Happy new year greetings to all our readers around the world! This week we catch up with news from around the holidays, including a look forward from Food Tank highlighting 188 organizations concerned with supporting food security efforts to watch in 2018, including IFAD, the Crop Trust, the One Acre Fund, and others.
Before the end of 2017, scientists identified the first rust pathogen gene that wheat plants detect to “switch on” resistance, a breakthrough that allowed wheat rust to be detected in samples in hours rather than weeks – a time difference that could help save crops from devastation. ““For the first time it will be possible to do DNA testing to identify whether a rust in a wheat crop anywhere in the world can overcome a rust-resistance gene, called Sr50, which is being introduced in high-yielding wheat varieties,” said Professor Robert Park, in a blog post by the University of Sydney. The paper, “Loss of AvrSr50 by somatic exchange in stem rust leads to virulence for Sr50 resistance in wheat” was published in Science in late December.
A summary of the African food security situation in 2017 reported that the number of people experiencing food insecurity on the continent rose from 220 to 224 million people last year, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which attributes the rise to changing weather patterns leading to loss of livestock and crops, as well as to conflict. However, according to an article published in the eNews Channel Africa (eNCA), some African countries improved food production with the help of modern technologies, including improved seed varieties, modern equipment, fertilizers, and the practice of conservation agriculture. “In Ethiopia, for instance, farmers increased wheat yields by 14 percent as a result of newer agricultural technologies,” says the article. “And in Kenya, the practice of conservation agriculture has taken root, resulting in bigger yields.” Innovations in financing to allow farmers access to the necessary technology has also contributed to these successes, says the article.
Also before the end of 2017, the French Development Agency and World Bank pledged EUR 1 million to the ‘Triple A’ initiative launched in Morocco in 2016, dedicated to adapting agriculture in Africa to the effects of climate change. The coalition of African countries, development finance institutions, NGOs and the private sector is to create a pool of experts to promote innovative solutions and best practices.
From our B4FA Fellows, we hear from Michael Ssali, who profiles a Ugandan farmer who has chosen to grow clonal coffee. The farmer, Charles Lwanga, explains that he now grows cloned Robusta coffee exclusively because while traditional Robusta coffee plants only yielded six kilograms of dry coffee beans per tree, cloned Robusta plants yielded 14 kilos.
Finally we are pleased to kick off 2018 with the good news that B4FA has received generous support from the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture that will allow us to continue with our communications activities and to build a partnership programme that will allow us to develop our activities in a long-term, sustainable way. We look forward to continuing to bring you news about biotech in African agriculture. Now more than ever, we’d appreciate your feedback about what you enjoy, find useful, and would like to see. If you are interested in our partnership programme, or feel you could help us move forward, please contact [email protected], and we will be delighted to follow up with you.
As always, please send questions, comments and story links to [email protected]org 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.
Wheat disease breakthrough to help feed the world
University of Sydney
These are not your father’s GMOs
In Egypt, genetic crop modification is on hold
Breathing life into dying soils
Teff gets mechanization solution
AfDB supports Namibia’s agriculture sector
Why one farmer chose to grow clonal coffee
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali
Using soilless media to grow vegetables
Strange worms destroy potato gardens in Teso
Opportunities and resources
Book: Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Climate Change in Africa http://bit.ly/2zlUezo