New strategy required for delaying insect resistance to Bt crops

Kenyan farmer Mary Ngare in her maize field damaged by stem borers © CIMMYT (CC BY-NC-SA)

Kenyan farmer Mary Ngare in her maize field damaged by stem borers © CIMMYT (CC BY-NC-SA)

Transgenic Bt crops have been grown around the world since the 1990s and have contributed to increased yields by controlling agricultural pests. Due to the importance of this technology, there has been continuous study into the development of resistance to Bt crops and how best to avoid this happening. A recent investigation into the rapid spread of Bt resistance in South Africa has revealed one of the more surprising discoveries to date, that the maize stalk borer (Busseola fusca) has evolved Bt maize resistance inherited as a dominant trait for the first time. This has significant impacts on the management of Bt crops, as current methods for sustaining susceptibility rely on the recessive inheritance of Bt resistance.

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Could Food Insecure Africa Have Found a Saviour in Farming God’s Way?

Proponents term it the long awaited messiah that food-insecure Africa has been yearning for! ‘Farming God’s way’ promises to end fertilizer woes of resource-poor farmers in the continent by providing a cheaper and less labour intensive farming method.

Elizabeth showing how high and dense her "Farming God's Way" - farmed maize has got (A Rocha Kenya)

Elizabeth showing how high and dense her “Farming God’s Way” – farmed maize has got
(A Rocha Kenya)

Food security remains the number one major challenge that citizens across the African continent contend with. While the Green Revolution of the 1960s allowed erstwhile food deficient regions of Asia and Latin America to triple crop yields, food production in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) has remained stagnant and in many instances it has even declined. According to IFPRI, among the factors fuelling the continent’s low agricultural outputs include poor resource endowments, minimal use of inputs (fertilizer, improved seeds and irrigation) and adverse policies undermining agriculture. Additionally, continuing environmental degradation, crop pests, high population growth and low levels of investment in agricultural infrastructure has further aggravated the resource limitations of agriculture in Africa.

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New Mapping Tool Tracks Insecticide Resistance In Malaria Carrying Mosquitoes

A mosquito in the genus Anopheles, which can transmit human malaria. Image by Yasser via Flickr (CC-BY-2.0)

A mosquito in the genus Anopheles, which can transmit human malaria. Image by Yasser via Flickr (CC-BY-2.0)

Progress in malaria control in the past decade can be attributed largely to a massive increase in the number of insecticide based management programmes targeting malaria carrying mosquitoes, using methods that include indoor residual spraying and insecticide impregnated bed nets. The effectiveness of these management techniques is now being compromised by insecticide resistant mosquito populations. In 2012, the UN World Health Organisation (WHO) launched a strategic plan to help fight insecticide resistance in malaria vectors. A crucial part in the management of insecticide resistant mosquito populations is access to current information on insecticide resistant populations.  IR Mapper is a new interactive online mapping tool used to track insecticide resistance in mosquitoes. The tool collaborates reports of insecticide resistance in malaria vector mosquitoes into maps which aim to assist vector control strategies. Data consolidation for the programme was conducted by Swiss company Vestergaard Frandsen, the Kenyan Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).   To make this information available to users, an interactive map of all publicly available insecticide resistance data has been developed, with an interface developed by ESRI Eastern Africa

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Cassava Brown Streak Disease threatens the “Rambo root” further north in Africa

Necrosis on cassava roots infected with Cassava Brown Streak Disease

Necrosis on cassava roots infected with Cassava Brown Streak Disease © IITA (CC BY-NC licence)

by MaryLucy Oronje and Willis Ndeda Ochilo

Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD) is threatening gains made in the intensification of cassava production in Africa. Since my colleague, Abigail Rumsey, reported on the resurgence of this disease in East Africa, and spread to Central and Western Africa, there are now reports of it spreading to northern Africa, thereby threatening food security of more than 100 million people.

