In the news...

November 23rd, 2017 /

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 ( 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.

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COP23: Key outcomes agreed at the UN climate talks in Bonn
Carbon Brief

Agriculture negotiations reach agreement at COP23
Environmental Defense Fund

Bananapocalypse: genetic modification may save $12bn industry
Guardian UK

GM banana shows promise against deadly fungus strain

Gene discovery at UC Davis may halt worldwide wheat epidemic
UC Davis

Discovery brings scientists one step closer to crops with twice the yields

Purdue poised to improve sorghum for millions with $5 million grant

“I turned the desert green with sorghum”

Inside The CropTrust’s effort to save wild relatives of major crops
Food Tank

Climate disasters are closing in. Why have we forgotten farmers?
Thomson Reuters

Climate goal in peril as science points to 3 degree warming

Chinese-French team breed GM tomatoes with age-defying qualities
Food Navigator

COP23 – Water, agriculture and energy sectors join forces to address climate change issues
Modern Ghana

Unearthing the Internet of Things in agriculture
African Farming

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.

Researchers helping farmers combat climate change with big data

Genetic technologies in China provide food for thought
Royal Society

New tomatoes offer dramatically enhanced antioxidant properties
Science Magazine

Queensland University grows Panama disease-free banana

Molecular biologist Nina Fedoroff asks what to do when scientists and citizens deeply disagree?
The Red & Black

High-tech tracker to battle ancient wheat plague MinION

Protecting plants during tough times
The Progressive Farmer

The challenge of growing virus-resistant papaya in Hawaii
Genetic Literacy Project

New study: Up to 7 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide can be removed from the atmosphere each year through better soil management on farm land

How plant science will change the world
The Biochemist

Development of low cadmium elite indica rice cultivars via CRISPR-Cas9

Increased food production and reduced water use through optimized crop distribution


African seed body backs use of genetically engineered seeds
Xinhua Net

App ‘trained’ to spot crop disease, alert farmers

Marshal Papworth trains over 1,000 young Africans in agriculture a year
Africa Ag

Filling intercropping info gap: Intercropping formula promises food security in Sahel Africa
Science Daily

Agribusiness could be the next gate to youth employment in Africa
CNBC Africa

ECA, AfDB and AUC pledge more support for African countries at land conference
CNBC Africa

59 million African children stunted

You can’t eat your smartphone: Why agriculture is the first frontier of African innovation
Biz Agriculture

Africa must raise fertilizer rate to boost food security
Africa Agribusiness

African youth go digital to keep climate-smart farming alive
Climate Home

Women in science regional programme honours young scientists from across Africa
African Brains


AfDB approves agricultural strategies to boost economy in Eritrea
African Farming


Agriculture that goes beyond ensuring food security


Increasing groundnut safety and value through better harvest and postharvest practices in Ghana

Ghana urged to embrace global insurance products to cushion farmers
Ghana News Agency

Ghana to cut $2.2 billion bill with farm support, president says


Agriculture ministry receives Sh50m for control of fall armyworm
Capital FM Kenya

Tissue culture banana planting guidelines


Are farmers ready to battle fall armyworm?


Farmers can’t fight desertification alone

South Africa

South African farmers see rise in profits thanks to smart farming
African Farming

Wheat leaf disease, a potential threat
Farmers Weekly


Tackling time constraints for women farmers in Tanzania


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