Knowledge for Development

Developments

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


Chemical composition and nutritive value of Tanzanian grain sorghum varieties as feed

Tanzanian grain sorghum has high nutritive value and could partially replace maize in poultry feeding. Their full utilisation in poultry diets, however, requires a strategic improvement to reduce anticipated effects of the high level of condensed tannins (anti-nutritional factors) present in the grain. The research to assess type, suitability, nutrient composition and anti-nutritional components of commercially available Tanzanian grain sorghum was carried out by scientists from the Department of Animal Production and Marketing Infrastructures at the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries Development and from the Department of Animal Science and Production, Sokoine University of Agriculture, in Tanzania.   (Livestock Research for Rural Development, 10/2014)

27/11/2014


Biosensors and food safety

This special issue of Foods is dedicated to research that addresses development and application of biosensors and novel sensors coupled with sample preprocessing, for detection, identification, and high throughput screening of food-borne microbial pathogens or toxins that are relevant to safety of food. Biosensors may include but are not limited to optical, electrical, electrochemical and others that utilise both labeling reagents/probes or with label-free interrogation approaches. This publication is edited by Arun Bhunia, Department of Food Sciences, Purdue University, USA.   http://www.mdpi.com/2304-8158/3/3/491 and http://www.mdpi.com/2304-8158/3/3/511(Foods, 19/10/2014)

27/11/2014


Consensus documents on safety assessments of transgenic cassava

The Organisation for Economic Co‑operation and Development (OECD) has recently released a consensus document on the biology of cassava to facilitate regulatory assessment of transgenic varieties. This is intended to encourage information sharing, promote harmonised practices, and prevent duplication of effort among countries. From time to time the OECD develops consensus documents which are used to identify elements of scientific information in the environmental safety and risk assessment of transgenic organisms common to OECD member countries and some non-members.   (OECD, 09/2014)

27/11/2014


Mapping banana plants to facilitate plant health assessment

A new mapping approach allows for better identification of banana plants that have been affected by Banana Bunchy Top Virus (genus: Babuvirus) that reduces plant growth and prevents banana production. Developed by Kasper Johansen of the Biophysical Remote Sensing Group, School of Geography, University of Queensland, Australia and colleagues, the approach is based on very high spatial resolution airborne orthophotos. Object-based image analysis is used to: (i) detect banana plants using edge and line detection approaches; (ii) produce accurate and realistic outlines around classified banana plants; and (iii) evaluate the mapping results.   (Remote Sensing, 02/09/2014)

27/11/2014


SoilGrids1km – Global soil information based on automated mapping

SoilGrids1km is a global 3D soil information system at 1 km resolution containing spatial predictions for a selection of soil properties (at six standard depths): soil organic carbon, soil pH, sand, silt and clay fractions, bulk density, cation-exchange capacity, coarse fragments, soil organic carbon stock, depth to bedrock, World Reference Base soil groups, and USDA Soil Taxonomy suborders. These predictions elaborated by Tomislsv Hengl and colleagues of ISRIC - World Soil Information, Wageningen, The Netherlands, are based on global spatial prediction models which were fitted, per soil variable, using a compilation of major international soil profile databases, and a selection of 75 global environmental covariates representing soil forming factors. The current version of SoilGrids1km still has some limitations such as; (i) a weak relationship between soil properties and explanatory variables due to scale mismatches, (ii) a difficulty to obtain covariates that capture soil forming factors, (iii) a low sampling density and spatial clustering of soil profile locations. However, as the SoilGrids system is highly automated and flexible, increasingly accurate predictions can be generated as new input data become available.   (PLOS ONE, 29/08/2014)

27/11/2014


Big data for international scientific programmes: recommendations and actions

Big Data present particularly significant challenges and notable opportunities for transdisciplinary, international research programmes as well as for scientific data services and infrastructure providers. The delegates of an international workshop made a series of recommendations for the sponsors of international research programmes so that beneficiaries can take better advantage of the Big Data age. These are: (i) respond to the importance of Big Data; (ii) exploit the benefits of Big Data for society; (iii) improve understanding of Big Data through international collaboration; (iv) promote universal access to Big Data through global research infrastructures; (v) explore and address the challenges of Big Data stewardship, Encourage capacity building and skills development in Big Data science and (vi) foster development of policies to maximise exploitation of Big Data. CODATA, an interdisciplinary body of the International Council for Science (ICSU) organized the workshop.    (CODATA, 16/06/2014)

