Knowledge for Development

Developments

News items relevant to the policy dialogue on S&T for Development.


Crop adaptation to climate change in the semi-arid zone in Tanzania

This article by Ola T. Westengen and Anne K Brysting from the University of Oslo, Norway, present a case study of the role of genetic resources and seed systems in adapting to climatic stress from in semi-arid agro-ecological zone of Tanzania. In this case, crop adaptation involves the adoption of improved maize varieties combined with continued use of local varieties of both maize and sorghum. Analysis shows that households receiving extension service and owning livestock are more likely to switch to drought-tolerant varieties as a response to climatic stress than those without these assets. The seed system in the study area consists of both formal and informal elements. The informal channels supply the highest quantities of both sorghum and maize seeds. Recycling of improved varieties of maize is common and the majority of households practice seed selection. Detailed assessment of the three different categories of genetic resources – local, improved and farmer-recycled varieties – reveals that drought tolerance is more frequently reported as a reason for growing local varieties than for growing improved varieties of maize and sorghum.    http://www.agricultureandfoodsecurity.com/content/3/1/3/abstract    (Agriculture and Food Security, 01/02/2014)

27/02/2014


Measuring farmland biodiversity

A team of European and African researchers, hoping to fill the gap in information about the status and evolution of farmland biodiversity, recently invented and piloted a new toolbox, the 'BioBio indicator set', which measures 23 different instances of biodiversity across a variety of farm types and scales in Europe. Applications were also tested in Tunisia, Ukraine, and Uganda, where they proved a feasible starting point for adapting the toolbox to the agricultural context of different countries. In an agricultural context, biodiversity - genetic, species and habitat diversity- and its characteristics are particularly important, yet not much is known about farmland biodiversity and how it is sustained.     http://www.thesolutionsjournal.com/node/23997     (Solutions,10/2013)

27/02/2014


Biochemical and nutritional properties of baobab pulp from endemic species of Madagascar and the African mainland

Cissé Ibrahima and colleagues from the Institut National d'Hygiène Publique (INHP, Côte d'Ivoire) and CIRAD, studied the biochemical characteristics of the fruit pulp of five endemic baobab species from Madagascar and one from Côte d’Ivoire. Contents in vitamin C, polyphenols, lipids, proteins and minerals were evaluated. Comparing the results for each species, the researchers found high variability in biochemical characteristics and mineral content between the various species. None of them could be identified as a clear all-round winner. To date, despite the baobab fruit's nutritional importance, the lack of knowledge on pulp preservation causes loss. Future research should focus on increasing the pulp storage time while preserving its nutrition value.    http://www.academicjournals.org/journal/AJAR/article-abstract/D9364B442110    (African Journal of Agricultural Research, 12/11/2013)   

27/02/2014


Sustainable Nutrition Research for Africa in the Years to come – SUNRAY project findings

SUNRAY was a collaborative effort by 4 European universities, 4 universities from sub-Saharan Africa, a non-governmental organisation and a institution that funds research in Africa to identify priorities for nutrition research in sub-Saharan Africa. SUNRAY was conducted from January 2010 until December 2012. The findings are summarised in a number of manuscripts. A paper summarises the findings of the SUNRAY on priorities for nutrition research and enabling environment is published in Plos Medicine. The views of African researchers on how the operating environment for nutrition research can be improved in sub-Saharan Africa were published in PLOS ONE. As an outcome of this SUNRAY, a Roadmap for nutrition research in sub-Saharan Africa was circulated for consultation internationally.     The priority areas identified for nutrition research were (i) community interventions to improve nutritional status, (ii) behavioural strategies to improve nutritional status, and (iii) food security interventions to improve nutrition. The priority actions identified for creating an enabling nutrition research environment were (i) better governance of nutrition research, (ii) alignment of nutrition research funding with priorities identified within SSA, (iii) increased capacity development for nutrition research competencies, and (iv) enhanced information sharing and communication of nutrition research findings.    http://sunrayafrica.co.za/sunray_cms/index.php?frontend_action=display_compound_text_content&item_id=1079     (SUNRAY initiative, 28/01/2014)   

