In the news...

May 24th, 2018 / B4FA.org

BREAKING NEWS: A new species of armyworm, Spodoptera eridania, has been positively identified this week in West and Central Africa. According to a press release by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), “[P]reliminary data show that the species is present in at least four countries in West and Central Africa, where it can be found on cassava, tomato, amaranth, and maize.” IITA says that while the southern armyworm was first discovered on the continent in Nigerian cassava fields in in December 2016 by IITA entomologist Dr Georg Goergen, it has taken time to confirm their presence because the southern armyworm is difficult to distinguish from other armyworm species, such as the devastating Fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda).

“It is uncertain how long the SAW has been present in West and Central Africa and its possible pathways of introduction into the continent are also unclear. Since their identification is difficult, populations may have remained latent in the field and only been sporadically noticed especially when young caterpillars aggregate on individual host plants before they disperse upon maturation,” says IITA’s press release.

Meanwhile, Kenya is launching pilot projects using Bt cotton, an encouraging development for the country’s cotton industry, which has suffered from a lack of quality seeds and inputs, making cotton difficult and expensive to grow. Experts anticipate that not only will the adoption of Bt cotton improve the supply of raw cotton to the country but will also help local beneficial insect biodiversity – including ladybirds, bees, wasps and ants – to thrive while reducing the need for insecticides. Also in Kenya, biotech firm Sistema.bio – which converts manure into biogas and natural fertilizer – has received Sh35m investment from the World Bank fund. The company’s hybrid reactor biodigesters will allow farmers to convert manure to energy and agricultural inputs sustainably as well as help avoid indoor air pollution by allowing families to cook without smoke.

In Uganda earlier this month, the CONNECTED network held a conference convening researchers from across sub-Saharan Africa and the UK to foster collaboration between scientists to tackle vector-borne crop diseases in Africa. The conference, hosted by Dr Titus Alicai of National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO), included research-focused presentations on pest management, plant protection and agricultural extension, as well as workshops to identify research priorities and future training needs. “The project’s focus on encouraging early career researchers is already paying dividends, and it’s clear that one of the legacies of CONNECTED will be a cohort of scientists who have begun to form collaborations, injecting real energy to develop solutions to tackling devastating vector-borne plant disease in the years ahead,” said Newcastle University’s Professor Neil Boonham, co-director of the CONNECTED project.

Finally, a new field trial of genetically modified Camelina was announced by the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) – along with one of the world’s first field trials of a genome-edited version of the oilseed crop, to be sown this month. This is part of an experimental trial at Rothamsted Research investigating genetic engineering’s efficiency in more sustainably developing nutrient-rich plants, in this case the accumulation of omega-3 fatty acids, known to be beneficial to human health and commonly sourced from fish.

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Headlines

New species of armyworm identified in West and Central Africa
IITA CGIAR

Kenya: Pilot projects using Bt cotton are underway to facilitate its adoption
Daily Nation

Kenyan biotech firm receives Sh35m investment from World Bank fund
Capital Business

African conference confirms growing strength of plant disease research network
University of Bristol

A new field trial of genetically modified Camelina will be accompanied by one of the world’s first field trials of a genome-edited crop
EurekAlert

AgBio news

INTERVIEW: Why Nigeria is adopting GMOs
Premium Times

Study could spawn better ways to combat crop-killing rice blast fungus
Technology Networks

Tanzania: Bright future projected for banana farming
AllAfrica

African leaders, FAO delegation meets for food security workshop
African Farming

Rice, a potential for wealth creation
Front Page Africa

Consider Crops Research Institute rice varieties for Planting for Food and Jobs programme – Dr. Dartey
Ghana News Agency

The future of genetically modified crops in India
Forbes India

Best practices

Kenyan farmers tackle poor soils, low yields with conservation agriculture
Farmers Review Africa

Organisation launches guidelines on the opportunities in climate-smart farming
Daily Nation

Farmers encouraged to embrace apple farming
The New Times

Farmers count US $1.5Bn loss in wasted food
Farmers Review Africa

Improved productivity through sustainable land use management practices in Africa
The New Times