27/11/2014


The Sustainable intensification of European agriculture

This report comprises the first systematic analysis of sustainable intensification (SI) of the European agricultural sector and argues it must be the paradigm within which future agricultural policy is made in the EU. Three key points are made. First, the agricultural input which needs to be intensified across all of Europe is knowledge per hectare. This means knowledge in managing delicate ecosystems, knowledge to ensure that pollinator populations thrive, knowledge to make water management minimise flooding, as well as knowledge to achieve more food output per hectare. Second, the EU needs to devise a measurement tool for environmental farming performance. It would be strongly preferable to build on an EU-wide set of indicators already developed, for example the Joint Research Centre’s IRENA indicators. And third, in addition to better enforcement of existing environmental regulations, and using policy measures under the CAP, changes in farming practices must also come from farmers and private actors themselves. This report was the initiative of the Public Utility Foundation for Rural Investment Support for Europe (RISE) and launched at the Center for European Policy Studies (CEPS).   (PAEPARD, 24/06/2014)

27/11/2014


Comment on Draft CTA/ASARECA Policy Brief on 'Seed Systems, Science and Policy'

The draft CTA/ASARECA policy brief on 'Seed Systems, Science and Policy' was developed in collaboration with several African scientists and regulators through CTA support for selected universities in sub-Saharan Africa to undertake a SWOT analysis of their contribution to integrated seed sector development starting in 2013. They have also documented their findings and these papers will be published. The findings were presented at a CTA sponsored side event during the ASARECA General Assembly in Burundi in December 2013 and the draft policy brief was elaborated in earlier this year and presented to private sector actors attending an ASARECA/EAGC workshop in Kenya in October 2014 which aimed at mobilizing private sector interest, involvement and support including financing for agricultural research and technology development in East and Central Africa. The draft policy brief is open for comments (knowledge[at]cta.int). 

26/11/2014


CAAST-Net Plus project synthesis report of the impact of joint Africa-EU ST&I cooperation on Global Challenges: Food and Nutrition Security, Climate Change and Health

CTA is a member of the consortium for the EU 7th Framework Programme project 'Advancing Sub-Saharan Africa-European Union Cooperation in Research and Innovation for Global Challenges' or CAAST-Net Plus. This project serves the Africa-Europe partnership in science, technology and innovation, as framed by the Joint Africa-EU Strategy to encourage more and better bi-regional ST&I cooperation for enhanced outcomes around topics of mutual interest, particularly in relation to the global societal challenges – climate change, food security and health. Last year, the online survey for analysing the impact of joint Africa-EU ST&I cooperation on food and nutrition security was shared with the K4D community. The summaries of the major findings and recommendations of the FNS impact analysis as well as those on climate change and health are now available on the project website (PDF) and formed part of the Entebbe deliberations, on 24-25 November 2014. The full reports when approved will also be shared with you.

26/11/2014


Climate-smart agriculture global research agenda: scientific basis for action

Researchers have identified gaps in knowledge within ‘climate-smart agriculture’ (CSA) at the 2013 Global Science Conference on Climate-Smart Agriculture (Davis, USA) and elaborated agendas for interdisciplinary research and identified science-based actions. CSA addresses the challenges of meeting the growing demand for food, fibre and fuel, despite the changing climate and fewer opportunities for agricultural expansion on additional lands. Kerri Steenwerth of the Crops Pathology and Genetics Research Unit, USDA and colleagues, focussed on three themes: (i) farm and food systems, (ii) landscape and regional issues and (iii) institutional and policy aspects. The first comprises crop physiology and genetics, mitigation and adaptation for livestock and agriculture, barriers to the adoption of CSA practices, climate risk management, and energy and biofuels. The second includes modelling adaptation and uncertainty, achieving multi-functionality, food and fishery systems, forest biodiversity and ecosystem services, rural migration from climate change and metrics. The third covers designing research that bridges disciplines, integrating stakeholder inputs to link science, action and governance.    (Agriculture & Food Security, 26/08/2014)

