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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 …

Are genetically modified crops a solution for the African armyworm invasion?

February 20th, 2017 / AFKinsider

A combination of native African armyworms and Fall armyworms from the Americas are ravaging staple crops across southern Africa. If uncontrolled, they have the potential to cause major food shortages, according to a report in The Conversation.
Damage to maize is likely to have the biggest impact on farmers in southern …

Pests, disease seen hitting southern African food output

February 15th, 2017 / Reuters, Africa

Crop pests and diseases sweeping through southern Africa pose a threat to food security in a region where production has yet to recover from drought, a senior U.N. food agency official said on Tuesday, calling for a swift and coordinated response.
At the start of an emergency conference called by the …

Search for targeted pesticides leads scientists to eavesdrop on crosstalk between plants & fungi

February 13th, 2017 / Genetic Literacy Project, US

In the conversation between plants and fungi, the organisms rely on a well-worn mechanism of gene-expression regulation that has stood the test of evolutionary time: RNA interference (RNAi). Listening in on the RNA crosstalk between plants and their pathogens could reveal previously unknown facets of basic plant biology, and point …

Armyworms are wreaking havoc in southern Africa. Why it’s a big deal

February 13th, 2017 / The Conversation, UK

A combination of native African armyworms and Fall armyworms from the Americas are ravaging staple crops across southern Africa. If uncontrolled, they have the potential to cause major food shortages. The Conversation Africa’s energy and environment editor Ozayr Patel asked Kenneth Wilson to explain the threat and what can be …

New technique kills two maize pests

February 10th, 2017 / Sunrise, Uganda

An experiment meant to evaluate the effectiveness of a resistant maize variety against the devastating maize stem borer developed by Ugandan researchers has proved successful in controlling yet another hazardous pest, the leaf eater that had proved a menace to farmers across the Uganda especially during the dry season.
According to …

After the devastating drought, armyworm could be our next agricultural disaster

February 5th, 2017 / Huffington Post, South Africa

The 2016/17 summer crop production season started on a slightly positive note for Southern Africa’s agricultural sector, after emerging from a devastating drought in the 2015/16 season. For South Africa, there are already promising indications that the country could retain its status as a net exporter of maize.
In the second …

Why microbes are key to solving Africa’s food security crisis

January 31st, 2017 / The Conversation, UK

Microbial-based solutions, which are formulated from microbes, offer multiple benefits to crops. These include improved growth as well as protection from insects, drought and other climate-related extremities. The solutions also offer environmentally sustainable approaches to improved crops and productivity while ensuring the resilience of agricultural systems. Poncho®/VOTiVO® is an example …

‘Biblical plague’ of armyworms stalks South African maize

January 30th, 2017 / SundayTimes, South Africa

Regional governments are to hold a crisis meeting in Johannesburg next month following signs that a virulent pest attacking maize crops may have found its way to South Africa. See …

RNA clay offers green alternative to plant pesticides

January 27th, 2017 / SciDev.net, UK

A nano-sized bio-degradable clay-comprising double stranded ribonucleic acid (dsRNA) could offer a cost-effective, clean and green alternative to chemical-based plant pesticides.
Australian researchers from the University of Queensland have successfully used a gene-silencing spray, named BioClay, a combination of biomolecules and clay, to protect tobacco plants from a virus for 20 …