How planting trees can protect cocoa plants against climate change
The Conversation

Climate change

Africa gains momentum in green climate solutions
AllAfrica

Scientists urge policy shift to promote climate resilient farming in Africa
Xinhua Net

Scientists launch guide to tap investment in climate smart agriculture in Africa
Xinhua Net

Integrate post-2020 climate actions into development  
SciDevNet

Flooding in East Africa: Could this be an end to the drought?
FutureDirections

African Institute for Mathematical Sciences – Next Einstein Initiative (AIMS-NEI) announces first cohort of Women in Climate Change Science Fellows
IRDC

Development

10,000 smallholders to benefit in new Central African cassava project
CTA

Ondo State First Lady, others chart way forward for African women In agriculture
Independent

Tanzania: Women’s role vital in industrial agenda
AllAfrica

UN decade of family farming
Farmers Review Africa

Improved productivity through sustainable land use management practices in Africa
The New Times

EU to fund cocoa development scheme in Liberia
African Farming

‘Partnerships in agriculture key to transforming industry’ says President Mnangagwa
Chronicle

Agric partnerships key to food security: President
Herald Zimbabwe

Energy and innovation

An image-recognition smartphone app uses AI to help farmers in sub-Saharan Africa identify up to five different cassava diseases
Scientific American

Kenya top in Africa on agriculture tech startups, says report
Business Daily

Huge potential for technology to enhance agriculture in South Africa, experts say
News24

Seed cleaner: Farmers can now get cleaner produce
Daily Monitor

New app to increase farmer funding through de-risking agriculture
AllAfrica

Food security

Legislators in Africa address food security and nutrition challenges
New Stage

Building Africa’s smallholder farmers’ resilience for a food-secure future
Next Einstein Forum

West Africa Food Market Programme mobilises £30m to support food security In Nigeria, Others
Independent

Tizeba – Tanzania has sufficient food covering 120pc of demand
AllAfrica

New opportunity for Angolan smallholder farmers to boost food security
Devdiscourse

Legislators in Africa address food security and nutrition challenges
EIN News

Policy

Africa’s ambitious new biodiversity laws come with teeth, will protect people too
The Conversation

EU body: No risk to animal health from glyphosate residues in feed
Feed Navigator

EU court upholds curbs on pesticides clothianidin, thiamethoxam and imidacloprid
Euractiv

The GM debate

Are the anti-GMO activists in Ghana following CRISPR?
GhanaWeb

Seeds of change: Agricultural biotechnology is playing an increasingly important role assisting farmers all over the world
Helsinki Times

USDA’s hands-off approach to gene-edited crops could revolutionize research and development
Genetic Literacy Project

To regulate or not to regulate: Current legal status for gene-edited crops
Global Engage

Defining ‘sustainability’ in agriculture
Future of Agriculture

Genetic engineering of plants contributes to the fight against malaria
European Scientist

How regulators ensure that pesticide residues on food don’t hurt us
Genetic Literacy Project

Organic farming, genetics and the future of food
Oxford University Press

Opportunities

African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP) seeks an experienced Soil Fertility and Plant Nutrition Expert. Deadline 5 June 2018
AFAP

Water Governance, Training and Gender in Agriculture: A New Evidence Base, May 24, 2018. USAID Bureau for Food Security
Agrilinks

Seeking management science researcher specialised in digital agriculture for the support of the agroecological transition End date: 31 May
CIRAD

Resources

Underestimated Microscopic Problem For Coffee Crops
Technology Networks

Identification of Drought, Heat, and Combined Drought and Heat Tolerant Donors in Maize
Crop Science Society of America

Innovation Opportunities in Bean Production in the DR Congo
FARA Africa

Innovation Opportunities in Sorghum Production in Uganda
FARA Africa

Pathways for Improved Nutrition in Zambia:Lessons from Pro-Vitamin A rich Maize Innovation Platform
FARA Africa

The Paris Agreement: understanding the physical and social challenges for a warming world of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels
The Royal Society