Game changers: digital agriculture and new technologies

tablets-in-india
Tablets being used at a Plantwise plant clinic in India. Photo: CABI

ICTs play a pivotal role in facilitating solutions for smallholder farmers and the markets they are trying to access. For GLOBALG.A.P., the world’s leading farm assurance program, the only way to make the auditing of the 160,000 farms it covers economically viable is through technological solutions. CABI’s Plantwise programme also relies on ICTs for collecting data from plant clinics and to share plant health knowledge via the Knowledge Bank. Similarly, the provision of micro-finance and insurance services for smallholder farmers has only been made possible through advances in mobile technology.

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Land ownership and consolidation: a major challenge for smallholders

drystone-walls-in-little-fryupdale-by-peter-wilson
Photo: Peter Wilson

The issue of land ownership and reform is one of the biggest challenges facing agriculture in Africa and other emerging economies. Land ownership is a key driver of investment in agricultural production. Without title to land or even an address, farmers’ access to credit and insurance can be limited. Land sales are prohibited in China (although land titling and consolidation is now being looked at by the government as part of its agricultural reforms), and constrained in India and many African countries.

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Who are the world’s small farmers?

Photo: CABI

It is commonly believed that there are around 500 million small farms – defined as being less than 2 hectares – in the world. The conventional wisdom is that the number of small farms is increasing whilst farm sizes are getting smaller, and this trend will continue for 20-30 years. However there is a paucity of reliable data and some debate as to what the trends are in terms of numbers of small farms, the average farm size and the relative productivity of small and large farms. Censuses are only carried out every 10 years and their country coverage is incomplete. Existing data can sometimes be conflicting and open to different interpretations. Whatever the precise number and trends, smallholders will remain an important sector of world agriculture and are the mainstay for food security in most developing countries.

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The future of small farms in a rapidly changing world

The future of small farms in a rapidly changing world
Syngenta Foundation Executive Director Marco Ferroni (left) and CABI CEO Trevor Nicholls (right) opening the conference. Photo: Syngenta

On 24-25 January 2017, CABI and the Syngenta foundation for sustainable agriculture hosted a conference at the Syngenta conference centre in Basel, Switzerland. The conference, entitled “The Future of Small Farms”, covered a broad range of topics aimed at assessing the state of agricultural policy in developing economies and emerging markets, and its influence on smallholder farmers around the world.

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New device can detect crop pathogens by smell

By Philippa Merry. Reblogged from The Courier.

The E-nose could smell the earliest signals of diseases such as potato blight long before they become visually apparent

Dubbed an E-Nose, the equipment has been developed by engineers and scientists to detect crop pathogens by smell weeks before any infection becomes outwardly apparent or evident on any visual basis.

“It’s an amazing tool for early detection,” commented Kit Franklin, a lecturer of agricultural engineering at Harper Adams University.

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BioClay pesticide spray successful in recent trials

Commercial field crop of tobacco (N. tabacum) (AgrEvo)
Commercial field crop of tobacco (N. tabacum) (AgrEvo)

Australian researchers have developed a new nanotechnology pesticide spray called BioClay which has shown success in recent trials.

Developed by the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI) and the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN), BioClay contains double stranded RNA which can be sprayed onto a crop. When the RNA contacts the plant, the plant believes it is being attacked by a virus and protects itself.

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Agriculture and food security — where are we headed in 2017?

By Lisa Cornish. Reblogged from DEVEX.

A young woman in a rice field in Myanmar. Photo by: Bioversity International / CC BY-NC-ND

As climate change impacts the global ability to grow food, both in quality and quantity, researchers in agriculture have become an important asset for establishing long-term food security as the world’s population continues to increase.

In December, agriculture and food security researchers visited Canberra for high-level discussions on development matters with the Australian Center for International Agricultural Research and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. And as 2017 will be an important year for establishing long-term goals and making important inroads into advances within the sector, Devex spoke with attendees to better understand where we are headed.

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