27/02/2014


Fertilizer nutrient imbalance to limit food production in Africa

A new study of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA, Austria), published in the journal Global Change Biology, demonstrates that a growing imbalance between phosphorus and nitrogen fertilizer use in Africa would lead to crop yield reductions of nearly 30% by 2050. Underuse of phosphorus-based fertilizers in Africa currently contributes to a growing yield gap – the difference between how much crops could produce in ideal circumstances compared to actual yields. This phosphorus-specific yield gap currently lies at around 10% for subsistence farmers, but will grow to 27% by 2050 if current trends continue. While nitrogen-based fertilizer usage has begun to increase in Africa in the last 10 years, the application of phosphorus to cropland has not kept pace, leading to a growing imbalance between nitrogen and phosphorus levels in soil. The new study shows that increases in nitrogen and phosphorus inputs must happen in a way that provides crops with the balanced nutrient input they need.     http://www.iiasa.ac.at/web/home/about/news/20140128-phosphorus-africa.html   (IIASA, 28/01/2014)   

27/02/2014


Exploring global changes in nitrogen and phosphorus cycles in agriculture induced by livestock production over the 1900–2050 period

Crop-livestock production systems are the largest cause of human alteration of the global nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) cycles. This research report by Mario Herrero (ed) of ILRI is a comprehensive spatially explicit inventory of N and P budgets in livestock and crop production systems. It shows that in the beginning of the 20th century, nutrient budgets were either balanced and surpluses if any were small and that between 1900 and 1950, global soil N surplus almost doubled and P surplus increased by a factor of 8. Between 1950 and 2000, the global surplus of N increased by almost 400% and that of P to more than 500%. Most surplus N is an environmental loss and surplus P is lost by runoff or accumulates as residual soil P. Despite rapidly increasing recovery of N and P in crop and livestock, global nutrient surpluses continue to increase. Alternative management of livestock production systems shows that combinations of intensification, better integration of animal manure in crop production, and matching N and P supply to livestock requirements can effectively reduce nutrient flows. A shift in human diets, with poultry or pork replacing beef, can reduce nutrient flows in countries with intensive ruminant production.    http://www.pnas.org/content/110/52/20882.full     (PNAS, 24/12/2013)    

27/02/2014


New updates to MarkSimGCM weather generator

The MarkSim GCM tool can be used to generate daily rainfall, maximum and minimum temperatures and solar radiation information over multiple years that are characteristic of climates anywhere on the planet.  The first version of MarkSim GCM became available in June 2011 and has now been updated, including the Google Earth interface, in which the tool is embedded. Some new features have also been added. For instance, as before the user can pick any point on the earth’s surface and generate daily weather data for that point. Now, the user can also plot climate data, in terms of the monthly mean values of rainfall and daily maximum and minimum temperature. In addition, MarkSim GCM can be used to generate daily data that are to some extent characteristic of future climates.     http://ccafs.cgiar.org/blog/new-updates-marksimgcm-weather-generator#.UvJUO7Qp_jI    (CGIAR CCAFS, 27/01/2014)   

27/02/2014


Assessing regional groundwater stress for nations

In this study, Tom Gleeson (McGill University, Canada) and Yoshihide Wada (Utrecht University, The Netherlands) analyze and interpret groundwater stress across whole nations using multiple data sources for the first time. They focus on two nations with the highest national groundwater abstraction rates in the world, the United States and India, and use recently developed groundwater footprints and multiple datasets of groundwater recharge and withdrawal derived from hydrologic models and data synthesis. The results indicate that the uncertainty is generally greater between datasets than within datasets and that much of the uncertainty is due to recharge estimates. Assessment of groundwater stress consistently across a nation and assessment of uncertainty using multiple datasets are critical for the development of a science-based rationale for policy and management, especially with regard to where and to what extent to focus limited research and management resources.     http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/8/4/044010/article    (Environmental Research Letters, 16/10/2013)   

27/02/2014


State of the art probe sheds light on soil moisture

South Africa could soon have a cluster of up to seven cosmic-ray moisture probes installed in agricultural, forestry and remote areas. These probes use cosmic-ray neutrons to deliver up-to-date readings of the moisture content of soil. Soil moisture is inversely related to the neutrons in the air above the soil surface. State of the art equipment using infrared analysers and three dimensional sonic anemometers will be used to complement the soil water cosmic-ray probe footprint for studies on the effects of soil moisture dynamics on plant water and carbon exchange. The probes have the potential to provide hydro-meteorologists with new methods of evaluating surface soil water. The continuous data streams linked to the new Cosmic-ray Soil Moisture Observing System (COSMOS) continental-scale network will be of relevance to hydro-meteorologists interested in land-atmosphere interactions, ecologists interested in the impact of soil water on ecological status and evolution, remote sensing scientists for soil moisture calibration and validation, surface-water and groundwater modellers, and agricultural scientists interested in understanding and predicting the relationship between soil moisture and crop yield.   http://goo.gl/M6w7TA    (Farmer's Weekly, 30/01/2014)    

