In the news...

September 23rd, 2015 /

Maize takes the stage in African biotech news this week. Nigerian researchers have just released two new maize hybrids, according to an article by B4FA Fellow Jimoh Babatunde. The hybrids, which came out of the Institute of Agricultural Research and Training at Obafemi Awolowo University in Ibadan, mature early – a trait that will help them survive erratic rainfall seasons in South West Nigeria – and have improved grain size and high starch content. The hybrids took more than five years of intensive research to develop, register and release. Meanwhile, the Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa Project has concluded an eight-year-long stint of work developing more than 200 drought-tolerant maize hybrids for sub-Saharan Africa. These have higher-than-average yields compared to other varieties, regardless of climatic constraints. The 13 DTMA target countries are Angola, Benin, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

The World Food Prize laureate for 2014 Dr Sanjaya Rajaram said at the International Wheat Conference in Sydney, Australia, that genetic modification technology is needed to feed the world into the future. The scientist, who has developed 480 wheat varieties so far, says that to feed the world’s population by 2050, conventional or hybrid breeding will not be enough. Meanwhile, Nobel laureate Venkatraman Ramakrishnan said in an interview for El Pais (quoted in English by Genetic Literacy Project) that he is very happy to eat transgenic maize. “For someone like me, who grew up in India, these resistances are seen as a thing of people who have never known hunger,” he said. “Such objections are a luxury, made by those who know they have plenty of food in Europe…” In the article, he touted the health benefits of Golden Rice while advocating care: “Of course, with every new technology, we need to be sure that we establish appropriate safety standards.”

We also hear from B4FA Fellows Abdallah el-Kurebe on fertilizer subsidies in Sokoto, Nigeria; Michael Ssali on the importance of storing agricultural produce safe and free from damage; Lominda Afedraru on a Ugandan farmer who is profiting from updated farming technologies and practices; and Noah Nash with a video report on educating farmers on the potential dangers of misusing chemical fertilizer.

Finally, we’re pleased to call your attention to a few changes to the Week in Review. You’ll notice that articles about single African countries are now listed under their names, while those that feature multiple countries are still listed under “Pan-Africa”. We’ve also created two new sections: “Innovation to cultivation”, which highlights the week’s pieces that cover how technology is being used in the field for profit – whether on an industrial or smallholder scale – and “Opportunities and resources”, where you can check for research and funding opportunities, events, and other resources that may be relevant to you.

Please let us know what you think of these changes, and as ever, please send materials, questions and comments to Thank you for joining us this week!

Biosciences & plant genetics around the world

World food prize winner says GMO wheat key to feeding world

”Resistance to GM comes from people who have not known hunger” – Venkatraman Ramakrishnan: Nobel laureate
Genetic Literacy Project

Report: Research investment implications of shifts in the global geography of wheat stripe rust

Genetic engineering is (probably) protected by the First Amendment

Clear Labs aims to be Google search for GMOs in packaged food

How the ‘agroecology’ movement misrepresents ‘agroecology’ science
Weed Control Freaks, University of Wyoming

CRISPR here, CRISPR there, CRISPR CRISPR everywhere
American Society of Plant Biologists, Plant Science Today

Why mixing it up on the farm is key for climate change adaptation
Thomson Reuters Foundation

EU: Regulators and food suppliers can now access a free online GM crop database
Balkans Business News

EU, Icipe fund modern farming in East Africa
AllAfrica, by B4FA Fellow Isaac Khisa

Innovation to cultivation

Small farmers in Africa need to produce more; small improvements can make a huge difference in growth
The Economist

Farmers like this one are embracing irrigation, seed beds and fertilisers
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru


Marathon project winds up after eight years of work on drought tolerant maize for sub-Saharan farmers

Drought-tolerant maize making waves in sub-Saharan Africa

African nations threaten veto if climate deal too weak

Closing the research gap between Africa and the rest of the world
The Conversation Africa

Farmers’ lobby sets out to boost East African Community potato yields

GMOs take root as a controversial answer to hunger in Africa

African leaders, international partners launch new initiatives to spur scientific research in Africa  
Wellcome Trust

Information, knowledge and agricultural practices in Africa

East Africa: Climate-smart farming boosting food security around the globe

Report: Potential impact of climate and socioeconomic changes on future agricultural land use in West Africa

African food security prospects brighter than ever


Video: Educate farmers on potential dangers of misused chemical fertilizer
by B4FA Fellow Noah Nash

CSIR-Crops Research Institute releases 12 crop varieties, including cowpea, rice and maize

Podcast: African Dialogue – Africa and the food security crisis
African Dialogue


Oduor Ong’wen to Amina Mohammed: “Agriculture – issues of major concerns to Africa” TheStarKenya

Lobbies protest against GMOs

Rift Valley farm laboratory to boost Kenyan agricultural innovation

Kenya soon to lift ban on production of genetically modified cotton, maize

2015 Kenya Agricultural Biotechnology Report
USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, GAIN Report


Nigerian researchers release two new maize hybrids
AllAfrica, by B4FA Fellow Jimoh Babatunde

Fertilizer subsidy continues, says Tambuwal
News Diary Online, by B4FA Fellow Abdallah el-Kurebe

Glut is our worst enemy, say cassava farmers

’40 percent of our rice farm submerged by flood’

Community commends the World Bank and governments for boosting capacity in cassava production

20-year-old graduate farmer plans to feed Nigeria, encourages youth to enter modern farming


Farmers urged to use modern practices as new planting season launches in Musanze

South Africa

Agriculture is a new critical market force
Daily Maverick


Swaziland’s cotton industry under threat, farmers waiting for GM cotton despite ban


Farmers in eastern, northern Uganda to get new greengram (mung bean) varieties

Storing agricultural produce safe and free from damage
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali

New Agriculture Police Unit set up to crack down on counterfeit inputs

Ugandan scientists and journalists strive to find a middle ground


Earthworms helping smallholders increase crop yields

Opportunities and resources

The USDA is now taking apps for the 2016 Norman E. Borlaug Int’l Agricultural Science and Technology Fellowship

The Oxford Farming Conference Practice with Science Award: £10,000 prize. Deadline 2 October 2015
Oxford Farming Conference

Event: Pioneering STEM in Africa: 3-4 Dec 2015, London

Journalists: How to pitch your articles to a science editor