Knowledge for Development

Judith's pick - End of October 2014

28/10/2014 - Judith Francis

Dear colleagues,

The September-October newsletter will be sent out early next week. In the mean time you are invited to browse through the presentation of CTA International Forum. The Forum was a success: insightful dialogues are paving the way of a sensible pathway to food and nutrition security in the near future. Read the key messages and get to the rpresentaion from this page

Below, a number of interesting developments and publications you should know about:


More action needed to move away from market-distorting farm support

OECD’s Agricultural Policy Monitoring and Evaluation 2014 highlights the big differences among its member countries in the level and composition of government support for agriculture and finds unequal progress in reform. Government support for agriculture remained on a downward trend in 2013, down slightly from 2012 and down around 30% compared with two decades ago. Yet much of the support is still in a form that distorts markets. Support to producers in 2013 amounted to 18% of gross farm receipts. Despite an overall trend of lower support and a shift to de-linking it from production, some countries still rely heavily on market interventions that can affect prices. The following recommendations were made: (i) more market intervention mechanisms should be dismantled in favour of support that is less connected to production and more targeted to specific needs, in line with stated policy priorities of increasing productivity and sustainability and (ii) funds freed up by more efficient farm support practices should be invested in education, infrastructure and research in the sector. Governments should be bolder about prioritising the environment and the sustainable use of natural resources.

(OECD, 09/2014)


Status and Trends of Caribbean Coral Reefs: 1970-2012

The report Status and Trends of Caribbean Coral Reefs: 1970-2012 is the most detailed and comprehensive study of its kind published to date and represents the work of 90 experts over the course of three years. It contains an analysis of more than 35,000 surveys conducted at 90 Caribbean locations since 1970, including studies of corals, seaweeds, grazing sea urchins and fish. The results show that the Caribbean corals have declined by more than 50% since the 1970s. But according to the authors, restoring parrotfish populations and improving other management strategies, such as protection from overfishing and excessive coastal pollution, could help the reefs recover and make them more resilient to future climate change impacts. This latest report was produced by the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).


(Caribbean Climate Blog, 07/2014)


Natural gene selection can produce orange corn rich in provitamin A

Researchers have identified a set of genes that can be used to naturally boost the provitamin A content of corn kernels, a finding that could help combat vitamin A deficiency in developing countries and macular degeneration in the elderly. Professor of agronomy Torbert Rocheford and fellow researchers of Purdue University, USA, found gene variations that can be selected to change nutritionally poor white corn into bio-fortified orange corn with high levels of provitamin A carotenoids. Their study provides the genetic blueprint to quickly and cost-effectively convert white or yellow corn to orange corn that is rich in carotenoids, by using natural plant breeding methods, not transgenics.,-u.s..html

(Purdue University, 06/10/2014)


Teff: nutrient composition and health benefits

Teff is widely cultivated and used in Ethiopia and accounts for about a quarter of the country’s cereal production. However, its use for human consumption in other countries is limited due to a lack of knowledge about its nutrient composition and processing. In this study, Kaleab Baye, at the Center for Food Science and Nutrition, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia describes the physical and chemical characteristics of Teff and its nutrient composition. He documents the use of Teff and Teff-based products for human nutrition in Ethiopia, along with the food processing challenges impeding Teff’s worldwide consumption. Baye discusses how recent research advances could solve the challenges the production of the little-known cereal and what the potential health benefits could be associated with wider consumption of Teff.  

(IFPRI and EDRI, 09/2014)


Saving seeds the right way can save the world's plants

More careful tailoring of seed collections to specific species and situations is critical to preserving plant diversity. Using a novel approach called simulation-based planning to make several new sampling recommendations, this study shows that a uniform approach to seed sampling is ineffective. Publishing in Biological Conservation, researchers from the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis and the University of Tennessee, USA, recommend to collectors to choose their plant populations from a wide area rather than a restricted one. Collecting from about 25 maternal plants per population versus 50 plants appears to capture the vast majority of genetic variation. The approach developed could be used to further refine seed collection guidelines, which could lead to much more efficient and effective collections.

(NIMBioS, 30/07/2014)


Plant insights could help develop crops for changing climates

A new computer model that shows how plants grow under varying conditions could help scientists develop varieties that have high yield under particular environmental conditions in the future. Scientists built the model to investigate how variations in light, day length, temperature and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere influence the biological pathways that control growth and flowering in plants. They found differences in the way some plant varieties distribute nutrients under varying conditions, leading some to develop leaves and fruit that are smaller but more abundant than others. Professor Andrew Millar of the University of Edinburgh's School of Biological Sciences, led the study which has been published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

(BBSRC, 08/09/2014)


Real-time monitoring system for offshore aquacultures

Scientists of the EU-funded project Enviguard are developing a real-time monitoring system for offshore aquacultures, to warn fish and shellfish farmers about impending diseases in time. Applied on a moored buoy, the small device undertakes the same functions as a fully equipped laboratory to detect the presence of toxic microalgae, viruses and chemical contaminants. Three different sensors can allow a simultaneous monitoring of the different threats. With this technology fish farmers can prevent  epidemics in their aquacultures.

(Partnership for African Fisheries, 07/10/2014)




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