29/10/2014


Genome-wide patterns of adaptation to climate-mediated selective pressures in sheep

Unlike numerous studies that have looked for evidence of selection using only population genetic data, Feng-Hua Lv, Chinese Academy of Sciences, China, with an international team of researchers scanned the sheep genome for selection signals by integrating genetic and climatic data. They found that adaptations to local climates have shaped the spatial distribution of particular genetic variants and, thus, such loci are likely involved in sheep adaptation to environmental challenges. Further molecular and functional studies of candidate genes close to significant markers will help to elucidate the genetic architecture of climate-mediated adaptive traits in sheep and other farm animals.   (École Polytechnique Fédérale du Lausanne, 01/08/2014)

29/10/2014


Morphological, physiological and molecular characterisation of drought tolerance in cassava

In this study multi­seasonal and locational field based trials were conducted in Kenya to identify drought-tolerant and drought-susceptible cassava genotypes. Cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz) is inherently drought tolerant. Nevertheless, substantial genotypic variation exists for this characteristic. Field drought stress generally reduced cassava vegetative growth and productivity. In addition to other phenotypic parameters, storage root fresh weight was used as a primary criterion to discriminate between drought-tolerant and drought-susceptible genotypes. Charles Ochieng' Orek, researcher at ETH­Zurich, Switzerland, subsequently subjected the cassava gentoypes to further physiological and molecular categorisation under controlled water deficit assays. Categorisation of these morphological, physiological and molecular differences will establish an essential foundation for future development of drought-associated molecular markers for cassava.   (Dr.Sc. thesis, ETH-Zurich, 2014)

29/10/2014


Global-scale associations of vegetation phenology with rainfall and temperature at high spatio-temporal resolution

Recent research shows global phenology relationships to precipitation and land surface temperature at high spatial and temporal resolution over the period 2008–2011. Nicholas Clinton, Center for Earth System Science, Tsinghua University, China, and colleagues found that the response of phenology – periodic plant and animal life cycle events – to climatic variables is a vital indicator of changes in biosphere processes related to possible climate change. Their data showed distinct phenology patterns as a result of complex overlapping gradients of climate, ecosystem and land use/land cover. The data are consistent with broad-scale, coarse-resolution models of ecosystem limitations to moisture, temperature and irradiance. The researchers conclude that this type of data is useful as an input to the development of land use and land cover classifiers, and could also help in understanding the vulnerability of natural and anthropogenic landscapes to climate change.    (Remote Sensing, 06/08/2014)

29/10/2014


IRENA examines renewable energy deployment in Islands

Two International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) publications for advancing renewable energy (RE) deployment in small island developing states and increasing the competitiveness of the tourism sector are featured. The first booklet 'A Path to Prosperity: Renewable Energy Islands' includes 24 case studies from Africa, the Indian Ocean, the Mediterranean, the South China Sea, the Caribbean, and the Pacific presenting innovative RE solutions and partnerships. The second booklet 'Renewable Energy Opportunities for Island Tourism' includes an analysis of the 'Cabeolica Wind Project' in Cabo Verde, which contributed to the government's renewable energy target of a 50% generation share by 2020 by constructing 30 turbines in four wind farms that generate up to 25.5 MW of electricity.   (IISD, 02/09/2014)

29/10/2014


IRENA estimates Africa’s renewable energy potential 

The potential for renewable power generation based on resource availability in Africa is examined and a methodology presented for: (i) quantifying the power generation potential for solar and wind energy resources in Africa; (ii) estimating the bioenergy potential from first-generation biofuel crops, including sugarcane, Jatropha and soybean; and (iii) translating physical resource potential into power generation potential. The approach is based on Geographic Information System (GIS) data and can be tailored to any country, region or other geographical area. This working paper was published jointly by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and Sweden's Royal Institute of Technology.   (IISD, 09/2014)

