World Food Prize 2014

Dr. Sanjaya Rajaram (left)  in the field with Norman Borlaug, founder of the World Food Prize © CIMMYT (CC BY-NC-SA)

Dr. Sanjaya Rajaram (left) in the field with Norman Borlaug, founder of the World Food Prize © CIMMYT (CC BY-NC-SA)

This week, the President of the World Food Prize Foundation, Ambassador Kenneth M. Quinn announced that Dr. Sanjaya Rajaram has been selected as the 2014 World Food Prize Laureate for his contribution to improving wheat yields. Dr. Rajaram’s work on crossing winter and spring wheat varieties resulted in an impressive 480 wheat varieties which have been released in 51 countries on six continents and benefited countless farmers and consumers around the world.

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Factsheet of the month: June – Wild Oat Weed in Wheat

Wheat is one of the most important crops grown around the world. Its high protein content compared to other cereals  means it is a key component in the diets of  many. It is also easy to cultivate, versatile and contains a range of vitamins and minerals.

Although pest resistant varieties of wheat have been developed, there are still numerous pests that can affect the yield of wheat, such as weeds. Wild oat is an example of one of these weeds. Wild oat resembles wheat so it often goes unnoticed until the wheat crop is already being affected. For information about how to identify wild oat in your wheat field, and how to manage this weed, please read the ‘Wild Oat Weed in Wheat’ factsheet, written by staff at the Plant Protection and Quarantine Department of Afghanistan’s Ministry of Agriculture. Please note this factsheet is also available in Dari.

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Update: Plant Health News (23 Apr 14)

The proportion of coffee producing areas used to cultivate shade-grown coffee has reduced by almost 20% in as many years (Fernando Rebelo, GFDL)

The proportion of coffee producing areas used to cultivate shade-grown coffee is decreasing (Fernando Rebelo, GFDL)

Here’s a taste of some of the latest stories about plant health, including the postharvest pathology of beans, a reduction in the proportion of shade grown coffee and the filamentous fungus that may be effective at controlling sugarcane nematodes.

Click on the link to read more of the latest plant health news!
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Factsheet of the month: April – Wheat stem rust

wheat stem rustLast week, the Borlaug Summit on Wheat for Food Security took place in Mexico, bringing together thought leaders, policymakers, and leading agricultural research-for-development organizations to discuss the role of wheat in the future of food security. Wheat is an extremely important crop that provides around 20% of the world’s calories but this staple crop is threatened in some areas by a fungal disease called stem rust.

To find out about the symptoms and management of wheat stem rust, please click the Wheat stem rust factsheet which was produced in Rwanda (also available in Kinyarwandan).

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Crowdsourcing: citizen farmers help in the fight against climate change

Wheat is susceptible to the effects of climate change © CIMMYT (CC BY-NC-SA licence)

Wheat is susceptible to the effects of climate change © CIMMYT (CC BY-NC-SA licence)

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.
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How The Gates Foundation and Carlos Slim are Supporting Innovation and Crop Improvement For Farmers

Carlos Slim, Bill Gates and Mexican Dignitaries visit CIMMYT to inaugurate the new Bioscience facilities © Eruviel Avila (CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Carlos Slim, Bill Gates and Mexican Dignitaries visit CIMMYT to inaugurate the new Bioscience facilities © Eruviel Avila (CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0)

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

Helping to Secure Crop Yields Globally with Land Drainage

by Tim Sissons of William Morfoot land drainage, experts based in the East of England.

Water drainage on farmland

© William Morfoot

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

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