In the news...

January 25th, 2018 /

This week we headline the sequencing and resequencing of genomes of 101 plants for the African Orphan Crops Consortium (AOCC). The data are intended to establish tools for informing orphan crop breeding programmes and assessing genetic diversity in African crops. In particular, informative genetic markers are useful for everything from selecting quality seed to performing genome-wide association studies on crop yield, disease resistance, nutritional content, or other agriculturally beneficial traits.

And we preview the launch, by the International Agriculture Research Institute (IITA) and the Africa Development Bank (AfDB), next week of the Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) programme. Part of the AfDB’s Africa Feeding Africa core priority, TAAT will lead to Increased agricultural productivity and diversification, improved food and nutrition security, the socioeconomic status of farmers including women and youth, reduced vulnerabilities to market fluctuation, and job creation.

And we report on the findings of a new study in sub-Saharan Africa indicating that biofortification of beta-carotene concentrations in cassava storage roots significantly increased provitamin A in the cultivars. And interestingly, the researchers found that accumulation of carotenoids was accompanied by a five-time reduction in postharvest physiological deterioration of cassava storage roots, suggesting that increased carotenoid concentrations prolong shelf life of harvested roots.

In other biotech news, we report on farmers in Kenya urging their government to fast track the adoption of genetically modified crops that will see the commercial release of Bt maize that could prove to be a sustainable solution against pest invasion, particularly the fall armyworm. And we read of the immanent release of a genetically modified variety of insect-resistant cowpeasto farmers in Nigeria. The pod borer insect can cause cowpea yield losses of up to 80 percent, and conventional breeding methods have so far been unable to help.

Convinced that agriculture can help achieve global goals of adaptation and mitigation to climate change, the European Union (EU) is supporting CTA to help smallholder farmers in Southern Africa become climate smart. Working through partnerships, the project seeks to improve and stabilise food security and income for 140,000 smallholder farmers in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe under a changing climate. The two-year project is promoting access of smallholder farmers to a multi-layer bundle of solutions to enable them address the challenges they encounter in their livelihood. Climate solutions involve the use of stress-tolerant seeds, weather information service using ICT tools, innovative weather-based insurance schemes, and expanded livelihood options through livestock.

African Farming reports on a new modelling study warning that the dry-season irrigated rice in West Africa’s Sahel region has reached the critical threshold of 37 degrees Celsius. Further temperature rise could devastate rice yields in this region due to decreasing photosynthesis at high temperatures. This comes as the Coalition for African Rice Development (CARD), a group of bilateral and multilateral donors and African/international institutions, is launched with the aim of doubling the rice production in ten years, closing the demand-supply gap and contributing to the food security as well as poverty reduction in the continent.

We’d also like to take this opportunity to invite all scientists and researchers working in our area of interest to please send details of your work for inclusion on B4FA’s Twitter feed and in this newsletter. Our aim is to amplify the stories relevant to the role of biosciences in African agriculture, sustainable agriculture, and global food security. Please send details and URLs along with any questions or comments to [email protected].

You may notice that we have slightly revised the way we include and list stories in the Week in Review, and we hope that you find it an improvement. Please let us know.

Please also visit for further reading and useful resources – and follow us on Twitter or Facebook to keep up with daily news and join the conversation. We look forward to hearing from you!

African Orphan Crops Consortium tackles 101 crop genomes, training in Africa
Genome Web

IITA and AfDB launch Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) – to revolutionise agriculture in Africa
The Guardian, Nigeria

Sub-Saharan Africa: biofortification of beta-carotene in cassava enhances Provitamin A content and shelf life

NRGene reports first-ever food potato genomes

Gene edited crops should be exempted from GM food laws, says EU lawyer
The Guardian, UK

Genetic modification laws set for shake-up in Australia
ABC, Australia

Ag-bio news
Burkina Faso is moving forward with GMO research
Alliance for Science, US

Sokoto State Cattle Breeding Project to improve the genetics of local cattle breeds by ensuring higher milk and beef production launches in May
This Day, Nigeria

