In the news...

February 8th, 2018 /

According to a research paper released this week, 2016 saw a high adoption rate of biotech crops, with a global area of 185.1 million hectares. The paper – published in GM Crops and Food on 2 February and authored by Drs Rhodora Aldemita and Randy Hautea of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) – states that of the 26 countries that planted biotech crops in 2016, 19 were developing one. Those that increased biotech crops included Brazil, United States of America, Canada, South Africa, Australia, Bolivia, Philippines, Spain, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Colombia, Honduras, Chile, Sudan, Slovakia, and Costa Rica. The factors included “acceptance and commercialization of new products, demand for meat and livestock feeds, weather conditions, global market price, disease/pest pressure, and government’s enabling policies,” according to a summary by ISAAA.

At the University of Toronto, researcher Connor Fitzpatrick has released a study finding that root microbiomes are critical to the growth and health of plants, assisting in nutrient uptake and other aspects of plant development. Fitzpatrick grew 30 species of plants in a variety of conditions, and collected data on differences in plant root microbiomes, including in the plant endosphere (referring to microbes living within roots) and rhizosphere (referring to microbes living in surrounding soil).

“Just as there are more similarities between a human’s gut microbiome and an ape’s than between a human’s and a mouse’s, the closer the relationship between plant species, the more similar their root microbiomes,” says Fitzpatrick. “It’s important to document as a way to better understand the evolutionary processes shaping the plant root microbiome.” Fitzpatrick’s study may shed light on why certain plants recruit bacteria that impact drought resistance. Meanwhile, a feature published this week in The Scientist covers similar ground in its feature “How manipulating the plant microbiome could improve agriculture”.

In response to the fall armyworm invasion of Africa, Feed the Future, USAID, CIMMYT and the CGIAR Research Program on Maize have partnered to release Fall Armyworm in Africa: A Guide for Integrated Pest Management, a comprehensive guide to tackling the fall armyworm, aimed at plant protection organizations, extension agencies, research institutions, and governments working with smallholder farmers.

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High adoption of biotech crops recorded in 2016

Drought-resistant plants: U of T study looks at the crucial role root microbiomes play
University of Toronto

How manipulating the plant microbiome could improve agriculture
The Scientist

Global experts release guide on fall armyworm management, a critical global security threat in Africa
CNBC Africa

CONNECTED network takes off with energetic UK launch conference, tackling vector-borne plant disease devastating crops in Sub-Saharan Africa

Ag-bio news & features

Nigeria: Local companies gear up for commercialization of GM seeds

AgriLife study sheds light on nodulation in legume crop guar
Southwest Farm Press

Transforming sweet potato to help feed a changing world

Plague-resistant tomatoes developed through genetic engineering

Bill Gates’ investment in ‘super cows’ shows that many of the world’s farms are in crisis mode
Business Insider

Nigeria: From data collection to policy implementation

Nigeria: National Biosafety Management Agency committed to safe use of GMOs

Hope for peanut allergy sufferers: Gene-silenced hypoallergenic nuts could save lives
Genetic Literacy Project

Argentina and Brazil merge law and science to regulate new breeding techniques
Alliance for Science

Uganda: Improving breeds to enhance food production, by B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru

Why approved Chinese-developed GMO rice that boosts yields, reduces pesticide use
Genetic Literacy Project

Bt cotton doubled production, minimised harm by pest: India gov’t

Researchers learn from plant viruses to protect crops
The Scientist

How viruses attack plants
The Scientist

Food security

African food security: Immediate challenges conceal long-term opportunity
Future Directions International

Kenya: Agricultural stakeholders to market potato as the food of choice
FarmBiz Africa

Climate change and the environment

South African farmers lose crops and workers amid crippling drought

Climate change to adversely impact grain production in China by 2030
Thomson Reuters Foundation News

How can we improve lives/farming in semi-arid regions? Food Tank interviewed Dr. David Bergvinson, Director General of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics
Food Tank

Africa Center of Excellence for Climate Smart Agriculture and Biodiversity Conservation (Climate SABC) aims to bridge gaps in climate smart agriculture

Pests and diseases

Using genetic engineering to control leaf miner insects in tomato plants
Science Trend

How South Africa is keeping invasive famine weed at bay

Gambia: National sensitization campaign on aggressive fall armyworm underway
The Point

Mozambique: Battling to save the world’s bananas

Wheat plague spreading through Yemen

Best practice

Omex Calmax to get calcium into coffee beans
African Farming

Nigerian entrepreneur: ‘We’re farming in a shipping container’

Red cherries and coffee farmers who do it right

Uganda: The future of farming, by B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali

Uganda: Farmer turns his backyard into a fish farm, by B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali

Energy and innovation

Seeding success: Increasing agricultural technology adoption through information

Evidence patchy on value of mobile apps for farmers

REPORT: The Little We Know: An Exploratory Literature Review on the Utility of Mobile Phone-Enabled Services for Smallholder Farmers
Wiley Online Library


Agricultural education & training: The landscape, challenges & opportunities

The rise and rise of African agri-tech
Disrupt Africa

High-level event on empowering women in agriculture in Addis Ababa

AfDB supports proposal to lease land for food supply to India
SME Times

So much land, yet so many people hungry
The Star

The GM debate

Nigeria’s Biosafety Agency, activists clash over safety of GMOs

Genetically modified produce: misunderstood wonders

Clean food: If you want to save the world, get over yourself

CRISPR gene-edited food in Europe? Questions remain on crop breeding regulations
Genetic Literacy Project

Consumers more concerned about GMO crops’ environmental impact than health worries, German study finds
Genetic Literacy Project

Why GM mustard may not see the light of day
Financial Express


African institutions to get a year’s free R&D publicity, via SciDevNet

WEBINAR: Mycotoxin Outlook 2018: The rise of Fumonisins, Biomin. 14 February

Nominations open for 2018 Africa Food Prize
Biz Community

COURSE: Modern breeding techniques of maize, Gent, Belgium. August 20th – September 7th 2018. Scholarship application deadline April 8th 2018; registration deadline June 30th 2018

2nd African Symposium on Mycotoxicology, 24-27 June 2018, Mombasa, Kenya

COURSE: Facing rural innovation challenges – linking research to inclusive development for food security 24 Sep – 12 Oct 2018, Netherlands

COURSE: Building agribusiness relations for sustainable profit – key skills for inclusive business brokerage. 19–30 Nov 2018, Uganda


CRISPR had a life before it became a gene-editing tool
Science News

Watch: CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing visualized in 3D animation
Technology Networks

Glory of plants in 3D: CRISPR gene-editing, imaging technology unlock genetic secrets
Genetic Literacy Project

Steve Cerier begins first in Genetic Literacy Project’s four-part series on impact of GE on our lives, with focus on GE applications in food, highlights applications to boost nutrition and to protect crops from pests and disease
Genetic Literacy Project