Invasive species cause widespread devastation and huge economic losses to smallholder farmers across the world, especially in sub-Saharan in Africa. Invasive species not only directly undermine farmer’s ability to achieve food security, they also affect smallholder agribusiness making farmers unable to link to profitable food value chains and international agricultural trade networks.
Plantwise have recently been investigating APHLIS data, a great source of information on postharvest losses in Sub-Saharan Africa. The system is run by a network of local experts who collect and supply data. Using a shared database and a Losses Calculator APHLIS provide estimates of weight losses for cereal grains at a national and provincial level. Continue reading
From the 8th-12th April experts met in Bellagio, Italy to develop a strategy to mitigate the effects emerging plant diseases are having on crops in sub-Saharan Africa. Among these experts were Plantwise staff. A major theme throughout the conference was ecosystem services and how agricultural biodiversity can enhance the provision of these services, creating resilient agro-ecosystems.
Click on the link below to read more about the conference:
It is the best of times, it is the worst of times, it is the season of plenty, it is the season of famine – in short, it is that time when the positive medium term outlook for world agriculture is tempered by the “usual suspects.”
For the fourth month running, the FAO Food Price Index – a measure of the monthly change in the international prices of a basket of food commodities – dropped in August reaching its lowest level since 2012. The decline in the index was the result of sustained falls in the international prices of cereals and oils. Together with the Food Price Index, FAO also released a new forecast of world cereal production in 2013. In this forecast, world cereal production was raised to 2,492 million tonnes, up 14 million tonnes (or 0.5 percent) from the July forecast. The rise is predicted to be driven by an expansion of coarse grain output as well as a rise in wheat production. Paradoxically, as FAO was giving relatively favourable prospects for world agriculture, there was a mood of gloom and despondency in Kenya and Zimbabwe! Continue reading
Dr. Fen Beed is an experienced plant pathologist based at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. He leads research for development activities to mitigate the impact of diseases of maize, soybean, cowpea, cassava, banana and vegetables and promotes plant diseases on problematic weeds.
The first and critical step to manage a disease is to diagnose the causal agent(s). Once this is done, appropriate control methods can be deployed, based on available knowledge or on results generated from targeted research. IITA led an initiative to define the factors required to create a functioning disease surveillance network across a region.
The initiative targeted the two most serious threats to banana in the Great Lakes region of sub-Saharan Africa (SSA); namely banana Xanthomonas wilt (BXW), caused by the bacterium Xanthomonas campestris pv. musacearum (Xcm), and banana bunchy top disease (BBTD), caused by the banana bunchy top virus (BBTV). BXW and BBTD are established in several countries in SSA where banana production is of critical importance. Countries included were Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. In order, to strengthen both national and regional communication pathways, representatives from both national research organisations and national plant protection organisations agreed to form a network for regional surveillance of BXW and BBTD. The specific objectives were to share information on the diagnosis and management of these diseases and to map their distribution across locations that were of strategic importance to the region. Continue reading
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”
One of the worst diseases of the tuber crop, cassava, in sub-Saharan Africa is Cassava brown streak disease (CBSD). Since its resurgence in East Africa in recent years, it is now spreading to Central and Western Africa. The other major disease of cassava in this region, Cassava mosaic disease (CMD), can also cause widespread damage to the crop, however there already CMD-resistant varieties of cassava available. Until now, very little natural resistance to CBSD has been found. Plant scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich have combined natural resistance to CMD with modifications of the cassava genome to develop a variety of cassava resistant to both CBSD and CMD that can be grown in Africa. As cassava is a staple food to millions of people, this new variety has the potential to halt the spread of the disease and prevent famine from crop losses. Continue reading