January 31, 2014 1 Comment
As we move into the New Year and all that 2014 has to offer it seems like a good time to review some of the achievements of 2013. Here are a few of the Plantwise highlights of 2013!
Knowledge to improve food security
August 13, 2013 13 Comments
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.
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.
July 9, 2013 Leave a comment
BBSRC (Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council) and Syngenta funded scientists at the University of York and University of Durham have discovered a gene called AmGSTF1 that plays a key role in controlling multiple herbicide resistance in black-grass (Alopecurus myosuroides) and annual rye-grass (Lolium rigidum). Now the gene that confers resistance has been identified, it is hoped that chemicals that inhibit the gene may be able to be used in future to make herbicides effective against resistant weeds.
Black-grass and rye-grass are widespread weeds which cause problems in cereal and oilseed rape farming. Management using herbicides is becoming increasingly difficult since both black-grass and rye-grass can acquire a single defence mechanism that confers resistance to multiple herbicides- known as multiple herbicide resistance. The genetics of multiple herbicide resistance have been poorly understood until recently, however scientists have now discovered that a gene producing an enzyme called glutathione transferase (GST) is responsible for multiple herbicide resistance. Scientists created transgenic thale cress (Arabidopsis thaliana) plants with the GST producing gene inserted which were resistant. GSTs are known to detoxify herbicides, but project leader Professor Rob Edwards of the Centre for Novel Agricultural Products at the University of York believes that the gene they discovered works as a kind of ‘master switch’ that activates a range of protective mechanisms in the plant. When resistant plants with the GST gene are sprayed with GST inhibiting chemicals, they become susceptible to herbicides. This demonstrates the potential for using GST inhibiting compounds in future herbicide formulations to manage resistant rye-grass and black-grass. These weeds are currently very difficult to manage due to their widespread herbicide resistance.
May 7, 2013 Leave a comment
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
April 26, 2013 1 Comment
This week, the UK Minister of State for Agriculture and Food, David Heath, has announced his support for the use of agroecological farming methods which are seen as the foundation of sustainable agriculture. The International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology (IAASTD) define agroecology as “the science and practice of applying ecological concepts and principles to the study, design and management of sustainable agroecosystems”. In practice, this means simulating natural ecosystems and using low inputs to increase productivity.
In 2011 the UN reported that by using agroecological methods, projects carried out in 20 different African countries were able to double crop yields in 3-10 years. The projects also recorded a reduction in the use of pesticides, leading to savings for the farmers. The agroecological approach has multiple benefits, beyond these economic gains. It also takes into account social and environmental issues, including soil fertility, water availability and climate change. Read more of this post
April 4, 2013 1 Comment
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
March 28, 2013 1 Comment
Farmers in India are helping in to fight the effects of climate change by lending their data collection skills for research into wheat. Biodiversity International is working with partners such as the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) and the IFFCO Foundation as part of an initiative called Seeds4Needs. This initiative aims to identify the crop varieties that are likely to perform best under future climatic conditions, via a number of different projects. One such project is currently being run in Vaishali, in India’s Bihar state. Seeds4Needs are using a method called ‘crowdsourcing’ to collect vital data on crop varieties, while farmers benefit by gaining access to more crop varieties. These farmers have been dubbed “citizen scientists” to reflect the time, effort and expertise they contribute to the project. As part of the work, each farmer is provided with seeds from 3 of the 10 wheat varieties being tested. The farmer grows all 3 varieties, then ranks them on characteristics such as yield and quality of grain.
Read more of this post
February 20, 2013 Leave a comment
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Fundación Carlos Slim have announced a partnership in support of efforts by the Centro Internacional de Mejoramiento de Maíz y Trigo (International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center CIMMYT) in Mexico to develop and disseminate higher-yielding, more resilient wheat and maize varieties. Read more of this post
February 12, 2013 Leave a comment
Guatemala has declared a state of agricultural emergency after coffee rust fungus has affected approximately 193,000ha of coffee, equating to 70% of the national crop. As a result of the outbreak, Guatemala is releasing $13.7m (£8.7m) in emergency aid to help farmers buy pesticides and to inform farmers on ways to manage the disease. Honduras and Costa Rica have already declared national emergency and El Salvador and Panama are also affected.
Coffee is a major export crop in many Central American countries and it is thought that this disease outbreak, which has been called “the worst seen in Central America and Mexico” by John Vandermeer, ecologist at the University of Michigan, will lead to big job losses. The Institute of Coffee in Costa Rica has estimated that the latest coffee rust outbreak may reduce the 2013-2014 harvest by 50% or more in the worst affected areas.
To find out more information about coffee rust view our Plantwise Knowledge Bank- Coffee Leaf Rust PDF booklet.
February 11, 2013 1 Comment
by Tim Sissons of William Morfoot land drainage, experts based in the East of England.
Along with a combination of other factors, agriculture, and therefore food production depend on the proper management of water to enable crops to develop properly and yields to be healthy.
Globally, ecosystems and environments vary greatly and even the most experienced crop producers can see a drop in yields when dealt a particularly nasty deal by Mother Nature.
To provide them with sustainable agricultural development and to help secure their harvest, farmers often rely on land drainage systems to help them cope with a deluge of rain or even a lack of it.
Although it may seem like an odd statement, a sustainable land drainage system is as important in areas of low rainfall as it is in those where rainfall is high. In the first instance a correctly installed land drainage system can help to minimise soil salinisation and in the second it is necessary to prevent the water logging of soils which can lead to a whole host of difficulties.
In 2002, the FAO estimated that salinity had damaged about 20 to 30 million hectares of irrigated land, resulting in loss of crops for a number of those working in the agricultural industry globally – upsetting food security. A build-up of saline happens more regularly on irrigated land due to the addition of salts in irrigation water where natural drainage is insufficient.
Land drainage is also pivotal for securing the quality of soils, as waterlogging prevents crops accessing the vital nutrients needed to grow to their full potential.
So how is land drainage relevant across the world? And how do different ecosystems use land drainage systems to their advantage? Read more of this post