In the news...

August 16th, 2017 /

Researchers at the University of Queensland, Australia, have been studying the relationship between how plants and their microbial communities roots co-evolved. The scientists studied a range of plants, including ferns, conifers, and flowering plants, and found that plant genetics influence the microbial communities surrounding their roots, as well as gathered evidence that plant health depends on favourable microbes in the soil.

“Increasingly, farmers want to capitalise on beneficial microbes to support their crops, and science can assist the design of effective crop probiotics to make crops healthier, hardier and more productive by increasing their resilience to pests, diseases and environmental stresses, and improving access to nutrients,” said researcher Professor Susanne Schmidt in a University of Queensland post. “Knowing that all plants harbour a core root microbiome is a step towards understanding the principles of the intricate relationship between microorganisms and plants. We now need to find out what roles these root-enriched microorganisms play and how we can harness their potential for ecological agriculture.”

In Africa, Kenya’s farmers are to soon receive insect-resistant Bt cotton seeds for pilot trials. The cotton is highly resistant to bollworm infestation and has the added bonus of attracting many bees, which provide high-quality honey. Also in Kenya, a rice blast screening facility has been set up at International Livestock Research Institute – under the Durable Rice Blast Resistance for Africa project – to monitor the recent outbreak of the fungal disease. The facility will help researchers identify strains of the pathogen and gather data to guide future breeding programs.

We also hear from B4FA Fellows this week: Abdallah el-Kurebe writes about how biotechnology can optimize agriculture in Nigeria in Vanguard, as well as about the beneficial impact of cowpea in poorer regions – making arguments for genetically improving this nutritious and inexpensive legume – and Michael Ssali writes in the Daily Monitor about how to safely store grain. Meanwhile, Lominda Afedraru reports on Ugandan researchers releasing hybrid bean varieties high in iron and zinc.

As ever, please send questions, comments and story links to and visit  for further reading and useful resources. Follow us on Twitter or Facebook to keep up with daily news and join the conversation.


Farmers want to capitalise on microbes & science can increase crop resilience to pests, diseases & environmental stresses
University of Queensland

Researchers develop rice variety with increased iron and zinc in the grains and produces beta-carotene as a precursor of vitamin A
Technology Networks

Ancient corn genome could unlock secrets of crop diversity and adaptation
Genetic Literacy Project

Fertile land the most important resource for the future of food security
Weekly Times

On IFPRI’s podcast, Dani Nierenberg talks “Big Ag” and corporate control of the food system
Food Tank

UNH to study whether pesticides on crop seeds accidentally make weeds worse
Granite Geek

Video: How are GMO plants made?
Genetic Literacy Project

How sustainable food systems could end global hunger
Telegraph UK

4.5 tonnes of the hotly debated genetically engineered salmon has been sold for food for the first time in Canada

Golden Rice moving forward in Philippines
Alliance for Science

Why do consumers prefer organic to conventional produce when both use pesticides?
Genetic Literacy Project

Controversy over GMO labeling has not increased public health concerns, survey finds
Genetic Literacy Project

Should farmers use vinegar, instead of genetically engineered solutions, to protect crops from drought?
Genetic Literacy Project

Smallholder farmers are investable, and there’s data to show it
Impact Alpha

Video: Managing aflatoxins in groundnuts during drying and storage
Access Agriculture

Could vertical farming revolutionize agriculture?
Genetic Literacy Project

Advantages and disadvantages of pastoral farming


FAO: China’s presence in South-South Cooperation transforming Africa’s agriculture

Bill Gates sees US likely to maintain aid levels for Africa
Jakarta Post

FAO advocate for efficient rice farming practices to boost rice production in sub-Saharan Africa
Ghana News Agency

Transforming agricultural education through technology

Meet Akinwumi Adesina, the man who is increasing food quality and quantity in Africa
The Plaid Zebra

Promise or peril? Africa’s 830 million young people by 2050
Huffington Post

Focus on challenges that discourage youth from farming – ACET report
MyJoy Online

Africa needs stitched genes for food security
Business Day

Economists suggest that African agriculture can start making a difference when smallholder farmers earn at least $90 to $200 a month

East Africa: regional tea exports increase 6.2 per cent

Guidance and tools for global food security programs – US Feed the Future is moving into a new phase

Why thousands of Indians just marched in the name of science
World Economic Forum

NRGene delivers improved sweet potato genome – an essential crop across Africa, providing high vitamin, mineral and calorie content

As Africa’s cocoa production is rising, the AfDB has initiated plans to support producers of the crop across the continent
African Farming

“Cooperatives could unlock the potential of the agri-sector” President of the South African Confederation of Agricultural Unions
Farmers Weekly

How to make farming attractive to young people is fast becoming a major talking point in development circles
News Ghana


New directive breaks ground to incentivize commercial farmers


Agric Ministry combat ready for fall armyworm invasion
The Point


Transformation of cocoa production, rural economy, energy in focus, as Adesina visits Ghana
African Brains

AGRA supports Ghana government’s “Planting for Food and Jobs”, saying the programme will create jobs and increase food production
Ghana Business News


Kenya to provide farmers with insect resistant Bt cotton seeds in pilot trials
Genetic Literacy Project

Facility at ILRI to monitor rice blast outbreak
The Star

Women hit by drought trade water for firewood in Kenya
African Indy


How biotechnology can optimize agriculture in Nigeria
Vanguard, by B4FA Fellow Abdallah el-Kurebe

Unearthing the impact of “poor man’s meat” in a weak economy
News Diary Online, by B4FA Fellow Abdallah el-Kurebe

How biotechnology can help Nigeria reduce agricultural import bill
Tribune Online

WACOT partners Kebbi on FG’s food security initiative
Nigeria Today

Nigerians selected among 15 emerging young African entrepreneurs, including sustainable agriculturalists
The Nigerian Voice

Nigeria looks to ‘white gold’ (rice) for economic recovery

Nestle Nigeria’s sorghum and millet project will improve livelihood across communities

FG – agriculture undergraduates must own farms as condition for graduation

South Africa

Southern Africa: Zim, SA lose 1m chickens to bird flu

Agriculture is a polarising subject in South Africa – we need more women
Huffington Post

Vula Telematix making precision agriculture a reality through Internet of Things in SA


Maize disease baffles experts and troubles farmers

Gates Foundation’s $350m to support maternal health as well as agriculture sectors in Tanzania
African Indy


How to safely store grain
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali

Researchers release hybrid bean varieties
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru

Banana wilt, GMOs and Food Evolution: Behind the scenes in Uganda profiling desperate plight of poor farmers
Genetic Literacy Project


World Bank avail $600m to fund Zambia’s agriculture and energy
Southern African News

Opportunities and resources

GODAN Action webinar Effective data communication using data visualisations Part 1 – Infographics”on  24 August  4pm CEST

Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa seeks Gender, Youth and Agribusiness Consultant