Knowledge for Development

Judith's pick - Early February 2015

04/02/2015 - Judith A. Francis

Dear colleagues,

The February/March 2015 newsletter is being prepared and will be sent out in two weeks’ time. To subscribe to the newsletter, click here.

For now, we would like to share with some interesting new developments.

Science Agenda for Agriculture in Africa
 FARA and partners are leading the development and operationalization of the Science Agenda for Agriculture in Africa (S3A). This African-owned and African-led agenda  articulates how Africa needs to  apply science, technology, extension, innovations, policy and social learning to meet its agricultural and overall development goals. In the medium to long term the aim is to build systemic scientific capacity at national and regional levels in order to address the evolving needs of farmers, producers, entrepreneurs and consumers, especially given strategic and foresight issues such as climate change and urbanisation. (FARA, 12/2014)

How can agriculture and food system policies improve nutrition?
 The Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition argues that the traditional view that increasing agricultural productivity will improve nutritional security is no longer tenable. Nor can nutrition-specific interventions or social protection programmes provide long term and sustainable nutrition for those most in need. Much more needs to be done to ensure that countries have agricultural and food systems that support a food environment that delivers healthy, diverse diets and ensures nutrition outcomes. This technical brief, and the accompanying policy summary, represent the first of a range of outputs from the Global Panel, designed to guide decision makers, particularly governments, on how to generate nutrition-enhancing agricultural and food policies and encourage investment in low- and middle-income countries. (Global Panel on Agriculture and Food System for Nutrition, 01.11.2014)

 Optimising the use of water for drip irrigation in Burkina Faso
 This article describes the application of wireless sensor technology, adapted to local climatic conditions, to alert small producers in the semi-arid regions of Burkina Faso on the best time to irrigate, according to the plants’ needs, resulting in higher yields and water saving. This new technology is based on low-cost wireless weather stations that automatically broadcast reliable data. Hydrometeorological measures are made available to local users in real time through the mobile telephone network and the Climaps website. The technology was developed in a R&D project of the Cooperation & Development Centre (CODEV) of the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland, in partnership with the start-up Sensorscope. (EPFL, 15/12/2014)

 Assessment of genetic diversity of sweet potato in Puerto Rico
 A recent study shows the presence of a high level of genetic diversity of sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas L.) across Puerto Rica, which can be related to the genetic makeup of sweet potato, human intervention and the out-crossing nature of the plant. The history of domestication and dispersal of sweet potato in the Caribbean and the high levels of genetic diversity found in this study makes sweet potato an invaluable resource that needs to be protected and further studied. The study was conducted by Lorraine Rodriguez-Bonilla of Department of Biology, University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez. (PLOS ONE, 31/12/2014)

 Plant breeding educators in Africa develop tools to train the next generation of experts
 In November 2014, plant breeders from several African universities, regional and international organizations and the private sector met in Nairobi to develop new education and training materials for ‘Demand-led plant variety design’. They decided to develop new educational materials based on demand-led R&D for inclusion in postgraduate programmes in African universities. The course materials will also be available for continuing professional development of practising plant breeders. (BecA, 14.11.2014)

 Rice University study examines how nanoparticles behave in food chain
 Scientists of Rice University, Houston, USA, traced the uptake and accumulation of quantum dot nanoparticles from water to plant roots, plant leaves and leaf-eating caterpillars. This comprehensive laboratory study, one of the first to examine how nanoparticles move through human-relevant food chains, found that nanoparticle accumulation in both plants and animals varied significantly depending upon the type of surface coating applied to the particles. The research is available online in the American Chemical Society's journal Environmental Science & Technology. (Eurekalert, 16/12/2014)

 Agrobiodiversity conservation and plant improvement: adjustments in intellectual property rights reclaiming the public domain towards sustainability and equity
 With the advent of the TRIPS Agreement and the dominant interpretative implementation of its minimum standards, actors who use, conserve and improve agricultural biodiversity are faced with a strong property rights system that has been thoroughly criticised. However, these critics have not achieved the regulatory shift they are advocating. In this PhD dissertation, Fulya Batur explains that this is due to the lack of socio-technological contextualisation of applicable laws and judicial interpretation. Indeed, intellectual property applies to very different innovation contexts and confronts all those involved in plant improvement, from mass selectors, small-scale private conventional plant breeders, public molecular researchers, specialised start-ups and integrated biotechnology giants. (APBREBES, 04/2014)