In the news...

April 27th, 2017 /

This week we feature a story on microscopic soil organisms, potentially an environmentally friendly way of controlling crop pests and diseases and even protecting against the impacts of climate change. At a time when Africa is battling an outbreak of trans-boundary pests and diseases including the South America fall armyworm, tomato leaf miner and the TR4 which have cost the agriculture sector millions of dollars in crop damage, Dr. Esther Ngumbi’s, a researcher in the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology at the Auburn University in Alabama, United States, work looks at how beneficial soil microbes help recruit natural enemies.

Other bioscience news includes a report on research led by Rod A. Herman that evaluated the impact of crossing genetically modified events on maize grain biochemical composition and compared it with the impact caused by generating non-GM hybrids. They found that traditional breeding alters maize composition more than stacking transgenic events. And, from Bangladesh, we report on Bt eggplant that has shown close to 100 percent effectiveness in controlling pests. Not only have farmers’ incomes risen through increased yields, but the the crop requires far fewer insecticide applications to reduce pests.

Encouragingly, there are two stories about the involvement of young people in agriculture in Africa. First we report on young farmers, who rather than migrating are staying, but leaving traditional methods behind them and opting for more modern innovative ways of farming. Then Reuters feature the stories and experience of some young Africans in charting new paths for agriculture in the face of climate change.

From Kenya we hear that farmers are set to benefit from a new soil enhancer that conserves water during times when water is in short supply by only releasing moisture and nutrients when plants require them. The product comes to market as water scarcity is plaguing rain-fed farming and when the cost of irrigation is skyrocketing beyond the reach of most smallholders.

Also from Kenya, there is a warning from the Kenya Medical Research Institute that increased use of antibiotics to boost growth of animals is endangering the health of meat consumers. According to the Director for Microbiology Research that 70 per cent of antibiotics sold over the counter are being used to boost animal growth and not for treatment of infections in animals.

Another warning came from Botswana’s Assistant Minister of Agricultural Development and Food Security who called on farmers to retrace their steps and start planting indigenous field crops alongside open pollinated and hybrid ones. His concern is that indigenous field crops seem to be disappearing and that agricultural biodiversity does need to be preserved for future use.

From B4FA Fellow, Lominds Afedraru, we hear that most small scale farmers in Uganda practice mixed crop and livestock farming grow crops and at the same time keep livestock on the same piece of land which may not lead to increased yields. She suggests they could however adopt integrated agriculture practiced by farmers in Brazil in which a piece of land is used for planting forest trees, growing crops or keeping animals. And finally, B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali reports on government action in Uganda to prevent the further spread of fall armyworm across Uganda.

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Prof. Benjamin Ubi: “Anti-GMO campaigners ‘play politics’ with food security and poverty, delaying sustainable farming”
Genetic Literacy Project

Food security is a fundamental element for security that every state has to protect as part of the well being of citizens
The Chronicle, Zimbabwe

How CRISPR gene editing will ‘supercharge’ agriculture
Genetic Literacy Project

Traditional breeding alters maize composition more than stacking transgenic events

Green meal: GMO foods, synthetic milk, lab-grown meat on the menu – feeding 10 billion will require some creative solutions, and unpalatable compromises
Genetic Literacy Project

‘Backlash’ against GMOs may be more about corporate power than science
Genetic Literacy Project

Genetic Literacy Project
Growing Produce, US, UK
Devex, US
Genetic Literacy Project
Pan Africa
IPS News
Cape Times, South Africa, UK
The Herald, Zimbabwe
Fresh Plaza, US
The Guardian, UK
New Times, Rwanda
The Herald, Zimbabwe
Africa News
Washington Examiner, US
African Farming
African Brains
Alliance for Science, US
Premium Times
South Africa
World Vision International
Daily Monitor
Daily Monitor
Daily Monitor