Update: Plant Health News (16 Mar 16)

Beans are particularly vulnerable to climate change due to their sensitivity to night-time temperatures © CIAT (CC BY-NC-SA)
Beans have been identified as being particularly vulnerable to climate change © CIAT (CC BY-NC-SA)

Here’s a taste of some of the latest stories about plant health, including the success of the M9 banana variety in Uganda, a study into the timeline of climate change effects on agriculture and a warning on the use of miticides in Almond IPM.

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Update: Plant Health News (15 Jan 15)

Maize is a staple crop in Malawi but farmers have been told to diversify © CIMMYT (CC BY-NC-SA)
Maize is a staple crop in Malawi but farmers have been advised to diversify © CIMMYT (CC BY-NC-SA)

Here’s a taste of some of the latest stories about plant health, including Crops in Brazil still suffering after last year’s drought, the Malawi farmers advised to diversify their crops and the gene that affects nitrogen fixation and yield of soybean.

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Factsheet of the month: October – Preventing weeds in cassava

Preventing weeds in cassavaThis month sees the return of World Food Day which is celebrated annually on the 16th October, the day the Food and Agricultural Organisation was founded in 1945. This year’s theme, Family Farming, has been chosen to raise awareness of the role that family and smallholder farmers play in providing food security and achieving sustainable development. In the lead up to World Food Day, the World Development Movement is posting an A-Z of food sovereignty. The latest in this series was M for Mulching. Mulching is a widely-used technique amongst smallholder farmers who want to reduce soil erosion and water loss, and increase soil fertility. Another benefit of mulching is helping to reduce weed growth. This is is explained further in the Plantwise factsheet Preventing weeds in cassava. Cassava is a key staple crop in many countries so it is vital that yields are not affected by pests, including weeds. This factsheet was written in Sierra Leone by experts from the Sierra Leone Agricultural Research Institute (SLARI).

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Update: Plant Health News (05 Jun 13)

Cassava is a versatile staple in Africa © IITA (CC BY-NC licence)
Cassava is a versatile staple crop in Africa © IITA (CC BY-NC licence)

Here’s a taste of some of the latest stories about plant health, including cassava’s huge potential as a 21st century crop in Africa, the discovery of nematode resistant wheat and Brazil to launch biofungicide against witch’s broom.

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

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New Type of Invasive Whitefly Recorded In South Africa

The whitefly Bemisia tabaci (USDA image PD USDA ARS via Wikimedia Commons)
The whitefly Bemisia tabaci (USDA image PD USDA ARS via Wikimedia Commons)

A species of whitefly that transmits cassava mosaic virus has been detected in South Africa for the first time. The whitefly, Bemisia tabaci is a cryptic species complex containing some important agricultural pests and virus vectors. The term ‘cryptic species complex’ means that Bemisia tabaci is considered to be a complex of at least 24 different species that look almost identical but are in fact genetically different.  Researchers from a range of organisations including the University of Johannesburg, the University of Witwatersrand and ARC-Vegetable and Ornamental Plant Institute conducted surveys to investigate the diversity and distribution of Bemisia tabaci species in 8 provinces in South Africa. The study aimed to update the information regarding the different Bemisia tabaci types present in the country.

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Armyworms devastate crops in Zambia, threatening food security

Armyworms can devastate crop yields © Rikus Kloppers/PANNAR Seed (Pty) Ltd
Armyworms can devastate crop yields © Rikus Kloppers/PANNAR Seed (Pty) Ltd

Armyworms in Zambia are threatening food security by reducing crop yields. This was the message from former Agriculture Minister Eustarkio Kazong, speaking in an interview for Zambian radio station, QFM. Armyworms are attacking crops, causing major damage to maize, cassava, sorghum and rice. In Kabwe, the capital of the Central Province where the first cases were reported, armyworms have already been reported to have destroyed 6500 hectares of maize crop. Despite measures to prevent the spread, cases of armyworms have today been confirmed in 5 of the country’s 10 provinces. Farmers in the remaining provinces have been advised to take precautions as the pest could spread to the whole country.
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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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