Floods in Haiti and India devastate crops

Hurricane Sandy has left fields in the south of Haiti under water, causing crop losses of up to 40%. This follows damage from a drought and the effects of Hurricane Isaac earlier this year.

Meanwhile, 9000 miles away in Andhra Pradesh, India, rice farmers are also suffering with their crops waist-deep in floodwater following several days of rain from Cyclone Nilam.

There are now serious worries in both countries of food shortages and waterborne diseases.

Continue reading

Speedy crop breeding to help Japanese rice growers

New salt-tolerant varieties of rice will help Japanese farmers in tsunami-affected areas © Molly Des Jardins, Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license

The devastating tsunami that hit northeastern parts of Japan last March left thousands of acres of farmland damaged by saltwater. Much of this agricultural land was paddy fields, which were left with up to 25 cm of sand and mud deposited and highly saline conditions resulting from evaporation of the seawater.

Scientists from the Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich, UK, in collaboration with Iwate Biotechnology Research Centre in Japan, are screening rice varieties to find those that can grow in salty conditions. They are doing this using their new MutMap method, which provides a much quicker way of finding new crop varieties than traditional breeding methods. Continue reading