Knowledge for Development

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Climate variation explains a third of global crop yield variability

Recent climate variability has led to variations in maize, rice, wheat and soybean crop yields worldwide. While some areas show no significant influence of climate variability, in substantial areas of the global breadbaskets, over 60% of the yield variability can be explained by climate variability. This is the conclusion of a study by Deepak Ray and colleagues at the Institute on the Environment (IonE), University of Minnesota, USA. They used detailed crop statistics time series to examine how recent climate variability has led to variations in maize, rice, wheat and soybean crop yields worldwide. Their study uniquely illustrates spatial patterns in the relationship between climate variability and crop yield variability, highlighting where variations in temperature, precipitation or their interaction explain yield variability. They also discuss key drivers for the observed variations to target further research and policy interventions geared towards buffering future crop production from climate variability. (Nature, 22/01/2015)

10/03/2015


Review of effects of climate change on agriculture

Agriculture in the twenty-first century faces the challenge of meeting food demands while satisfying sustainability goals, according to a team of experts from ENDURE , a network of Europe's leading agricultural research, teaching and extension institutes with a special interest in Integrated Pest Management (IPM). In this review, the authors note that climate change is likely to increase the complexity of this challenge by affecting the distribution of some crop pests (harmful insects, plants and pathogenic agents) and the severity of their outbreaks. They explain why climate change is becoming increasingly central within the European policy agenda, mainly with respect to food security in the European Union, and expect that the issue will be recognized in the future EU research agenda. The team proposes that diversification of current plant protection strategies is needed to mitigate the effects of climate change on European agriculture. (Endure Network, 17/02/2015)Read the review online 

10/03/2015


Crop pathogen emergence and evolution in agro-ecological landscapes

The shift in land-use patterns in agricultural landscapes might influence crop diseases to provide predictive tools to evaluate management practices. This is the conclusion of a study by researchers at NRA, France, with colleagues from around the world who found that landscape structures that promoted larger pathogen populations on wild hosts facilitated the emergence of a crop pathogen; but such landscape structures also reduced the potential for the pathogen population to adapt to the crop. In addition, they determined the evolutionary trajectory of the pathogen population by interactions between the factors describing the landscape structure and those describing the pathogen life-histories.  (Evolutionary Applications, 03/02/2015)Download the text of the article

10/03/2015


Responding to crop failure: Understanding farmers’ coping strategies in Southern Malawi

Farmers are not responding directly to climate variability, but to crop failure, which is influenced by climate stress, as well as other constraints, such as poor soil fertility and lack of agricultural inputs and technologies. This is the conclusion of a study examining farmers’ coping strategies for crop failure and the determinants of their choices using household level data from rural southern Malawi. The study found that coping strategies adopted by households are mostly ex-post measures. The main determinants of the adoption of coping options appear to be education, the gender of the head of household, soil fertility and the frequency of crop failure. The study concludes by recommending that policies for the more efficient communication of climate change threats should emphasize the risk of crop failure. Furthermore, initiatives to assist households to better cope with climate change should take into consideration the local context of decision-making which is shaped by multiple stress factors.    (Sustainability, 03/02/2015)

7/03/2015


New tools to breed cereal crops that survive flooding

Increasing the tolerance of cereal crops to low oxygen during flooding is a key target for food security. Scientists at the University of Nottingham, UK, have identified the mechanism used by plants under stress conditions to sense low oxygen levels that could lead to the introduction of advanced breeding techniques to developed cereal crops that are better able to tolerate flooding and other waterlogged conditions. They achieved this breakthrough in their work on barley but it could be applied to other cereals.    (University of Nottingham, 05/02/2015)Download the article

7/03/2015


New tools to breed cereal crops that survive flooding

Increasing the tolerance of cereal crops to low oxygen during flooding is a key target for food security. Scientists at the University of Nottingham, UK, have identified the mechanism used by plants under stress conditions to sense low oxygen levels that could lead to the introduction of advanced breeding techniques to developed cereal crops that are better able to tolerate flooding and other waterlogged conditions. They achieved this breakthrough in their work on barley but it could be applied to other cereals. (University of Nottingham, 05/02/2015)Download the article

27/02/2015


Responding to crop failure: Understanding farmers’ coping strategies in Southern Malawi

Farmers are not responding directly to climate variability, but to crop failure, which is influenced by climate stress, as well as other constraints, such as poor soil fertility and lack of agricultural inputs and technologies. This is the conclusion of a study examining farmers’ coping strategies for crop failure and the determinants of their choices using household level data from rural southern Malawi. The study found that coping strategies adopted by households are mostly ex-post measures. The main determinants of the adoption of coping options appear to be education, the gender of the head of household, soil fertility and the frequency of crop failure. The study concludes by recommending that policies for the more efficient communication of climate change threats should emphasize the risk of crop failure. Furthermore, initiatives to assist households to better cope with climate change should take into consideration the local context of decision-making which is shaped by multiple stress factors. (Sustainability, 03/02/2015)

