Knowledge for Development

Related developments

New UN science body to monitor biosphere

Representatives from close to 90 countries gathered in Busan, South Korea, in the second week of June 2010. They have approved the formation of a new organization to monitor the ecological state of the planet and its natural resources. Dubbed the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), the new entity will likely meet for the first time in 2011 and operate much like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). According to the document approved June 11, IPBES will conduct periodic assessments of the diversity of life on earth and its 'ecosystem services'—those outputs of ecosystems, such as clean fresh water, fish, game, timber and a stable climate, that benefit humankind. These assessments will answer questions about how much biodiversity is declining and what the implications of extinctions and ecosystem change are for humanity. Assessments will take place on global, regional and sub-regional scales. (Source: Nature News, 12 June 2010).


Scientists find that evergreen agriculture boosts crop yields

Dr. Dennis Garrity, Director General of the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), speaking at The Hague Conference on Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change on 2 November 2010, said evergreen agriculture—or the integration of fertilizer trees into crop and livestock-holding farms—is rapidly emerging as an affordable and accessible solution to improving production on Africa's farms. In a recent article in the Journal Food Security (Vol.2, Num. 3), Garrity and co-authors highlighted how evergreen agriculture has already provided benefits to several million farmers in Zambia, Malawi, Niger and Burkina Faso. Fertilizer trees draw nitrogen from the air and transfer it to the soil through their roots and leaf litter, replenishing exhausted soils with rich sources of organic nutrients. The trees bolster nutrient supply, increase food crop yields, and enhance the production of fodder, fuel and timber. These systems also provide additional income to farmers from tree products, while at the same time storing much greater amounts of carbon than other agricultural systems. (Source: Physorg, 2 November 2010)


Reviving agricultural and forestry research in DR Congo

In partnership with the European Union (EU), FAO is leading efforts to help the Democratic Republic of the Congo breathe new life into agricultural and forestry research. Late 2006 saw the beginning of a major initiative in support of agricultural and forestry research, known by its French acronym as REAFOR, that is now in place with almost € 8 million in funding from the EU. REAFOR is led by FAO, working with specialised partners, including CIFOR, IITA, the National Institute for Agronomic Study and Research (INERA, DRC) and the University of Kisangani (UNIKIS, DRC). In the area of forestry, 13 PhD-students and 35 MSc-students are carrying out research aimed at safeguarding one of the world's most valuable ecosystems, while at the same time improving the livelihoods of the people living in and around the forest, who greatly depend on it for their income and subsistence. 24 students are enrolled in agricultural research projects, 5 PhDs and 19 MScs. Their projects focus on basic Congolese food crops such as cassava and plantain, on how to produce more and better plants, while preserving the environment and the ecosystem. Research stations from the heart of the rainforest to the high hills bordering Uganda or the south-western savannahs, are being rehabilitated and equipped with state of the art material, so that the students have what they need to perform.(Source: FAO, 14 Feb. 2011)


Low fertilizer use drives deforestation in West Africa, imperils REDD implementation: Study

Low-input farming for cocoa, cassava and oil palm has resulted in widespread deforestation and degredation of West Africa’s tropical forest area, according to a new study by researchers at the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). Researchers found that increasing fertilizer use on cocoa-timber farms would have spared roughly 2 million hectares of tropical forest from being cleared or severely degraded. The study suggests that farmers could have achieved the same outputs without rampant deforestation through the intensified use of fertilizer and agrochemicals coupled with improved crop husbandry.According to IITA, by doing so farmers would have doubled their incomes and helped to avoid deforestation and degradation on 2.1 million hectares and in the process, this would have generated a value of over 1,600 million dollars on 1.3 billion tons of CO2 emissions that would not have come from deforestation. To the authors, funding support for reducing carbon emissions due to deforestation and degradation (REDD) to mitigate climate change offers the potential of significant new public resources for needed investments in agricultural research and extension and market infrastructure to support the transformation of traditional agriculture in West Africa. They suggest a significant proportion of REDD+ funding should be used to increase the adoption level of fertilizer use in a ‘Fertilizers for forest’ mitigation program. (Source : IITA, 8 April 2011)


Analyzing agroforestry management

Scientists at the University of Toronto and the University of Saskatchewan (both in Canada) have developed a conceptual framework to diagnosis nutrient and non-nutrient interactions in agro-ecosystems. In this study, scientists analyzed data from field trials of cocoa and pigeon pea intercropping systems using vector analysis. They quantified nutrient and non-nutrient interactions, illustrating the application of this analysis for managing agro-forestry systems. Using their advanced model, scientists were able to increase the yields of both cocoa and pigeon pea rotated with maize. Additionally, phosphorus concentrations declined, reducing environmental impact. These improvements were attributed to better light conditions for the cocoa and alleviated soil moisture competition for the pigeon pea crop. The evaluation of both nutrient and non-nutrient resource interactions provides information needed to sustainably manage agroforestry systems. Improved diagnosis of appropriate nutrient usage will help increase yields and also reduce financial and environmental costs. To achieve this, a management support system that allows for site-specific evaluation of nutrient-production imbalances is needed. (Eurekalert, 28/6/2011)


