Here’s a taste of some of the latest stories about plant health, including Crops in Brazil still suffering after last year’s drought, the Malawi farmers advised to diversify their crops and the gene that affects nitrogen fixation and yield of soybean.
This month sees the return of World Food Day which is celebrated annually on the 16th October, the day the Food and Agricultural Organisation was founded in 1945. This year’s theme, Family Farming, has been chosen to raise awareness of the role that family and smallholder farmers play in providing food security and achieving sustainable development. In the lead up to World Food Day, the World Development Movement is posting an A-Z of food sovereignty. The latest in this series was M for Mulching. Mulching is a widely-used technique amongst smallholder farmers who want to reduce soil erosion and water loss, and increase soil fertility. Another benefit of mulching is helping to reduce weed growth. This is is explained further in the Plantwise factsheet Preventing weeds in cassava. Cassava is a key staple crop in many countries so it is vital that yields are not affected by pests, including weeds. This factsheet was written in Sierra Leone by experts from the Sierra Leone Agricultural Research Institute (SLARI).
Here’s a taste of some of the latest stories about plant health, including cassava’s huge potential as a 21st century crop in Africa, the discovery of nematode resistant wheat and Brazil to launch biofungicide against witch’s broom.
Click on the link to read more of the latest plant health news!
A species of whitefly that transmits cassava mosaic virus has been detected in South Africa for the first time. The whitefly, Bemisia tabaci is a cryptic species complex containing some important agricultural pests and virus vectors. The term ‘cryptic species complex’ means that Bemisia tabaci is considered to be a complex of at least 24 different species that look almost identical but are in fact genetically different. Researchers from a range of organisations including the University of Johannesburg, the University of Witwatersrand and ARC-Vegetable and Ornamental Plant Institute conducted surveys to investigate the diversity and distribution of Bemisia tabaci species in 8 provinces in South Africa. The study aimed to update the information regarding the different Bemisia tabaci types present in the country.
Armyworms in Zambia are threatening food security by reducing crop yields. This was the message from former Agriculture Minister Eustarkio Kazong, speaking in an interview for Zambian radio station, QFM. Armyworms are attacking crops, causing major damage to maize, cassava, sorghum and rice. In Kabwe, the capital of the Central Province where the first cases were reported, armyworms have already been reported to have destroyed 6500 hectares of maize crop. Despite measures to prevent the spread, cases of armyworms have today been confirmed in 5 of the country’s 10 provinces. Farmers in the remaining provinces have been advised to take precautions as the pest could spread to the whole country. Continue reading →
The University of Illinois has received a five year, $25 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to improve the photosynthetic properties of key food crops, such as rice and cassava. The project, entitled ‘RIPE- Realising Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency’ has the potential to benefit farmers by improving the productivity of staple food crops. Increasing photosynthetic efficiency has the potential to increase yields and reduce the use of irrigation and fertilisation, however to date there has been limited research on photosynthetic properties of crop plants. The University of Illinois research team will apply recent advances in photosynthetic research, model simulations and crop bioengineering to the RIPE project. Stephen Long, the Project Director and Professor of Crop Sciences and Plant Biology at Illinois said:
“The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation predict that the world will need to increase staple crop yields by 20% by 2050. Photosynthesis promises a new area, ripe for exploitation that will provide part of the yield jump the world needs to maintain food security”
One of the worst diseases of the tuber crop, cassava, in sub-Saharan Africa is Cassava brown streak disease (CBSD). Since its resurgence in East Africa in recent years, it is now spreading to Central and Western Africa. The other major disease of cassava in this region, Cassava mosaic disease (CMD), can also cause widespread damage to the crop, however there already CMD-resistant varieties of cassava available. Until now, very little natural resistance to CBSD has been found. Plant scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich have combined natural resistance to CMD with modifications of the cassava genome to develop a variety of cassava resistant to both CBSD and CMD that can be grown in Africa. As cassava is a staple food to millions of people, this new variety has the potential to halt the spread of the disease and prevent famine from crop losses. Continue reading →