corn variety that makes its own nitrogen could lead to more sustainable farming
Genetic Literacy Project

Europe’s decision to reject gene edited crops signals it is losing its commitment to sustainable agriculture
Genetic Literacy Project

Botswana: Soilless farming shows potential

How soil scientists can do a better job of making their research useful
The Conversation

Canada will phase out two kinds of neonicotinoids in 2021, citing harm to bee populations
Genetic Literacy Project

Bayer completes divestment of Crop Sciences businesses to BASF, starts integration of US Monsanto
African Farming

Best practices

Uganda: Grow beetroot and earn more money
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru

Uganda: How to earn big from sweet potatoes
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru

This new biotech industry could pose a huge risk to fertilizer stocks
The Motley Fool

Lessons from Kenya on how to restore degraded land
The Conversation

Building resilience and incomes in rural Burkina Faso and Niger through crop-livestock systems

Ghana: Invest in irrigation systems to boost agriculture – scientist Urged farmers
News Ghana

Uganda: Farmers will learn backyard technology
Daily Monitor

Slow Food in Uganda: Through a filmmaker’s lens
Slow Food

How is India’s organic-only farming experiment in Sikkim going? Peering past the propaganda, not so sustainably
Genetic Literacy Project

Climate change & environment

Kenya: State grows bamboo to save water towers
The Star

Jacqueline Rowarth: Enough of the bee-apocalypse stories
NZ Herald


Why Tanzania youth need to be at the forefront of agricultural initiatives 

Focusing on women and youth to transform agriculture

‘Think beyond farm jobs’ to reach sustainable development, UN agriculture chief advises African youth

Agriculture practices and support: Changing with reality
The New Times

Beating poverty needs partnerships and collaboration — not just money
The Conversation

Ghana: Smallholder farmers critical to food security, says General Secretary of the General Agricultural Workers Union (GAWU), calling for investment
Business Ghana

Rwanda: Smallholder farmers secure multi-billion maize market

Can technology lure Africa’s youth into agriculture?
CNBC Africa

Rwanda: Meet seeks increased youth participation in agriculture
The New Times

Scientific research for Africa of Tomorrow Conference in Senegal
African Brains

African countries fare poorly in innovation ranking

Joint action needed to reform our food system

Finding a green path for China and Africa?

African universities urged to focus on farming technology
Business Live

Ghana: Create special fund to finance agriculture and agribusinesses, government urged

Kenya: Journalists feted for science stories on agricultural biotech
Standard Digital

Consistency in biotech reporting vital in cultivating public awareness; The Kenya Chapter of OFAB recognizes journalists for their work

Two-day workshop to validate African Union Malabo commitments

Energy and innovation

African agriculture has a lot to gain from increased access to big data
The Conversation

FAO to introduce four digital applications to support farmers at the Youth Employment in Agriculture conference in Kigali, Rwanda 
Ghana News Agency

Nigerian biotech startup using shrimp shells to save food wins top prize

Watermelon rind a cheap filter for arsenic in groundwater

Food security

FAO to enhance food security in Africa by reducing post-harvest losses
African Farming

High level advocacy for nutrition in Africa

Water, food security project formed to benefit 270mln people in Malawi, Kenya, Ghana
Nyasa Times

Pests and diseases

Fears for food security and the future of farming families, as Fall armyworm spreads to Asia
India Blooms

African swine fever’s most recent victim in 2018
Pork Business


In wake of California jury’s glyphosate verdict, New Zealand likely won’t revisit conclusion that herbicide is safe
Genetic Literacy Project

Viewpoint: Jury’s glyphosate cancer ruling doesn’t change fact that all farmers need pesticides to grow food

The GM debate

A UK farmer’s perspective: What are the consequences for sustainability and the public when biotechnology innovations are withheld?
Genetic Literacy Project

Ghana: The utterance of politicians confused on the benefits of GMOs – Peasant farmers
Ghana News Agency

Video: Fear of biotech remains high, but GMOs are revolutionizing farming worldwide
Genetic Literacy Project


Virus Pathologists in developing countries can apply for a free 2-year membership to APS. If selected, they get many membership perks. Learn more here, incl. the link to the easy online application

Opportunity: Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) Challenge-led Grants. This £8 million call invites proposals from researchers across all academic disciplines
The Royal Society

Webinar series: Technologies for Managing Fall Armyworm: Lessons from Brazil, 22 August, 9-10am EDT

2018 IPBO Conference “Scientific Innovation for a Sustainable Development of African Agriculture” 30-31 August 2018, Ghent, Belgium
University Ghent

Event: Africa Environment Partnership Platform: “50 years of Environmental Governance and Sustainability in Africa” 20-21 September, Nairobi, Kenya


Delivering Technologies to Farmers through Public-Private Partnerships

Annual Report 2017, African Agricultural Technology Foundation

Famine Early Warning System Network: Further flooding expected across East Africa throughout 2018

Multidecadal, county-level analysis of the effects of land use, Bt cotton, and weather on cotton pests in China

Crop pests and predators exhibit inconsistent responses to surrounding landscape composition