27/02/2014


Researchers develop new crop varieties tailor-made for organic farms

Bill Tracy of University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA hopes to help organic farmers by breeding sweet corn that not only tastes good and yields well, but also competes strongly against weeds, naturally resists pests and diseases, and germinates early in the season. There may yet be another benefit. Unable to compete with the resource-rich breeding programs at private companies, public plant breeding programs at universities have been declining. Now, perhaps, organic breeding could offer a new niche.    https://www.crops.org/story/2014/feb/wed/researchers-develop-new-breeds-of-crops-tailor-made-for-organic-farms    (Crop Science Society of America, 05/02/2014)

27/02/2014


SPIRITS software

SPIRITS (Software for the Processing and Interpretation of Remotely Sensed Image Time Series) was developed by VITO for the Monitoring Agricultural Resources unit (MARS) of the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission. The software facilitates the analysis of time series of low and medium resolution remote sensing images. SPIRITS is an integrated and flexible free software environment for analyzing satellite derived image time series in crop and vegetation monitoring. With this toolbox, time series of low and medium resolution sensors such as SPOT-Vegetation and MODIS-Terra/Aqua can be processed and examined. It can be used to perform and to automatize many spatial and temporal processing steps on time series and to extract spatially aggregated statistics. Vegetation indices and their anomalies can be rapidly mapped and statistics can be plotted and interpreted in seasonal graphs to be shared with analysts and decision makers.    http://spirits.jrc.ec.europa.eu/?p=273    (EC JRC, 06/11/2013)

27/02/2014


Building synergies between science and indigenous knowledge

Charged with determining a conceptual framework and initial work programme for the UN's new Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), some of the Platform's delegates met in Turkey on 9–14 December 2013 to discuss scientific knowledge co-production with indigenous peoples. The report of that meeting, The Contribution of Indigenous and Local Knowledge Systems to IPBES: Building Synergies with Science, emphasises that the IPBES conceptual framework must accommodate indigenous and local knowledge and world views to complement science-based representations. Building synergies between science and indigenous knowledge should catalyse the generation of new knowledge and better inform policy making.     Additional resource: Old knowledge and new science: using traditional knowledge in CGIAR research (15/01/2014)    http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2013-12/tca-ftt120413.php    (EurekAlert, 08/12/2013)    

27/02/2014


Yield performance of potato seed tubers after storage in diffuse light stores (DLS)

Jane Muthoni, Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), and colleagues from the University of Nairobi and the Mount Kenya University, carried out an on-farm trial to determine the yields of eight common potato cultivars following storage in diffuse light stores (DLS) for eight months. The trial was carried out for two consecutive seasons. The experiment was carried out in three farmers’ fields while the trial at KARI's Tigoni research station was meant for comparison. Results show that planting of tubers after storage in DLS gave significantly more yields than planting freshly harvested tubers.     Related: Feasibility of Low-Cost Seed Potato Storage in Kenya: The Case of Diffused Light Storage in Nyandarua County. Results of this farm storage trial indicated that DLS could be used by potato growers for prolonged seed storage the following season. This way the growers could be assured of good potato harvests due to the use of well sprouted tubers. This is critical in case of seasons with low or less than average rainfall as experienced in recent years.    http://www.ccsenet.org/journal/index.php/jas/article/view/29313     (Journal of Agricultural Science, 01/2014)    

27/02/2014


Biodegradable packaging from cotton waste

Biodegradable agricultural waste blends developed by Greg Holt, Agricultural Research Service (ARS), USA and colleagues at the USDA’s Cotton Production and Processing Research Unit in Texas, are being used by the packaging industry in a new process that 'grows' made-to-order packaging products to protect breakable goods during shipping. The proprietary process involves combining cotton gin waste and fungi inside a cast, resulting in a spongy-looking material similar in appearance to polystyrene foam. The custom-shaped end product provides a cost-effective 'green' alternative to extruded polystyrene foam packaging.     http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/2013/131209.htm    (USDA ARS, 09/12/2013)   

27/02/2014


Paint and chemical products from plants

In this web story, chemist Hermann Fischer, who co-founded a manufacture of natural paints in Germany, explain the potential of biomass to replace crude oil in the production of everyday goods. According to Fisher, much of the agricultural waste left after harvest could be used to produce the ingredients and compounds necessary for products such adhesives, paints, batteries, insulation and lubricants. R&D is crucial to enable the potential of biomass and pushing widespread acceptance of biodegradable products, outside of niche production.    http://www.dw.de/paint-and-chemical-products-from-plants/a-17358981   (Deutsche Welle, 13/01/2014)   