Cassava is one of the most important staple crops grown in tropical Africa. Its extraordinary ability to survive high temperatures and tolerate poor soils has led to it being called the “Rambo root”. It is an important source of calories in the tropics, coming third only to rice and maize, respectively. Additionally, cassava is the cheapest known source of starch grown by poor farmers – many of whom are women – often on marginal land.

The threat posed by CBSD is particularly alarming considering its symptoms are not easily recognizable to an untrained or inexperienced person, and worse still, its symptoms are often mistaken for the more familiar Cassava Mosaic Disease (CMD). In addition, rising temperatures and changes in the genetic makeup of whiteflies threatens to gun down the “Rambo root”.

Tertiary vein chlorosis of cassava leaves caused by CBSD

Tertiary vein chlorosis of cassava leaves caused by CBSD © IITA (CC BY-NC licence)

CBSD manifests itself on leaves as patches of yellow areas (chlorosis), on the stems as dark-brown streaks and spots, and dark brown hard rots can be seen on the roots when cut. In severe attack, there are radial constrictions and/or pits on the root surface.

There is no specific international research organization for cassava, unlike wheat, rice, potato and maize, and no private-sector interest. Recently, initiatives and projects on cassava diseases have been spearheaded by national research organizations, such as the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and some international NGOs. However, focus has been on the Cassava Mosaic Disease, at the expense of CBSD. However, there seems to be a change of heart (and rightly so) with players such as Cassava Regional Centre of Excellence (CRCoE) working towards solutions for this devastating disease. The CRCoE, established under the East Africa Agricultural Productivity Program (EAAPP) was funded by the World Bank.

Some of the recommended management practices include the use of improved disease-free planting material, scouting and uprooting diseased plants, crop rotation and keeping weed-free fields to reduce whitefly infestation. While there seems to be some semblance of activity towards addressing the challenge posed by CBSD, a lot of research and awareness campaigns still need to be done considering the aforementioned threats and the crucial role cassava plays in food security.

Source: http://www.ciatnews.cgiar.org/2013/05/06/waging-war-on-cassava-viruses-couldnt-come-sooner

Black Rot Disease Hits Uganda

A photograph of a cabbage leaf showing symptoms of black rot. Image by USDA Forest Service via Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY 3.0)

A photograph of a cabbage leaf showing symptoms of black rot. Image by USDA Forest Service via Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY 3.0)

Vegetable farmers in the Kayunga and Mukono districts of Uganda are reporting crop losses due to black rot disease. One farmer, Twaha Kahooza of Kyampisi village, Kayunga Sub-county, says he had planted four acres of cabbages and was expecting about Shs18m (about £4,500 or US$7,000) from the harvest, however he only managed to get Shs5m (about £1,200 or US$2,000).

Black rot is caused by the bacterium Xanthomonas campestris pv. campestris and is one of the most destructive diseases of cabbage and other crucifers such as  broccoli, brussels sprouts, Chinese cabbage, collards, kohlrabi and mustard. The disease is usually most prevalent in low lying areas where plants remain wet for long periods. The disease is characterized by a yellow V-shaped lesion at the leaf margin which turns brown as the leaf area expands. The disease can also affect seedlings and can enter the plant through insect feeding or injury to the plant. Management of black rot in crucifers includes obtaining certified, pathogen free seed, ensuring there is enough space between plants and crop rotation.To read more about black rot and black rot management visit factsheets on the Plantwise Knowledge Bank.  

To read a Plantwise Factsheet for Farmers written in Uganda click here. 

To find out more about Plantwise plant clinics running in Uganda, click here

References:

‘Farmers count losses over black rot disease in cabbage’, Fred Muzaale, April 2013, Daily Monitor 

Plantwise Uganda to add thirty plant doctors to their pool

 Contributed by Jane Frances Asaba and Joseph Mulema, both CABI Africa, and Phil Taylor, CABI Egham-UKImage  Plantwise has been operating in Uganda for 8 years, throughout which progress in setting up plant clinics with partners has been slow but steady.  Recently, things are really taking off; extension workers being instructed to attend courses by their superiors, and their role as plant doctors is becoming part of their expected duties. Read more of this post

Organized and motivated, African plant health leaders take issue in Rome

Image

Participation in the Commission on Phytosanitary Measures (CPM) is much more than just turning up. It needs a good understanding of the technical issues involved, and of the way in which decisions are reached. To be heard, interventions from the floor must be made in the right way at the right time. So to build the consensus on which CPM depends, delegates from the same region with common interests often support each other in plenary. But to be effective, this approach needs planning.

