What will a changing climate mean for the future of agriculture, and critically, for the 500 million smallholder farming families who depend on agricultural production for their livelihoods? This urgent question was the focus of a recent dialog hosted by the Met Office and the UK Pavilion at the world fair in Milan. The panel brought together representatives from Kew Gardens, the World Food Programme, the UK FCO and CABI’s own Shaun Hobbs, Global Director of the Plantwise Knowledge Bank. Participants in the audience heard presentations which reinforced the need for innovation and collaboration to secure sustainable food systems as we head into an increasingly variable climate in the future. It was made clear that reduced risk for farmers will only be found through continued research and implementation of solutions at international, national and community level. The key is creating and sharing knowledge.
Aaron Davis of Kew Gardens presented a case study of predictive crop-weather response modelling in Ethiopia, where an estimated 15 million people depend on coffee to support their families. Coffee- the second largest trade commodity after oil- is highly susceptible even today to warmer and drier weather being seen now in the country, as research shows. Being able to accurately predict where and when coffee will be able to grow, as the project has tested, will be critical information to policy makers and farmers alike. “You need data and data sharing,” said Mr Davis. “Freely available data can act as the early warning system we need to prevent crop loss.”
As weather fluctuates, farmers also face challenges from new and emerging pests and diseases which can decrease yields and even destroy entire crops, as highlighted by the presentation by Shaun Hobbs from CABI. Each year an average of 30-40% of crops are lost due to plant health problems. The Plantwise knowledge bank, which works with countries to record information from local plant clinics where farmers come for advice on sick crops, produces data that can inform timely response and research on new pest threats. “The most effective pest management needs effective weather information to save farmers time and costs.” Already over 100,000 records collected and a free database with actionable knowledge on 2,500 pests has been created by the CABI-led Plantwise programme.
CABI is on the lookout for students to join a crop management degree programme aimed at tackling food insecurity around the world and helping to feed the growing global population. Scholarship opportunities are available to qualified individuals who work with the Plantwise programme activities in their countries.
With the population estimated to reach 9 billion by 2050, the pressure mounts to find answers for sustainable, responsible food production. In response to this urgent mission, CABI, the University of Neuchâtel and the Canton Jura opened a degree programme in 2015 in the field of Integrated Crop Management (ICM). The Masters of Advanced Studies in Integrated Crop Management (MAS), now accepting applications for courses starting February 2016, is a unique higher education programme delivering science-based knowledge in the field of sustainable agriculture. The goal: to better equip tomorrow’s leaders to help solve these critical environmental and agricultural challenges where it is needed most. “I want to contribute to the farmer’s way of life,” says one class of 2015 student on his motivation for joining the MAS in ICM programme.
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.
For 3 minutes, you, too, can experience how smallholder farmers in over 30 countries receive the practical plant health advice they need to save their crops. This was the message shared with visitors of the live plant clinic session hosted by Plantwise at the Swiss Pavilion, Milan Expo on June 25. Plant clinics are one way Plantwise, led by CABI, is working to bridge the gap between smallholder farmers and the science-based knowledge to sustainably reduce crop losses from pests and diseases, which annually destroy 30-40% of crops worldwide. Plantwise exemplifies how public funding from partners such as the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and others can empower farmers to secure better yields, better incomes and better outcomes for their families.
We are delighted to announce that we will be attending European Development Days, organized by the European Commission and being held from 3-4th June, 2015 in Brussels.
We will be hosting a side event on ‘Smallholder farmers, powering global development’ as well as running an information booth about CABI’s work and the activities of our Plantwise programme which helps farmers to lose less of what they grow.
If you are attending the conference, do come and say hello at our stand F7 and join our side event – we would be delighted to see you.
Crop-spraying drones have now been granted the stamp of approval by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the United States. The particular drone which was approved, pictured above in California, is equipped to carry tanks of fertilizers and pesticides, and intended to reach difficult areas to access by ground-based spraying equipment and manned planes. This is not the first time drones have been used in agriculture in the US, but they had not previously been approved for this purpose. Smaller drones have been used for some years by farmers as means of capturing aerial photographs of large areas of crops, aiding identification of unhealthy crop patches. This will be the first time in the country that drones will be spraying and distributing agricultural inputs. Read more