In the news...

July 29th, 2015 /

Did you know that rice contributes up to 17 percent of human-induced methane? Sugars produced by photosynthesis leak from the plants’ roots into the soil, where they are consume by methane-producing microorganisms, says an article this week in the New Scientist, which reports that researchers in Sweden, China and the US have developed a new strain of GM rice that, equipped with a gene from barley, increases yields and produces only 1 percent of the greenhouse gas. If it is widely adopted, it may help mitigate climate change. One obstacle: China does not yet allow GM rice production. According to another article, researchers are looking for a way to breed the same rice using conventional methods to bypass GM restrictions, but it may take another ten years. Another rice discovery announced this week: researchers have discovered a bacterial signal that, when recognized by rice plants, allows them to resist Xanthomonas oryzaepv.oryzae, a pathogen that causes a devastating blight. This is not just a breakthrough for one of the world’s staple crops: discovering this trigger may help keep such perennial grasses as Miscanthus and switchgrass – grown as biofuel feedstock – healthy.

Meanwhile, scientists at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) are on the verge of finding a seed resistant to maize lethal necrosis, a disease that has destroyed millions of dollars worth of maize crops in sub-Saharan Africa. ‘’We have a responsibility to work together and control the spread of this virus,‘ says Dr. Prasanna Boddupalli, director of CIMMYT, in the report, urging stakeholders to continue working to develop resistant maize varieties, lest the disease spread.

On the sustainable agriculture front, scientists at Rothamsted Research have developed an effective climate-smart cropping system that lets smallholder African farmers to sustainably increase production. Called push-pull companion cropping, the technique uses intercropping of carefully selected companion crops – specifically cereals with a pest-repellent plant that repels stemborers from the cereal crop. An attractant crop is planted around the border to attracting and trap the pests. Desmodium, which is used as the pest-repelling plant, is also a nitrogen-fixing legume.

Contributions from B4FA Fellows this week include pieces from Michael Ssali on why growing clonal Robusta coffee is advantageous and a piece about whether farming in wetlands contribute to development. And Lominda Afedraru checks in with a piece about Makerere University setting up a climate centre. Besides offering courses related to crop and animal production, agribusiness and economics, agricultural engineering, geography and forestry and so on, the Centre aims to equip its students to reach out to farming communities affected by climate change. She also writes a piece about transgenic gene editing and whether it might someday be used in Ugandan biotech.

We’re also pleased to note that Michael Ssali himself is featured in a Daily Monitor story: “How a journalist’s newsroom career supported his ambition to be a farmer“. It reports on how, having covered many successful farmers, Ssali was inspired to invest in farming, too.

Thank you as ever for joining us, and please send questions, comments and links to

Biosciences & plant genetics around the world

Genetic engineering creates rice strain that makes less methane

New GM rice plant could increase yield and cut greenhouse gas emissions
IFL Science

Researchers unlock the rice immune system

Scientists find thanatin confers partial resistance against aflatoxin-producing fungi Aspergillus infections in maize

Researchers work with farmers in quest for climate-proof farms

In her own words: Mary-Dell Chilton’s path to greatness, and her call to action
North Carolina Biotechnology Center

Infographic: Crop Modification Techniques

Antiquated WTO rules: an obstacle to investing in agriculture in developing countries

USDA FAS Releases GAIN Reports on agri-biotech for several countries

Easy DNA editing will remake the world. Buckle up.

WTO members raise concerns over EU, China biotech restrictions
Genetic Literacy Project

Nutrition professionals need to enter conversation on GMOs
Nutrevolve: Covering the Evidence on Clinical and Molecular Nutrition

Climate scientists, agricultural researchers, farmers and government officials must work closely together

Better crops for better nutrition

Biotech, food security, sustainable ag journalists: apply for Cornell’s Alliance for Science Journalism Fellowship!
Alliance for Science


Kenya: Farmers hopeful as scientists close to finding maize lethal necrosis resistant seeds
FarmBiz Africa

A new climate-smart companion cropping system allows African farmers to substantially increase their yields
Rothamsted Research

Kenya: A farmers’ group give agricultural skills to pupils to contain food insecurity
FarmBiz Africa

Kenya: Kieni farmer profits from growing aloe vera in semi-arid climate
FarmBiz Africa

African climate centres win European windfall

Rwanda: Govt to set up new agric institute

Winning Africa’s future: food security for all
International Policy Digest

Kenya: Ready onion market bringing profits to underemployed youth

Can East Africa avoid a major food crisis in the near future?

Leveraging agriculture for nutrition in East Africa

Nutrition and agriculture in Africa: what role for research?


Ghana to overhaul agric with digital technology
Graphic Online

Aflatoxins contamination needs to be tackled
Ghana News Agency


Applications open for Agra Innovate Nigeria, an international professional trade conference
Agra Innovate

How Nigeria can change its food security narrative
Daily Times

Nigeria looking for rice expertise from Thailand
African Farming

Desert-to-Food project to produce food from desert dunes, contain desertification

Dangote to produce 1 million tonnes of rice in five years


Japanese support brought drastic change to Tanzania rice production, says agriculture ministry official 

Tanzania: Growing of biotech crops increases, forum told


Agricultural insurance: How does it work?

Why growing clonal Robusta coffee is advantageous
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali

Does farming in wetlands contribute to development?
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali

Makerere University sets up climate centre
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru

Breeding agricultural products using transgenic gene editing
Daily Monitor, B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru

How a journalist’s newsroom career supported his ambition to be a farmer

Smallholder farmers’ project wins global award

Views and opinions in Week in Review are solely those of the author or authors and do not necessarily represent those of B4FA.