In the news...

February 22nd, 2018 /

This week in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, the Next Generation Cassava Breeding Project is launching Phase 2 of its initiative to breed improved, farmer-responsive varieties of cassava in support of food security in Africa. The international project, led by Cornell University and founded in 2012, originally set out to “shorten the cassava breeding cycle, improve cassava flowering and seed set, enable greater germplasm exchange and improve information exchange between cassava researchers and breeders,” according to its website. The first phase also saw the development of Cassavabase – an open-access database for cassava genetic information. To support the launch of Phase 2 this week, the project received $35 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the United Kingdom government to harness genomic selection technology to improve cassava breeding. According to NextGen project director Prof Chiedozie Egesi, the goal of Phase 2 is to “identify traits preferred by farmers and end-users and incorporate them into new cassava lines to ensure that varieties are responsive to people’s needs.”

“This is the first time [genomic selection] has been used for an under-researched crop like cassava, and much work has been accomplished in only 5 years,” says Cornell Alliance for Science communication specialist Samantha Hautea. “This could make NextGen a model for other similar breeding programs for under-researched crops around the world.”

The week also saw the release of the FAO’s guide on the integrated pest management of fall armyworm on maize. The guide – developed in partnership with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE), Lancaster University, the Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI), Empresa Brasileira de Pesquisa Agropecuária (EMBRAPA), Colegio de la Frontera Sur (ECOSUR) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) – offers hands-on advice for farmers regarding such issues as correct identification of the pest and strategies including destroying fall armyworm egg masses and larvae, exploiting naturally occurring pathogenic organisms that kill armyworm larvae, and so on.

In other biotech news in Africa, Tanzania is set to release new high-yielding, disease-resistant potato varietiesresulting from recent successful experimental trials under a climate-smart agriculture programme; a new variety of disease-resistant banana plants are to be distributed to Rwandan farmers starting next month; and Kenya is developing a transgenic cassava variety resistant to Cassava Mosaic Virus and the Cassava Brown Streak Disease, with the hope of release within five years.

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Cornell-led project awarded $35 million to research crop vital to Africa’s food security
Cornell Sun

Tanzania gets 80bn cassava boost from Gates Foundation and UK aid

Integrated management of the Fall Armyworm on maize

Tanzania sets record in potato research, to release improved varieties

In GMO debate, Uganda seeks to balance hope and fear,
Christian Science Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Christopher Bendana

Ag bio news

Rwanda: New banana variety to enhance productivity

Kenya inching closer to disease-free cassava
Business Daily Africa

Does GMO corn increase crop yields? 21 years of data confirm it does—and provides substantial health benefits
Genetic Literacy Project

Under threat from climate change, the humble chickpea is being saved by wild varieties through cross-breeding to create a resilience

Scientists identify factors which drive the evolution of herbicide resistance
Science Daily

Rice gene makes maize productive; to do the same for other crops

Finest coffee under threat
Chemical and Engineering News


Nigeria: Much ado about what we eat
Blueprint Nigeria

Agriculture business can transform rural economies, says AfDB president
Business AM

Concerted campaign helps women in Kenya’s flower industry get a better deal
The Conversation Africa

GMO potato can help Bangladeshi farmers cut pesticide use

Gene editing could help brassica crops adapt to climate change
Genetic Literacy Project

Plant scientist profile: Meet Sophien Kamoun
Crop Life

Best practice

Sub-Saharan Africa: Time for a paradigm shift to sustainable farming practices
AgriBusiness Global

Herb-resistant crops remain best way to control weeds

Uganda: Why you need to fence your farm
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali

“Yes and” collaboration at the Symposium on Irrigation in African Smallholder Farming Systems: on moving from potential to practice for small-scale irrigation

Uganda: American university names UPC’s Kaleb Titia Kamure Farmer of the Year 2017
Daily Monitor

Nigeria: Federal government kickstarts soil information project for improved agriculture
Business Day Online


Finding a lost strain of rice, and clues to slave cooking
New York Times

Kenya: Why sorghum is valued
The Star

Why a global decline in genetic crop variety matters for the future of food
Genetic Literacy Project

Climate change

224 million hit by malnutrition in Africa due to climate change, says UN official at FAO regional conference

America’s Corn Belt is making its own weather


FAO regional conference for Africa kicks off Monday in Khartoum

Trust, ease and transparency: how one microfinance institution is reaching rural farmers

How can donors amplify impact with limited resources?

After the WTO’s Ministerial Conference, where next for Africa?
ICTSD Africa

A small setback for intensive agriculture in Africa

Energy and innovation

Gene-editing tool can be harnessed to give a close-up view of life’s most basic processes

South Africa: Aerobotics helps farmers beat disease and drought
CNN Money

Food security

Agricultural technology can save humanity from starvation (again)
The Scientist

MPUTHIA: Prioritise passage of food security bill to end famines
Business Daily Africa

Crop diversity has the power to transform agriculture and pave the way for a sustainable and nutritional food system
Food Tank

Why eating insects won’t end world hunger
Globe and Mail

Rising above hunger and all forms of malnutrition – José Graziano da Silva
Al Arabiya

Pest and diseases

Aflatoxins jeopardize food safety and entrepreneurial food processing opportunities in Nigeria

Tanzania: Now Arumeru farmers battle with tomato pest

The GM debate

Are consumers ready to accept gene editing?

Playing it safe: Promoting sustainable biotech in India

Nina Federoff: GMOs adopted faster than any crops in human history, calls out fake science
Gulf News

There Is “little doubt” about the promised bounty of genetically modified crops
Giving Compass


Opportunity: Funding to support training of graduate students in African universities in plant breeding & seed systems, biotechnology, seed science and technology, plant and microbial technology and more. Apply by 5 April 2018

2018 funding opportunities in agriculture, agricultural capacity building, agribusiness, biodiversity, climate change, and more

WEBINAR: Helping Smallholders Make the Most of Maize Through Loans and Storage Technology: Evidence from Tanzania, 22 February, 9:30-11:00am EST Washington, DC

SCHOLARSHIP: Intra-Africa Academic Mobility Project: Partnership for Training Scientist in Crop Improvement for Food Security in Africa (SCIFSA) Deadline: 5 April 2018

EVENT: Senegal’s Cellule de Lutte contre la Malnutrition & HarvestPlus Nigeria to launch NOURISHED report. Dakar, 22 February


REPORT: Rationalizing governance of genetically modified products in developing countries

REPORT: From food availability to nutritional capabilities: Advancing food security analysis

REPORT: Crop Diversity for Human Nutrition and Health Benefits
World Agriculture

REPORT: Temperature Modulates Tissue-Specification Program to Control Fruit Dehiscence in Brassicaceae
Molecular Plant