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January 3rd, 2018 / Phys.org

One of the most ambitious programmes to provide lasting improvements in nutrition in sub-Saharan Africa begins today when a diverse multinational team of experts from agriculture to ethics start looking for ways to end dietary deficiencies in essential micronutrients.

Rothamsted Research is contributing soil and crop expertise to the programme, known as GeoNutrition, which has received a grant of £4.4 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to cover 43 months’ work in Ethiopia and Malawi, principally.

“We will be able to gain a better understanding of the multiple factors that influence the transfer of nutrients from soil to crops to diets,” says Steve McGrath, a specialist in the bioavailability of nutrients at Rothamsted.

The programme is focusing on deficiencies in selenium and zinc, which impair growth, inhibit cognitive development and suppress the immune system. It aims to map cropland, test the efficacy of micronutrient-enriched fertilisers, assess public health policies and strengthen training networks.
“We will allow appropriate interventions to be taken that respond to the specific local conditions that underlie micronutrient deficiencies,” adds McGrath.

Rothamsted will be drawing on its work for the Africa Soil Information Service (AfSIS) and on another project, also known as GeoNutrition, which it is piloting in Ethiopia and Malawi with the support of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. Read more