27/02/2015


Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) in Grenada

Grenada is the only Caribbean country that is featured in a series of country profiles identifying ongoing and promising future climate-smart agriculture (CSA) opportunities and the relevant institutional and financial enablers for their adoption. Developed by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center (CATIE), these country profiles intend to stimulate discussion within the countries and globally about 'entry points for investing in CSA at scale'. Concise information on the country's climate smart considerations relating to adaptation, mitigation, productivity, institutions and finance is provided. In addition the profiles present: the national context, including key facts on agriculture and climate change; CSA technologies and practices used; institutions and policies for CSA; financing CSA; and a future outlook.   (CIAT, 24/10/2014)

31/12/2014


Exploring the role of climate science in supporting long-term adaptation and decision-making in sub-Saharan Africa

Gaps in observational data, uncertainty in projections, impacts and vulnerability, limited capacity to interpret climate information and for making decision under uncertainty, are the key issues identified in this CDKN report. The working paper includes a review of articles and 'grey' literature on knowledge gaps and areas needed to support the capacity of African decision-maker. It also reports on a workshop that brought together UK- and Africa-based experts working on climate science and adaptation in Africa and on a side-event to the Africa Climate Change Conference 2013. Recommendations for addressing the gaps include promoting Africa-led scientific capacity, creating better uptake and translation of existing research, maximising value addition, and improving the science-policy interface. The report is intended to identify key gaps in science and capacity to feed into the scoping phase of the Future Climate For Africa (FCFA) programme, funded by DFID (UK) and DGIS (The Netherlands).   (CDKN, 29/04/2014)

31/12/2014


Increasing the consumption of nutritionally rich leafy vegetables in Samoa, Solomon Islands and northern Australia

Although certain leafy vegetables were popular in countries such as Solomon Islands and Tonga, there was a lack of widespread knowledge of their considerable health benefits. This publication reports on a project for increasing the consumption of nutritionally rich leafy vegetables in Samoa, Solomon Islands and northern Australia Surveys. The project, led by Graham Lyons, University of Adelaide, South Australia and Mary Taylor, Pacific Germplasm and Agricultural Development Consultant, UK, and their colleagues, was successful in: (i) documenting knowledge and opinions of local people on the growing and consumption of leafy vegetables; (ii) producing and distributing information factsheets; (iii) promoting local leafy vegetables via the media in the participating countries; (iv) building local capacity and (v) providing information on optimal propagation methods for the popular vegetable, aibika, from a field trial conducted in Samoa.   (ACIAR, 09/2014)

27/11/2014


Weather variability and food consumption

Higher temperatures have an adverse effect on food consumption. In contrast, food consumption is not substantially affected by rainfall variations. This working paper, authored by Sara Lazzaroni and Arjun S. Bedi, and published by the International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University (ISS, The Netherlands), relies on two-period panel data combined with data on rainfall, number of rainy days and maximum and minimum temperatures which were used to examine the impact of weather variations on food consumption in rural Uganda. While evidence from qualitative interviews and trends in agricultural production suggest that households are adopting mitigation measures, the conclusion from the evidence assembled is that higher temperatures are associated with a decline in crop yields and food consumption.   (ISS, 04/2014)

27/11/2014


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)

27/11/2014


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


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


First arboretum opens in the Seychelles

The Seychelles National Biodiversity Centre, located at Barbarons on Mahe, the largest and most populated island of the Seychelles, was officially opened in July 2014. The centre is set to become a 17 hectare arboretum for preserving rare and endangered plants species that are only found in the Seychelles. In view of the extraordinary biodiversity in the Seychelles, more than 50% of Mahe island has been declared a protected area.    (Seychelles News Agency, 19/7/2014) 

25/08/2014


Climate change adaptation in crop production: Beware of illusions

More consistent treatment of climate change adaptation is needed to inform assessments of the impacts of climate change and to more easily identify innovations in agriculture that are truly more effective in future climates than in current or past ones. At present, many potential changes in agricultural management and technology, including shifts in crop phenology and improved drought and heat tolerance, could help to improve crop productivity but do not necessarily represent true adaptations. In this article, David Lobell of Stanford University, USA, argues that such ‘adaptation illusions’ arise from a combination of faulty logic, model errors and the management of assumptions that ignore the farmers’ tendency to maximize profits for a given technology. He asserts that the concept of adaptation should be more consistently treated in order to better inform assessments of climate change impacts, and that agricultural innovations should be identified that are truly more effective in future climates than in current or past ones.     (Global Food Security, 25/6/2014)

25/08/2014


The risks of a global crop yield slowdown from climate trends in the next two decades

In discussions of the impacts of climate change on agriculture, it is often mistakenly argued that most of the expected impacts will occur toward the end of this century and that therefore most of the risks will have to be dealt with by future generations. In this article, Claudia Tebaldi, National Center for Atmospheric Research, USA, and David Lobell, Stanford University, USA, argue that the growth in demand for food is expected to be much slower after 2050 than before it, and that most of the growth will take place before 2050 – in the next two decades, in fact. They explain that smaller climate change impacts in the near future could have much greater consequences for food security and food prices than larger ones after 2050. They continue to argue that in the coming decade, global warming will substantially increase the chances that climate trends will cut yield growth rates to half, with a roughly 1 in 4 chance for maize and 1 in 6 chance for wheat. Although such scenarios may seem unlikely for many, the authors recommend further study, particularly by institutions that are potentially affected by associated steep rises in international food prices.     (Environmental Research Letters, Vol. 9 no. 7, July 2014)

25/08/2014