This week has seen more about the new GM rice that both increases yields and reduces methane emissions – rice paddies contribute up to 17 per cent of human-induced methane emissions, and that contributes to climate change; the results came after a three-year field trial in China. “The new rice sounds like a win-win for good yields and reduced climate impact,” said Paul West, lead scientist for the Global Landscapes Initiative at the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment.Then, a multi-national team of researchers led by US scientists has identified a bacterial signal that when recognized by rice plants enables them to resist devastating blight. And Zamri Zainal of the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia and a team of researchers has found that the stress-associated protein (SAP) family found in rice increases salt tolerance in other plants.
Meanwhile, in Kenya, scientists are lobbying for the introduction of a GM maize variety capable of controlling stem borer and African stem borer that are a threat to maize production in the country. The Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) and the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), both Nairobi-based, said the maize variety from the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) has been developed over a period of three years. “Once it is approved for commercialization, it will contribute to Kenya’s national aspirations of improving agriculture through the adoption of appropriate technology,” KALRO Director General Eliud Kireger. Stem borer insect pests are blamed for drop maize yields by an average of 400,000 tonnes annually in the country.
In a piece arguing the need for better crops for better nutrition, Howarth Bouis, the director of HarvestPlus, a global research and implementation programme that develops and disseminates nutrient-rich food crops to reduce hunger, discusses biofortification — using conventional crop breeding techniques to make crops, and food, healthier. Today, 10 million people in rural households are growing and eating biofortified foods, and with partners, these are being scaling up to reach millions more. Because they are high yielding, biofortified crops are attractive to farmers to grow. They are also affordable, as biofortified food generally sells for the same price in the market as nonbiofortified varieties.
Contributions from B4FA Fellows this week include pieces from Samuel Hinneh on a new regional laboratory in Ghana that is seeking to develop the vegetable industry through research, development and innovation to improve food and nutritional security in West Africa. It will do this through increased use of indigenous vegetables. The laboratory will facilitate new approaches for engaging relevant stakeholders in the vegetable value chain for addressing the challenges of the industry. And Lominda Afedraru checks in with a piece using farm waste for biogas production – an alternative source of energy. When any organic matter, such as cow dung, crop residue and chicken wastes, is fermented in the absence of oxygen, biogas is generated. It’s colourless and odourless, an ideal fuel for a variety of applications such as cooking, lighting and motive power, while the waste from a biogas plant is an excellent organic manure that improves soil fertility. And Michael J. Ssali reports on smallholder John Mugera, who has been selling grafted mango and orange seedlings to farmers. John says it is a business that people with small land holdings can engage in to earn income and improve their livelihoods.
Thank you as ever for joining us, and please send questions, comments and links to email@example.com.
Biosciences & plant genetics around the world
New GM rice plant could increase yield and cut greenhouse gas emissions
How a new type of rice can fight global warming
Better crops for better nutrition
Why former organic farmer, food inspector turned against Big Organic to embrace GM
Genetic Literacy Project
Why everyone who is sure about a food philosophy is wrong
How do economists talk about Africa?: Review of Africa – Why Economists Get It Wrong
Can East Africa avoid a major food crisis in the near future?
The Arusha Times
Kenya steps up to UN year of soils
Malawi: Plan to pump water for irrigation from Lake Malawi
Malawi News Agency
Aflatoxins contamination needs to be tackled
Ghana News Agency
Dangote to produce 1 million tonnes of rice in five years
Growing of biotech crops increases, forum told
Tanzania Daily News
As disease threatens Uganda’s banana crop, ActionAid and anti-GMO groups block solution
Genetic Literacy Project
Providing insurance to farmers must be supported
Garlic could spur household incomes, cottage industries
Uganda pulses farmers get India export boost
African Farming and Food Processing
Views and opinions in Week in Review are solely those of the author or authors and do not necessarily represent those of B4FA.