Update: Plant Health News (07 May 14)

Hurricane Manuel devastated crops when it hit Mexico last year (NASA)

Here’s a taste of some of the latest stories about plant health, including a new device that can identify plant pests, the estimated economic loss from Mexican mangoes damaged by Hurricane Manuel and a new study into the optimal production of sweet potato.

Click on the link to read more of the latest plant health news!
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Update: Plant Health News (18 Dec 13)

New technology can improve the detection papaya viruses © Prato9x

New technology can improve the detection of papaya viruses © Prato9x

Here’s a taste of some of the latest stories about plant health, including the use of technology to improve the detection of papaya viruses, toxins discovered in banana root tissue kill root pests and the vital importance of water conservation in Nigeria to avoid food crises.

Click on the links to read more of the latest plant health news!

 

 

 

 

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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)

Research Projects Into Improving Crop Plants Receive Major Funding

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”

Women oversea cassava harvesting in Nigeria, the largest producer of cassava © IFDC Photography, via Flickr (License CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Women over look cassava harvesting in Nigeria, the largest producer of cassava © IFDC Photography, via Flickr (License CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0)

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Cassava virus resistance breakthrough for Africa

Cassava roots

Cassava is a staple food for millions but is susceptible to viruses that make it unpalatable © Seth Anderson (CC BY SA license)

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. Read more of this post

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