27/02/2014


Traditional ecological knowledge and global environmental change

Ecology and Society in 2013 included a special feature 'Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Global Environmental Change' addressing two main research themes. The first theme concerns the resilience of traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) and the conditions that might explain its loss or persistence in the face of global change. The second theme relates to new findings regarding the way in which TEK strengthens community resilience to respond to the multiple stressors of global environmental change. Those themes are analyzed using case studies from Africa, Asia, America and Europe. Theoretical insights and empirical findings from these case studies suggest that despite the generalized worldwide trend of TEK erosion, substantial pockets of TEK persist in both developing and developed countries. A common trend on the studies presented here is hybridization, where traditional knowledge, practices, and beliefs are merged with novel forms of knowledge and technologies to create new knowledge systems. The findings also reinforce previous hypotheses pointing at the importance of TEK systems as reservoirs of experiential knowledge that can provide important insights for the design of adaptation and mitigation strategies to cope with global environmental change. Based on the results from papers in this feature, we discuss policy directions that might help to promote maintenance and restoration of living TEK systems as sources of social-ecological resilience. Among the papers in this special feature, one stands out: Indigenous ways of adaptability to uncertainty: Outputs from an experiment in West African drylandshttp://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol18/iss4/art72/   (Ecology and Society, 12/2013) 

18/02/2014


Banana genotype composition along the border between Uganda and the DR Congo

Deborah Karamura of Bioversity International (formerly IPGRI,  www.bioversityinternational.org), explored Musa genetic resources along the Uganda-DR Congo  border, sampled unique Musa germplasm and assessed the cross-border genotype diversity. This in situ analysis of banana diversity reveals that the bananas were of different types: almost half are of the cooking types, the rest is split between roasting, dessert and beer/juice types. The exercise made possible the collection of 18 new genotypes.  The research is a chapter of the following book published by CABI: 'Banana Systems in the Humid Highlands of Sub-Saharan Africa. Enhancing Resilience and Productivity'.   

18/02/2014


Organic farms support more species

Research led by Sean Tuck of Oxford University's Department of Plant Sciences, looked at data going back thirty years and found that on average, organic farms support 34% more plant, insect and animal species than conventional farms. This effect has remained stable over time and shows no signs of decreasing. For pollinators such as bees, the number of different species was 50% higher on organic farms. It is however important to note that the study only looked at 'species richness', i.e. how many different species, not the total number of organisms. High species richness usually indicates a variety of species with different characteristics. Taking the example of bees, species richness indicates how many different species of bees there are on a farm but not the total number of bees.    http://phys.org/news/2014-02-farms-species.html   (Phys.org, 03/02/2014) 

18/02/2014


A comprehensive study has confirmed the genetic structure of African coffee genotypes

The species Coffea canephora, which produces Robusta coffee, has substantial genetic diversity, which could almost certainly be better exploited in breeding programmes if it were characterized better. A team from CIRAD recently analysed that diversity using microsatellite markers. This was the first truly comprehensive genetic study of the species. It confirmed the existence of diversity groups, analysed the relations between them and determined the genetic structure of the species, particularly the role played by refuge zones during the glacial period of 25,000 years ago and the effect of subsequent human interventions. The analysis covered almost 300 coffee genotypes from the Guineo-Congolese region. The results are crucial for the management and use of genetic resource collections, and should serve the eventual development of adapted coffee crop.      http://www.cirad.fr/en/research-operations/research-results/2014/diversity-of-coffee-trees-in-the-guineo-congolese-region-the-role-of-climatic-refuges-and-domestication     (CIRAD, 15/01/2014) 

18/02/2014


Land cover change monitoring using Landsat satellite image data over West Africa between 1975 and 1990

In this report, Marian Vittek, Institute for Environment and Sustainability, Joint Research Centre of the European Commission, and colleagues examine land cover changes occurring between 1975 and 1990 in West Africa using a systematic sample of satellite imagery. Results reveal that in 1975 about 6% of West Africa was still covered by dense tree cover complemented with 12% of tree cover mosaic. Almost half of the area was covered by other wooded land and the remaining 32% was represented by other vegetation cover. Over the 1975–1990 period, the net annual change rate of cover was very low (less then -1%). On the other side, other vegetation cover increased annually by 0.70%, most probably due to the expansion of agricultural areas. This study demonstrates the potential of Landsat data for large scale land cover change assessment in West Africa and highlights the importance of consistent and systematic data processing methods with targeted image acquisition procedures for long-term monitoring.   http://www.mdpi.com/2072-4292/6/1/658   (Remote Sensing, 07/01/2014)

18/02/2014