This week we headline the sequencing and resequencing of genomes of 101 plants for the African Orphan Crops Consortium (AOCC). The data are intended to establish tools for informing orphan crop breeding programmes and assessing genetic diversity in African crops. In particular, informative genetic markers are useful for everything from selecting quality seed to performing genome-wide association studies on crop yield, disease resistance, nutritional content, or other agriculturally beneficial traits.
And we preview the launch, by the International Agriculture Research Institute (IITA) and the Africa Development Bank (AfDB), next week of the Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) programme. Part of the AfDB’s Africa Feeding Africa core priority, TAAT will lead to Increased agricultural productivity and diversification, improved food and nutrition security, the socioeconomic status of farmers including women and youth, reduced vulnerabilities to market fluctuation, and job creation.
And we report on the findings of a new study in sub-Saharan Africa indicating that biofortification of beta-carotene concentrations in cassava storage roots significantly increased provitamin A in the cultivars. And interestingly, the researchers found that accumulation of carotenoids was accompanied by a five-time reduction in postharvest physiological deterioration of cassava storage roots, suggesting that increased carotenoid concentrations prolong shelf life of harvested roots.
In other biotech news, we report on farmers in Kenya urging their government to fast track the adoption of genetically modified crops that will see the commercial release of Bt maize that could prove to be a sustainable solution against pest invasion, particularly the fall armyworm. And we read of the immanent release of a genetically modified variety of insect-resistant cowpeasto farmers in Nigeria. The pod borer insect can cause cowpea yield losses of up to 80 percent, and conventional breeding methods have so far been unable to help.
Convinced that agriculture can help achieve global goals of adaptation and mitigation to climate change, the European Union (EU) is supporting CTA to help smallholder farmers in Southern Africa become climate smart. Working through partnerships, the project seeks to improve and stabilise food security and income for 140,000 smallholder farmers in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe under a changing climate. The two-year project is promoting access of smallholder farmers to a multi-layer bundle of solutions to enable them address the challenges they encounter in their livelihood. Climate solutions involve the use of stress-tolerant seeds, weather information service using ICT tools, innovative weather-based insurance schemes, and expanded livelihood options through livestock.
African Farming reports on a new modelling study warning that the dry-season irrigated rice in West Africa’s Sahel region has reached the critical threshold of 37 degrees Celsius. Further temperature rise could devastate rice yields in this region due to decreasing photosynthesis at high temperatures. This comes as the Coalition for African Rice Development (CARD), a group of bilateral and multilateral donors and African/international institutions, is launched with the aim of doubling the rice production in ten years, closing the demand-supply gap and contributing to the food security as well as poverty reduction in the continent.
We’d also like to take this opportunity to invite all scientists and researchers working in our area of interest to please send details of your work for inclusion on B4FA’s Twitter feed and in this newsletter. Our aim is to amplify the stories relevant to the role of biosciences in African agriculture, sustainable agriculture, and global food security. Please send details and URLs along with any questions or comments to [email protected].
You may notice that we have slightly revised the way we include and list stories in the Week in Review, and we hope that you find it an improvement. Please let us know.
African Orphan Crops Consortium tackles 101 crop genomes, training in Africa
Genetic modification laws set for shake-up in Australia
Burkina Faso is moving forward with GMO research
Alliance for Science, US
Disquiet over GM cassava trial in Nigeria
New Telegraph, Nigeria
Experimental Chinese GM rice strain wins landmark US approval. But it’s still banned in China
South China Morning Post
Why this huge new agri-tech park in Cambridgeshire is so important
Cambridge News, UK
Scientists are breeding super-nutritious crops to help solve global hunger
The Conversation, UK
Climate change and the environment
Rising temperatures put Africa’s rice production at risk
African Farming, UK
EU helping smallholder farmers become climate smart
Pests and diseases
Scientists recommend Bt maize as solution to fall armyworm Infestation in Kenya
Plagued by pests – African farmers may soon have access to insect-resistant GMO cowpeas – for free
Genetic Literacy Project, US
Rwanda makes progress on continental agric plan, scoring highest on Agricultural Transformation in Africa
New Times, Rwanda
Uganda: Farming the eucalyptus tree for its big money
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru
Kenya: Accountant makes more money growing pepino melons
Energy and Innovation
Africa: Skills shortage in the agritech sector holding back IoT innovation
African Farming, UK
A water-poverty map for all Africa could help sound policies
Huffington Post, Such Africa
Insurance programme targeting 4 million people launched to support African women farmers
African Business Chief
But, how about African agriculture?
RU Forum, Uganda
The GM debate
Listen to Uganda’s scientists
Alliance for Science, US
Universities should encourage scientists to speak out about public issues
Agriculture will be Africa’s quiet revolution, says Africa Agriculture Status Report (AASR)
11 milestones in plant genetics
The search is on for the winner of 2018 $100,000 (Sh10,285,500) Africa Food Prize, which rewards individuals and institutions pioneering efforts to create prosperity in Africa
Daily Nation, Kenya