Climate-friendly rice wins 2015 Popular Science award

rice paddy
Wetland rice fields are prolific producers of methane © Helidixon, CC BY-NC-ND

A new strain of low-methane rice has won Popular Science’s “Best of What’s New” award 2015 for engineering. The new kind of rice, known as SUSIBA2, has been developed by splicing a single gene from barley into rice plants to reduce the amount of methane the rice produces and, ultimately, the amount released into the environment. The single inserted gene does this by altering the transport of carbon within the rice plant. Instead of taking its usual path to the roots, where methane-producing bacteria are found, carbon in SUSIBA2 rice is redirected to the grains and leaves. This has the added benefit of increasing the starch levels and yield of the rice. SUSIBA2 rice has performed well in field trials and will now be assessed for commercial viability.  Continue reading

Tackling climate change and agriculture at COP21 – a look at the landscape approach

by Dr Trevor Nicholls, CEO, CABI

In the Fields in Sherpur, Himachal Pradesh, India
Photo credit: Michael Foley, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license

At COP21 last week, the world’s leaders agreed on a way forward to manage climate change. Limiting global warming to less than two percent was undoubtedly a landmark decision and, for the first time, there was unanimous recognition that humans impact the climate and that humans must do something about it.

I was honoured to deliver an address to the UNFCCC on CABI’s work in agriculture and the environment, specifically highlighting our knowledge and science-based initiatives like Plantwise that help smallholder farmers living in rural communities grow more and lose less of their produce, and embrace climate smart agricultural processes.

Talking about these projects, it struck me how agriculture has been caught in the centre of the COP21 debate as both a cause and a victim of climate change, and how – as the foundation of food security – agriculture must be carefully managed. A perfect storm is brewing of increased global warming and growing global population, which places pressure on agriculture to produce more outputs using fewer resources like land and water. How we feed a world of 9 billion people by 2050, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions, is one of the most important questions we must ask and answer. Continue reading

Update: Plant Health News (02 Dec 15)

TheGates Foundation has approved funding  for KAUST to conduct research into eradicating witchweed in sub-Saharan Africa. (IITA)
The Gates Foundation has approved funding for research into eradicating witchweed in sub-Saharan Africa. (IITA)

Here’s a taste of some of the latest stories about plant health, including a boost for parasitic weed research in Africa from the Gates Foundation, benefits of modern farming come to Peru and a surge in climate change-related disasters posing a growing threat to food security.

Click on the link to read more of the latest plant health news!
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Update: Plant Health News (23 Sep 15)

Earthworms are effective in boosting soil fertility © UNDP (CC BY-NC-SA)
Earthworms can boost soil fertility © UNDP

Here’s a taste of some of the latest stories about plant health, including the damage to irrigation channels caused by Chilean earthquakes, the promotion of earthworms to improve soil fertility and boost crop yields in Zimbabwe, and a severe reduction in cereal production in Central America as a result of the El Niño.

Click on the link to read more of the latest plant health news!
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Update: Plant Health News (26 Aug 15)

With the help of sustainable irrigation, crops in Honduras are able to thrive despite the drought © CIAT (CC BY-NC-SA)
Sustainable water use helps Honduran crops to thrive despite the drought ©CIAT(CC BY-NC-SA)

Here’s a taste of some of the latest stories about plant health, including the risk of invasive pests spreading across Africa as a consequence of irrigation, research into genetic markers for disease resistance and salt tolerance of rice in Vietnam, and farmers in Honduras adopting sustainable methods to deal with increasing drought.

Click on the link to read more of the latest plant health news!
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Update: Plant Health News (12 Aug 15)

A forthcoming article in the International Journal of Climate Change is expected to show that climate change will cause a reduction in maize yields in SSA. Photo: Neil Palmer (CIAT).
A forthcoming article in the International Journal of Climate Change will outline the effect that climate change will have on maize yields in Sub-Saharan Africa. Photo: Neil Palmer (CIAT).

Here’s a taste of some of the latest stories about plant health, including the potential impact of climate change on food security in Sub-Saharan Africa, the use of biocontrol to manage fruit fly in Kenya and the impact of Fusarium on banana production in Honduras.

Click on the link to read more of the latest plant health news!
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New FAO Report: Climate change and what it means for food systems

selling carrots in Wangige Market, Nairobi, Kenya
Wakulima Market, in downtown Nairobi, whole sale market for vegetables and fruits coming from smallholder farmers up-country. Its starts early in the morning, lorries are offloaded, customers buy and bring their goods to local supermarkets, smaller markets near residential areas and restaurants.  Photo: Sven Torfinn/PANOS

How will climate change impact the future of food production, trade and consumption, and most importantly, what do leading scientists recommend as an appropriate policy response? In a newly released book from FAO, cross-sectoral insights from scientists and economists put the picture of food and food security into perspective in a changing climate.

The findings through collaborative research cover over two decades of climate change effects on agriculture. These include case studies on key crops and commodities that exemplify broader food system trends, as well as new pest and diseases which have caused reduced crops productivity-  those same issues which programs like Plantwise work to address. One key message for policy makers: smallholder farmers in developing countries will be most affected, as the local and regional food systems they depend on are strained by increasingly variable and unpredictable weather. The challenges unearthed in this report could better position decision makers to direct resources for solutions to improve smallholder resilience- a fundamental goal which underpins global food and nutrition security for the majority of the world’s growing population.

View the official press release and download the report.