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Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease Spreads To Uganda

Maize plants showing Maize Lethal Necrosis disease © CIMMYT via Flickr (License CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Maize plants showing Maize Lethal Necrosis disease © CIMMYT via Flickr (License CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Maize Lethal Necrosis disease, which was first reported in Kenya and Tanzania, has now spread to Uganda, raising concerns for food security in the country. The Ministry of Agriculture has warned that Maize Lethal Necrosis has been reported in districts in eastern Uganda, including Busia and Tororo.

A spokesman for the Agriculture Research Organisation, Robert Anguzo, has said that Ugandan scientists are working in collaboration with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) to find management solutions to the disease.

More information about the pests and viruses associated with Maize Lethal Necrosis and the management of the disease can be found on the Plantwise Knowledge Bank

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How Mobile Technology is Transforming Livestock Farming In Kenya

A fish farmer in Nigeria using a mobile phone to communicate to buyers in the capital © Reboot via Flickr (CC-BY-NC 2.0)

A fish farmer in Nigeria using a mobile phone to communicate to buyers in the capital © Reboot via Flickr (CC-BY-NC 2.0)

Farmers and vets across Africa are increasingly using mobile phones to issue alerts about potential pest and disease outbreaks. The recent introduction of mobile phones that use the open source Android operating system or the iPhone iOS operating system and include GPS and Google Maps have provided new opportunities for developing mobile phone applications, allowing communication between field workers and their project databases. ‘Smartphones’ offer computer like functionality and internet connectivity with built in Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers that give a detailed location reference.

Mobile phone applications can be installed on the phone to issue early warnings of pest and disease outbreaks. In Kenya, where three out of four people are reported to have a mobile phone, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has partnered with the Royal Veterinary College and local NGO VetAid to support pilot testing of a mobile phone application called EpiCollect, developed by a research team led by David Aanensen at Imperial College London. EpiCollect is a generic software developed for Android and iPhone which allows multiple data records to be entered and stored on a mobile phone and linked to a central web application that allows mapping, visualisation and analysis of data from a central database. The latitude, longitude and altitude of the current position of the user is returned from the GPS unit of the phone.

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Improving Food Security Using Agroforestry Schemes

Agroforestry is an integrated system of trees and shrubs and/or crops and livestock within a managed agriculture area and has potential in improving food security in developing countries by fully utilising land, improving crop yields, diversifying farmer income and improving environmental sustainability.

Last month the United National Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) published an “Advancing Agroforestry on the Policy Agenda” guide, detailing case studies from countries including Kenya, Costa Rica, Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon.

To read more about agroforestry and how it can be beneficial in farming systems see this recent article “How agroforestry schemes can improve food security in developing countries” by Caspar van Vark in The Guardian newspaper. 

Faidherbia is an indigenous African acacia which has been found to be useful in agroforestry systems due to the fact it sheds its nitrogen rich leaves in during the early rainy season when crops are being planting, thereby fertilising crops. Studies have found that Faidherbia-maize intercropping can increase maize yields by up to 400% in one area in Malawi. This photo shows Borassus palm intercropped with Faidherbia in Burkina Faso © Marco Schmidt via Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-SA 2.5)

Faidherbia is an indigenous African acacia which has been found to be useful in agroforestry systems due to the fact it sheds its nitrogen rich leaves during the early rainy season when crops are being planting, thereby fertilising crops at an important time. Studies have found that Faidherbia-maize intercropping increased maize yields by up to 400% in one area in Malawi. This photo shows Borassus palm inter-cropped with Faidherbia in Burkina Faso © Marco Schmidt via Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-SA 2.5)

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