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The homecoming of African pasture grasses

October 10th, 2017 / Claudia Canales – B4FA

Brachiaria grasses, which originated primarily from natural grasslands in Africa, do not look particularly remarkable. Yet these forage species for feeding farm animals are the most widely used in the tropics, especially in Central and South America, where they were introduced in the middle of last century in an effort …

Mixed farming systems and global food security

May 25th, 2017 / Claudia Canales, B4FA

Mixed farming, the combined production of crops and livestock, is central to current and future global food supplies. Two thirds of all people, and most of the world’s poor, work in such systems to produce a significant proportion of key staple crops: 86 per cent of rice, 74 per cent …

Soil microbiome – research into practice

April 17th, 2017 / Claudia Canales, B4FA

The previous blog looked at the extraordinary complexity of life supported by soils, in particular healthy, productive soils. This is especially true in the rhizosphere, the soils directly affected by plant root secretions. Key functions modulated by microbes include plant nutrition through the release of inorganic phosphorous in soils, the …

The soil microbiome: enlisting an invisible army for food security

February 20th, 2017 / Claudia Canales, B4FA

Plants do not grow in isolation: even the smallest amount of soil is home to millions of very diverse microorganisms, mostly bacteria and fungi, which interact with plants and affect the way they grow and cope with environmental and biotic stresses.

These microbes have co-evolved with plants since they colonised …

Breeding for drought tolerance

February 1st, 2017 / Claudia Canales, B4FA

Drought is the most significant environmental stress in agriculture and is likely to become even more important as the world’s climate warms and competition for water increases. Raising the yield of crops grown with little water is therefore a prime breeding objective, especially in areas where crops depend on rainfall.

Water …

Yield gaps – social aspects

January 12th, 2017 / Claudia Canales, B4FA

Yield gaps, the difference between actual production and what is potentially achievable under optimum growing conditions, are greatest in the poorer parts of the world, and these regions are also the ones that are predicted to be most vulnerable to the combined pressures of increases in population, the effects of …

Bridging the yield gap – the bioscience perspective

January 6th, 2017 / Claudia Canales, B4FA

There is a wide divide in many parts of the world between the yields of crops that could be achieved and those that are actually harvested.

Drought-tolerant maize has improved yields in more than a dozen countries.
What is the yield gap?
It is the difference between yields of crops that are actually achieved in …

Biofortification – a better, iron-rich bean

December 12th, 2016 / Claudia Canales, B4FA

One strategy for improving human health and the nutrition of resource poor people is increasing the iron content of beans. But what are the challenges for plant breeders?

Biofortification – a good strategy
Biofortification is a good strategy to improve the nutrition of resource poor people for a number of reasons:
• people …

Biofortification – the importance of iron

November 29th, 2016 / Claudia Canales, B4FA

This blog discusses the importance for health of iron in diets, and strategies for improving the nutritional status of target populations. Although not directly to do with plant genetics, it highlights many of the challenges facing plant scientists.

The common bean, Phaseolus vulgaris

Don’t spill your beans
The common bean, Phaseolus vulgaris, native to an area between …

Improving the nutrition of food

November 23rd, 2016 / Claudia Canales, B4FA

The current food system has an intrinsic contradiction: although there are a larger number of people who are overweight than underweight, malnutrition – the “hidden hunger” – remains a pervasive problem worldwide, even among those who consume enough or too many calories. In fact, malnutrition also includes obesity and overweight. …