The COP23 global climate talks drew to a close this week, led by the small island nation of Fiji in Bonn, Germany. Along with anti-Trump protests and efforts made to keep the Paris Agreement on track, the conference was remarkable in that it represented an end of deadlock on agriculture. According to an article in Climate Brief summarizing key outcomes of COP23, “Parties agreed to work over the next few years on a series of issues linking climate change and agriculture. They agreed to streamline two separate technical discussions on this topic into one process.”
This is the first time that parties have reached consensus on how to address agriculture, and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) hailed it as a “major step” in tackling food security. According to an article about the agreement in Environmental Defense Fund, “Agriculture has been discussed for years, but progress had been stymied by disagreement related to potential trade implications on key commodity exports, whether to prioritize adaptation or mitigation in the agenda, and UNFCCC process-oriented concerns on what could and couldn’t be negotiated based on the last agriculture decision.” The article goes on to note that the agreed-upon process is the same used for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+), which went on to become “the only sector with its own article in the Paris Agreement.” The process will likely prioritize such issues as soil health, soil carbon, water management, nutrient management, livestock management, and socioeconomic and food security issues related to climate change.
Bananapocalypse averted? Queensland University of Technology researchers have announced they’ve successfully developed genetically modified Cavendish bananas using a gene found in a Southeast Asian banana subspecies that’s naturally resistant to Fusarium wilt tropical race 4 – aka Panama disease. Their modified bananas remained completely disease-free over the three-year trial.
Meanwhile, researchers at the University of California, Davis, have discovered a gene that allows resistance to Ug99, a new strain of stem rust discovered in Uganda, to which 90 percent of the world’s wheat varieties are susceptible. These findings were recently published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “Ug99 has expanded to most of the wheat-growing regions in Africa and has crossed the Red Sea to Yemen and Iran,” says UC Davis wheat geneticist Jorge Dubcovsky regarding the discovery. “Ug99 is now at the door of the Punjab region — the bread basket of Asia — and identification and deployment of effective resistance genes are critical to mitigate this threat.” The discovery should help accelerate development of varieties that can halt a global wheat epidemic.
And finally, Purdue University scientist and 2009 World Food Prize laureate Gebisa Ejeta has received a five-year grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop improved sorghum varieties with the potential to reach millions of African farmers. Ejeta was recognized for developing and distributing high-yielding, drought- and striga-resistant varieties of sorghum to more than 400,000 farmers in Ethiopia and Tanzania. With the grant, the team will identify more genes involved in striga resistance in sorghum and other crops. It will also support researchers in Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Niger, Nigeria, Burkina Faso and Mali to develop a improved crop–breeding pipeline and support more efficient distribution of high-quality hybrid sorghum seeds.
From the B4FA Fellows, we hear from Michael Ssali, who writes about irrigation for increased crop production in Uganda’s Daily Monitor.
As we have previously mentioned, the current funding of B4FA is coming to an end, and we are urgently searching for future support. This is now imminent, so if you feel that this weekly newsletter, our Tweets and website (www.B4FA.org) are useful and that you could help, please contact us [email protected] as soon as possible for further details. We hope to hear from you.
As ever, please send questions, comments and story links to [email protected] and visit B4FA.org for further reading and useful resources. Follow us on Twitter or Facebook to keep up with daily news and join the conversation.
Agriculture negotiations reach agreement at COP23
Environmental Defense Fund
Climate disasters are closing in. Why have we forgotten farmers?
Unearthing the Internet of Things in agriculture
Are ‘gene drives’ too risky for field trials?
New York Times
As climate change impacts agriculture, scientists need to accelerate the development of technologies to help smallholders adapt. A group of RTB scientists have outlined steps to accomplish this.
Genetic technologies in China provide food for thought
New tomatoes offer dramatically enhanced antioxidant properties
Protecting plants during tough times
The Progressive Farmer
The challenge of growing virus-resistant papaya in Hawaii
Genetic Literacy Project
How plant science will change the world
59 million African children stunted
Africa must raise fertilizer rate to boost food security
Ghana urged to embrace global insurance products to cushion farmers
Ghana News Agency
Agriculture ministry receives Sh50m for control of fall armyworm
Capital FM Kenya
Tissue culture banana planting guidelines
Wheat leaf disease, a potential threat
Irrigation for increased crop production
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali
Opportunities and resources
AfDB: Invitation to the Leadership for Agriculture Forum: from policy to action, 28 Nov, Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire