The modern world seems to have an increasing fascination with virtual farming, as more and more of us are downloading applications like ‘FarmVille’ and ‘Zombie farm’. For farmers in Tanzania growing crops successfully is much more than a game, but they are now joining smartphone users to try to increase their yields and crop profitability.
The use of more sophisticated technology is not a new idea for many farmers (the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange is a good example of a successful pilot project), but there have recently been optimistic reports from a new project set up in Tanzania. Farmers provided with smartphones can use GPS modules and applications that support picture and video transmission to share their knowledge on local pests, diseases and treatments. This may then allow scientists to retrieve and record this information for further study, too.
“On a planet with sufficient food for all, a billion people go hungry.” The Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change
As the global population grows, it is not just one factor that threatens food security but several interconnected threats that will continue to make it difficult to produce enough food for everyone. The combination of population growth, climate change and inefficient use of resources will continue to pressurise the food system, and a concerted effort will have to be made to tackle these issues. A new report from the Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change details the actions that will need to be co-ordinated globally to achieve food security as the climate changes. Continue reading →
For those of you keeping a watchful eye on the plant health news feed, you may have noticed a recurring theme around the topic of cassava crops in East Africa over the last few days. Cassava, a staple crop across sub-Saharan Africa, has been the subject of a well-established battle against Cassava Mosaic Disease (CMD), but the recent spread of a new viral disease, Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD), could cause both epidemic food shortages and a huge loss of income to farmers across the region.
In the same way that mosquitoes transmit the malaria-causing parasite, Plasmodium, between humans, some species of leafhopper transmit phytoplasma bacteria between plants. Phytoplasmas are bacterial pathogens that infect the plant phloem and require sap-sucking bugs to transport them to other plants. Researchers at the John Innes Centre on Norwich Research Park have found that leafhoppers living on plants infected with phytoplasma produced more offspring. This is the first time that a particular protein in the bacteria has been found that reduces the plants’ defensive reactions to pests such as leafhoppers, allowing the bugs to thrive. Continue reading →