29/10/2014


Cross-bred crops get fit faster

Nature’s Natasha Gilberts argues that genetic engineering lags behind conventional breeding in a race to develop new drought-resistant maize varieties that can withstand drought and poor soils. She refers to the Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa (DTMA) project led by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) that since 2006, developed 153 new maize varieties that perform well under dry weather conditions. The Improved Maize for African Soils (IMAS) project - a collaboration between CIMMYT, the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, the South African Agricultural Research Council, and the multinational corporation DuPont Pioneer has, since 2010, developed 21 conventionally bred varieties that in field tests yielded up to 1 t/ha more in nitrogen-poor soils than did commercially available varieties. Researchers say that they are at least 10 years from developing a comparable GM variety.   (Nature News, 16/09/2014)

29/10/2014


Wheat gene discovery clears way for non-GMO breeding

The gene that prevents wheat from breeding with related ancestors was discovered by Washington State University researcher Kulvinder Gill and colleagues. The genes from related ancestors contain a vast array of traits preferred by growers. Using conventional genetic manipulations, the discovery will permit innovation in wheat variety development unhampered by the cost, regulatory hurdles and controversy of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Silencing the gene would permit breeders to successfully pair chromosomes of related ancestors and develop wheat varieties with the disease- and pest-resistance traits of other grasses.   (WSU, 15/09/2014)

29/10/2014


Underutilised wild edible plants in the Chilga District, north-western Ethiopia: focus on wild woody plants

In this article, Mekuanent Tebkew, University of Gondar, and colleagues at other Ethiopian universities report on a study of the distribution, diversity, role, management conditions and associated traditional knowledge of underutilised wild edible plants in north- western Ethiopia. Despite the extraordinary number of ecological zones and plant diversity, the diversity of plants is under threat due to the lack of institutional capacity, population pressure, land degradation and deforestation. An adequate documentation of these plants also had not been conducted. The researchers found 33 wild edible plants that are used by local communities to supplement staple foods, to fill food gaps and for recreation. As these communities apply only elementary management practices to some wild edible plants, special attention is required to sustain the benefits of these plants.    (Agriculture & Food Security, 26/08/2014)

29/10/2014


Native foods scoping study under way in Australia

The New South Wales Local Land Service has commissioned a scoping study to assess whether native foods businesses could be viable, in which a team of environmental consultants is conducting a desktop study into the native foods industry. They did so because the consumption of native bush foods has grown steadily over recent years; bush tucker recipes are abound and products from lemon myrtle to quandong jam being snapped up in Australia and overseas. By narrowing down to which species that would be best suited to the region, the team will assess whether there is a business case for developing the crops for these herbs, foods and spices. The study is expected to be completed by October 2014.   (Australian Broadcasting Commission, 25/08/2014)

29/10/2014


Market diversification and sweet potato processing in Papua New Guinea: a pre-feasibility study

This study, commissioned by ACIAR, Australia, focused on exploring the feasibility of establishing an efficient sweet potato processing in Papua New Guinea as an engine for the development of rural areas and the industrialisation of the economy. The main finding by authors Christie Chang, Associate Professor, University of New England and Anton Mais, PNG National Institute for Agricultural Research, is that worldwide sweet potato is used mainly in fresh form for human consumption and as animal feed. Only a very small proportion (less than 1%) is processed into dried chips and flour mainly for home consumption. Per capita sweet potato consumption tends to decline with income growth and urbanisation as consumers are afforded choices in price, quality, convenience, and diversity. The current high level of sweet potato consumption in PNG will change, and has changed in urban centres. Markets for fresh roots will continue to exist in PNG in the short to medium term, but the demand for quality will increase. In the longer term, sweet potato will become less important as a staple food. The study concludes that given the current environment and levels of support and knowledge, promoting sweet potato processing into commercial enterprises would be very difficult. Limited research resources may be better spent on improving the markets for fresh roots and for feedstock.    (Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, 31/07/2014)   Editor’s comments: It would be interesting to know what the response of the PNG research, government officials and private sector actors including farmers is to this conclusion. UWI Jamaica should also pay attention to this report. K4D had reported in the last issue on the agreement .

29/10/2014