Fall Armyworm: A new collaboration to disseminate best management practices to farmers

From the 13th to the 15th of November 2017, USAID and CIMMYT held a Regional Training and Awareness Generation Workshop on Fall Armyworm Pest Management for Eastern Africa in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Participants from 11 countries attended the workshop to discuss short, medium and long term strategies to control Fall Armyworm in Africa. Following its accidental introduction into West Africa, the pest has spread quickly to the whole continent. The current and predicted yield loss to maize from FAW over the 2017-2018 season in Sub-Saharan Africa is estimated to reach US$ 3 billion.

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Fall armyworm caterpillar from ICIPE rearing facilities (Photo credit: Thomas Wallace, Africa Lead)

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The Evolution of Insect Resistance to Bt Crops

A group of scientists at the University of Arizona have this week published a paper in Nature Biotechnology on the evolution of resistance in insect pests populations to insecticidal proteins from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) that are produced by transgenic crops. Resistance is defined as the phenotype of an individual that gives the individual the ability to survive on a transgenic insecticidal plant from egg to adult and provide viable offspring. The team analysed field and laboratory data from seventy-seven studies of thirteen pest species in eighteen countries across five continents. Entomologist Bruce Tabashnik and colleagues found well documented cases of field-evolved resistance to Bt crops in five major pests as of 2010. 60% of these cases occurred in the U.S.A, where approximately half of the world’s Bt crop acreage is planted. In some cases, resistance to Bt evolved within as little as two to three years, whilst in other cases Bt crops have remained effective for more than 15 years. The research team aimed to better understand how quickly insect populations are evolving resistance to Bt crops and how this is occurring.

Workshop participants assess a range of fodder and cereal crops that can be used as “refugia”, fostering stem borers susceptible to the Bt toxin. In a longstanding partnership under the Insect Resistant Maize for Africa (IRMA) project , CIMMYT works with the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) to offer farmers maize varieties that resist borers, which otherwise cause heavy losses (approximately 12% of Kenya’s annual maize crop). In addition to conventional breeding, one source of resistance in developing these varieties has been the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis. A gene from this bacterium inserted into “Bt maize” causes it to produce a protein that is selectively toxic to certain borer species. However, mutant resistant borers unaffected by the toxin will flourish and eventually predominate, unless farmers use refugia to maintain a susceptible population. At this workshop in December 2005, sponsored by IRMA at KARI’s Kitale center, 50 participants—including researchers, extension workers, and farmers—learned about progress in the development of insect-resistant maize and the importance of refugia, evaluating numerous crops in the field for their potential as refugia. For more information, see CIMMYT's December 2005 e-news story "Bug Havens Keep Maize Pest-Proof," available online at: http://www.cimmyt.org/newsletter/86-2005/344-bug-havens-keep-maize-pest-proof.  Image © CIMMYT (CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0)
Women assess a range of fodder and cereal crops that can be used as “refugia for stem borers susceptible to the Bt toxin. In a longstanding partnership under the Insect Resistant Maize for Africa (IRMA) project , CIMMYT works with the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) to offer farmers maize varieties that resist borers, which otherwise cause heavy losses (approximately 12% of Kenya’s annual maize crop). In addition to conventional breeding, one source of resistance in developing these varieties has been the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis. A gene from this bacterium inserted into “Bt maize” causes it to produce a protein that is selectively toxic to certain borer species. However, resistant borers unaffected by the toxin will reproduce and eventually predominate, unless farmers use refugia to maintain a susceptible population. 
Image © CIMMYT (CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0)

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Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease Spreads To Uganda

Maize plants showing Maize Lethal Necrosis disease © CIMMYT via Flickr (License CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0)
Maize plants showing Maize Lethal Necrosis disease © CIMMYT via Flickr (License CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Maize Lethal Necrosis disease, which was first reported in Kenya and Tanzania, has now spread to Uganda, raising concerns for food security in the country. The Ministry of Agriculture has warned that Maize Lethal Necrosis has been reported in districts in eastern Uganda, including Busia and Tororo.

A spokesman for the Agriculture Research Organisation, Robert Anguzo, has said that Ugandan scientists are working in collaboration with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) to find management solutions to the disease.

More information about the pests and viruses associated with Maize Lethal Necrosis and the management of the disease can be found on the Plantwise Knowledge Bank

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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. Continue reading