New series of booklets on African priority food tree species

A new series of booklets ‘African Priority Food Tree Species’ examines 11 priority food tree species in sub-Saharan Africa, such as the Bush Mango, the Shea Butter and Tamarind tree. Each booklet (or leaflet) includes a synthesis of current knowledge about each species as well as recommendations for their conservation and sustainable use. This publication is the result of a joint effort between African research organizations: the Sub-Saharan African Forest Genetic Resources Network (SAFORGEN), Bioversity International and the Forest Research Center of INIA (Spain). This series is available in English and French. (Bioversity International, 5/9/2011)


Tropix 7.0 by CIRAD

Developed by the Cirad's ‘Tropical Wood Production and Processing Research Unit’, the new release of TROPIX software (Version 7 EN / FR) presents the main characteristics of 245 tropical or temperate wood species. Tropix 7 can be used to find species in two ways: based on one or more species descriptor(s) or by similarity to certain properties of another species. It can also plot graphically each of the 245 species described in relation to the others, based on one or two physical or mechanical properties. For each species, TROPIX provides data and information on the scientific names of the species described, their origins and local names and any trade restrictions, appearance of the log or wood, physical and mechanical properties, durability and preservation, drying behaviour, processing behaviour and commercial grades.


Agriculture group to spend 10 years on forest research

Recognizing the global importance of the world's vanishing forests, a 10-year-long research program will focus on the interconnection between agriculture and forests. Conducted by CGIAR, a global agriculture group concerned with sustainability, the research programme will look at ways to decrease forest loss and degradation. Along with Indonesia-based CIFOR, CGIAR will also work with the Kenya-based World Agroforestry Centre, the Colombia-based CIAT and the Italy-based Bioversity International. The research programme, called ‘Forests, Trees, and Agroforestry’, is starting with an initial three-year-budget of US$ 233 million. It will focus on smallholder production, management of forest areas, and their conservation for mitigating climate change, ecosystem services, and the impacts of trade. (Mongabay, 7/12/2011)


Profit per acre between organic and conventional coffee

Research from the Oklahoma State University, US, addresses the economic problem of deforestation studying the environmental and economical benefits of organic coffee production compared to conventional growing methods. Conventional coffee production often causes deforestation and soil erosion while the organic coffee production system does not. In addition, the price risk associated with the coffee monoculture is high and has proven disastrous to the sustainability of coffee production in past years. Thus, determining the comparative cost and return between the two methods can provide important information for coffee producers. The purpose of the research is to determine the per acre profitability between conventional and organic coffee. The study confirms organic coffee production can be as productive as conventional coffee production while providing economic and environmental gain.Visit website for details:


Inexpensive process uses moringa tree protein to produce clean drinking water

Researchers at Pennsylvania State University describe, in a podcast for the Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions project, a new water-treatment process that uses the seeds of the Moringa oleifera tree to purify and clarify water inexpensively and sustainably. Following past research that identified a protein in moringa seeds with cleaning properties in water, the scientists added an extract of the seed containing the positively charged moringa protein (which binds to sediment and kills microbes) to negatively charged sand. The resulting 'functionalized', or 'f-sand', proved effective in capturing lab-grown E. coli and damaging their membranes. The f-sand was also able to remove sediment from water samples. The results open the possibility that f-sand can provide a simple, locally sustainable process for producing storable drinking water. Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions is a series of podcasts describing some of the 21st century's most daunting problems, and how cutting-edge research in chemistry matters in the quest for solutions. (Eurekalert, 29/02/2012)


The Global Forest Disturbance Alert System (GloF-DAS)

GloF-DAS is based on a new product derived from satellite data from NASA's Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS). The product, developed at NASA Ames Research Centre by the Carnegie-Ames-Stanford Approach (CASA) ecosystem modelling team, is based on comparison of MODIS global vegetation index images at the exact same time period each year in consecutive years. It registers change when more than 40 % of a five-by-five km forest area has lost greenness over the previous 12 months. Seasonal variation is generally mitigated through the product's quarterly baseline. GloF-DAS could help users detect deforestation shortly after it occurs, offering the potential to take measures to investigate clearing before it expands. (Mongabay via, 31/5/2012)


Evaluating cocoa agroforests to develop sustainable farming systems

In central Cameroon, cocoa farmers have developed a complex agroforestry system, which allows them to maintain a stable production on a much longer timescale and without the use of fertilizers. CIRAD researchers have analyzed the dynamics of this system of cocoa, to understand its operation, its changes and their determinants, and developed a new model of cocoa farming, sustainable and environmentally friendly. (CIRAD, 05/2012)


