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Seeking the new potato

February 14th, 2019 / Science, US

On a bleak, brown hill here, David Ellis examines a test plot of potato plants and shakes his head. “They’re dead, dead, dead,” he says. Pests and lack of rain have laid waste to all 17 varieties that researchers had planted.

It is a worrying sign for Ellis, the now-retired director …

Virus lurking inside banana genome has been destroyed with CRISPR

February 1st, 2019 / New Scientist, UK

Genome editing has been used to destroy a virus that lurks inside many of the bananas grown in Africa. Other teams are trying to use it to make the Cavendish bananas sold in supermarkets worldwide resistant to a disease that threatens to make it impossible to grow this variety commercially …

What is CRISPR? The revolutionary gene-editing tech explained

February 1st, 2019 / Wired, US

Until very recently if you wanted to create, say, a drought-resistant corn plant, your options were extremely limited. You could opt for selective breeding, try bombarding seeds with radiation in the hope of inducing a favourable change, or else opt to insert a snippet of DNA from another organism entirely.

But …

Pesticides and food: It’s not a black or white issue

January 30th, 2019

Information about pesticides is ubiquitous online. Unfortunately, a balanced and nuanced discussion about the benefits and drawbacks of current pesticides is difficult to find. This series discusses the main concerns surrounding pesticides and illuminate the complexity and challenges involved in decision-making regarding current and future pesticide use.This series contains six …

World Vegetable Center looks into wild relatives of eggplant for food security

January 23rd, 2019 / Nova

At the World Vegetable Center, experts are looking to the wild relatives of domesticated crops—like eggplant—to save the human diet from climate change.

At the World Vegetable Center, experts are studying a wide variety of eggplant relatives for their hardiness and ability to produce appealing, edible fruits—but it isn’t typical, business-as-usual …

New technologies show better details on GM plants

January 23rd, 2019 / ISAAA, US

Researchers from the Salk Institute used the latest DNAsequencing technologies to study exactly what happens at a molecular level when new genes are inserted into plants. Scientists usually rely on Agrobacterium tumefaciens when they want to put a new gene into a plant. Decades ago, scientists discovered that when the bacteria infected a tree, it …

Scientists breeding new disease-resistant soybeans to crack down on parasitic nematode

January 22nd, 2019 / Genetic Literacy Project, US

Soybean cyst nematode (SCN) [a common soybean pest] has overcome the main source of genetic resistance – PI 88788 – that accounts for 95% of resistance in SCN-resistant soybean varieties. Research scientists….have been developing new sources of genetic resistance and new SCN resistance management strategies.

Ultimately, the goal is to identify …

Speed up seed policies harmonisation

January 21st, 2019 / SciDev.net

Delayed harmonisation of policies for encouraging the transfer of seeds across East and Southern Africa is hampering trade and increased agricultural growth, experts say.

The goal to harmonise seed trade resulted from having different policies across countries, thus impeding transfer technology to promote agriculture in the region. Harmonised seed policies ensure that countries with similar agricultural production …

Wild coffee species threatened by climate change and deforestation

January 18th, 2019 / Nature, UK

Most of the world’s wild coffee species have a high chance of going extinct in the next several decades due to more frequent and lengthy droughts, loss of forests and the spread of deadly pests, according to a study1 published on 16 January in Science Advances. 

The findings signal a potential threat to …

Genetically modified ‘shortcut’ boosts plant growth by 40%

January 7th, 2019 / BBC, UK

Scientists in the US have engineered tobacco plants that can grow up to 40% larger than normal in field trials. 

The researchers say they have found a way of overcoming natural restrictions in the process of photosynthesis that limit crop productivity.

They believe the method could be used to significantly boost yields …