Disquiet over GM cassava trial in Nigeria
New Telegraph, Nigeria

Coalition for African Rice Development (CARD), Rice for Africa, aim at doubling rice production in ten years
Rice for Africa

An overview of agriculture, nutrition and fortification, supplementation and biofortification: Golden Rice as an example for enhancing micronutrient intake
Agriculture and Food Security, UK

Experimental Chinese GM rice strain wins landmark US approval. But it’s still banned in China
South China Morning Post

Dow AgroSciences and University of California-Davis team up with Consortium to advance orphan African crops
Business Wire, US

Why this huge new agri-tech park in Cambridgeshire is so important
Cambridge News, UK

Food security
Scientists are breeding super-nutritious crops to help solve global hunger
The Conversation, UK

Climate change and the environment
Rising temperatures put Africa’s rice production at risk
African Farming, UK

EU helping smallholder farmers become climate smart
CTA, Belgium

Study reveals how climate change alters plant growth

Pests and diseases
Scientists recommend Bt maize as solution to fall armyworm Infestation in Kenya

Hungry caterpillars and hungry people: an army of worms is invading Africa
The Economist, UK

Plagued by pests – African farmers may soon have access to insect-resistant GMO cowpeas – for free
Genetic Literacy Project, US

Best practice
Rwanda makes progress on continental agric plan, scoring highest on Agricultural Transformation in Africa
New Times, Rwanda

Kenya: Jobless youth turns cassava root into a Sh500,000 business venture
FarmBiz Africa

Uganda: Farming the eucalyptus tree for its big money
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru

Kenya: Accountant makes more money growing pepino melons
FarmBiz Africa

Kenya Breweries Ltd to contract 30,000 sorghum farmers as demand soars
FarmBiz Africa

Energy and Innovation
Africa: Skills shortage in the agritech sector holding back IoT innovation
African Farming, UK

A water-poverty map for all Africa could help sound policies
Huffington Post, Such Africa

The future in agriculture programming promising if we focus on working with young people
New Vision, Uganda

African Development Bank inspires Nigerian school children with ‘Farming is Cool’ competition

Ghana: Government urged to make agriculture youth-centred

Insurance programme targeting 4 million people launched to support African women farmers
African Business Chief

Davos agenda should include climate, youth, private sector engagement, says Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa chief

But, how about African agriculture?
RU Forum, Uganda

Agriculture must be at the forefront of Africa’s industrialization says AfDB President
African Review

African Development Bank makes a compelling case for Africa’s industrialisation, with agriculture at the forefront
The Standard, Kenya

Options for reducing poverty in remote areas of northern Ghana: Can maize contract farming schemes help?

The GM debate
Listen to Uganda’s scientists
Alliance for Science, US

Uganda – Experts warn against discarding Bio-Technology bill
NTV, Uganda

NGOs’ opposition to genome editing is rooted in scepticism about the framing of problems and solutions

Understanding the continued opposition to GMOs

Universities should encourage scientists to speak out about public issues
Scientific American

Agriculture will be Africa’s quiet revolution, says Africa Agriculture Status Report (AASR)
BizCommunity Africa

The EU faces an opportunity to create headroom for innovation and continued investment for the future by fostering and guiding forward a major scientific breakthrough: genome editing

A look back at some of CropLife International’s favourite videos from 2017, including how to bring a crop protection product to market and innovations in plant breeding
CropLife International

11 milestones in plant genetics
Technology Networks

The search is on for the winner of 2018 $100,000 (Sh10,285,500) Africa Food Prize, which rewards individuals and institutions pioneering efforts to create prosperity in Africa
Daily Nation, Kenya

Call for research: Ensuring a food secure Africa: Cultivate Africa’s Future Fund 2

FARA, apex organization for agricultural research for development in Africa, seeks a highly qualified professional to fill the position of Lead Specialist (Monitoring and Evaluation)

New e-Learning Course from SPRING Bridges Nutrition and Agriculture Programming