Rice farmer forage for wild edible plants

Research at Wageningen University has shown that rice farmers in north-eastern Thailand forage for many wild edible plants to give their diet more variety and provide more food security. Many rural inhabitants in the tropics gather wild edible plants to supplement their diet, but very little attention has been paid to this aspect in research. Wild plants are either classified as botanical species or occupy a place in our food system as crops. Wild edible plants do not quite belong in this classification. And yet, they are important for both biodiversity and food security. Researcher Gisella Cruz found 87 different wild trees, herbs, water plants, climbers, shrubs and bamboo plants in and around rice fields, in vegetable gardens and in the surrounding forest of the study region (Mueang Kalasin district). More than half of the plants are used both as food and as medicine. Cruz believes that the wild plants for human consumption should be included in agro-ecological research models, so that these edible plants can be assigned a value in agricultural programmes and food policymaking. (WUR, 1/6/2012)


Acacia tree could reduce dependence on inorganic fertilizers

Scientists at the Kellogg Biological Station at the US-based Michigan State University, and colleagues at universities in the UK, Canada and Malawi, have found that crop diversification using pigeon-pea - shrubby legumes grown in tropical regions - mixed with soybean and peanuts could be key to sustaining an agricultural green revolution in Africa. They found that planting a unique acacia known as a 'fertiliser tree' among the crops automatically fertilised the fields. This makes the integration of fertiliser trees into crop and livestock-holding farms an affordable and accessible solution for improving food production. In recent times, biological and social-economic drivers in Africa were promoting sole-cropping of cereals as a source of calorie-rich food, however this ‘agro-simplification’ has had severe consequences, including reduced capacity for light capture, nutrient cycling and instability of production. The researchers examined the diversified rotation approach instead of simply planting a continuous crop, as a way to solve this problem, and they tested crop diversification in Malawi. They found that diversifying crops would boost production of nutrient-enriched grain by 12%-23%. Rotating corn with a shrubby legume-enhanced fertiliser increased efficiency, profitability and stability of the grain produced. Crop diversification, according to the researchers, could help farmers reduce their dependence on expensive imported fertilizers. Findings of the study were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in November.(Source : University World News, 5 December 2010)


2nd World Congress of Agroforestry

The 2nd World Congress on Agroforestry will assess opportunities to leverage scientific agroforestry in promoting sustainable land use worldwide. The Congress will serve as a forum for agroforestry researchers, educators, practitioners and policy makers from around the world to: share new research findings, lessons, experiences, and ideas that will help influence decisions that impact on livelihoods and the global environment; explore new opportunities and strengthen existing partnerships in agroforestry research, education, training, and development; and form new networks and communities of practice, and nurture old ones.

Saturday 22 August 2009 - Thursday 27 August 2009

Trees breathing new life into French agriculture

by recent agronomic research. Christian Dupraz, a researcher at the National Institute for Agronomic Research (INRA) in Montpellier, has been studying this type of mixed farming for the past 20 years. He believes in the importance of switching to ‘agro-ecological’ systems that do not depend on the petrochemical industry. ‘The fertility of French land is due to its forests, which have enriched it with carbon. Planting trees can replace chemical fertilisers’, he said.(The Guardian, 21/8/2012)


Bird diversity at risk as farmlands replace agroforests

An early 2012 study published in the Journal of Ornithology and picked up by Mongabay indicates that wooded 'shade' plantations where coffee and cacao are grown are better for bird diversity than open farmlands, although forests still are the best habitat for tropical birds. Agroforests contain much higher levels of bird diversity than their open agricultural counterparts, according to this research. If large forests and agroforests continue to be replaced by simple open farms, bird communities will become much less specialized and entire groups may become extinct. Important roles for birds, such as pollination, pest control or seed dispersal, may remain unfilled if ongoing trends toward open agriculture continues and biodiversity decreases.(Mongabay, 13/9/2012)


Research shows legume trees can fertilize and stabilize maize fields, generate higher yields

Inserting rows of ‘fertilizer trees’ into maize fields can help farmers cope with the impacts of drought and degraded soils, according to a 12-year-long study by researchers at the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF). They conducted three coordinated experiments, starting in 1991 in Malawi and Zambia, and found that farms that mix nitrogen-fixing trees and maize have consistent and relatively high yields year after year. In Malawi, the highest average maize yield was found in fields that combined both fertilizer trees and inorganic fertilizers, but applied at just half the standard recommended amounts.Maize mono-crops grown with inorganic fertilizers may have higher yield in some years but the yield is less reliable in the long run. Mono-cropping without replenishing soil nutrients in any way – the de facto practice of resource-poor maize farmers – was the least productive and most unpredictable of all.EurekAlert has the report (14/10/2012).


Farming Change: Growing more food with a changing resource base

This publication combines three inter-related papers on Caribbean agriculture on growing food crops without soil, securing ecosystems services of forest cover and combating invasive alien species.


Interplanting small-scale timber plantations with native agroforestry species in Solomon

This project coordinated by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) shows that village-owned plantations of high-value timber trees, mainly teak (Tectona grandis)  and mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla) in the Solomon Islands can benefit from interplanting with the indigenous tree Flueggea flexuosa and other tree species native to the Pacific region.  The rationale behind this interplanting is that commercial plantations must always be thinned and removing young timbers trees that cannot be sold offers no practical advantages. However,    thinning the plantations by only removing  indigenous tree species can benefit the villagers in many ways: with fruits and other tree products, firewood, and construction materials.(ACIAR, 26/06/2013)