Agriculture in a Warmer World

According to IPCC (2007), agricultural land covers 40-50% of the world’s land surface and this sector accounts for 14% of annual global greenhouse gas emission, which makes agriculture is one of the main contributor to climate change. Total global greenhouse gas contribution of agriculture from both direct and indirect sources extended up to 32% and about 74% of total agricultural related greenhouse gas emissions originate in developing countries.

The most prominent sources include:

  1. land conversion to agriculture,
  2. Nitrous oxide released from soils,
  3. Methane from cattle and enteric fermentation,
  4. Biomass burning,
  5. Rice production,
  6. Manure,
  7. Fertilizer production,
  8. Irrigation,
  9. Farm machinery and
  10. Pesticide production.

Climate change on agriculture and farming community

The cumulative impact of climate induced from increase of GHG will have wide range of cross-sectorial impacts affecting health, water and energy resources, ecosystems, and land use. This leads to meaningful economic consequences for the wellbeing and sustainable development of rural populations.  The impacts of climate change to agriculture over the next 50 to 100 years include:

  1. Changing spatial and inter-temporal variability in stream flows,
  2. Onset of rain days, and dry spells,
  3. More frequent floods and droughts
  4. Greater erosion rates from more intense rainfall events and flooding,
  5. Increased crop water requirements from high temperatures, reduced precipitation and increased evaporation,
  6. Yield changes for crops including maize, wheat, and rice. Resulting in changes in crop and management choices,
  7. Increased heat and water stress on livestock,
  8. Management (i.e. stock increases) under increased temperatures with a different mix of more heat resistant.
  9. Higher temperatures in arid and semi-arid regions will likely depress crop yields and shorten the growing season due to longer periods of excessive heat.

However, climate change will not equally affect all countries and regions, even if Africa represents only 3.6% of total global emissions of GHG, Africa will be one of the continents that will be hard hit by the impact of climate change due to an increased temperature and water scarcity. The report pointed out that there is “very high confidence” that agricultural production and food security in many African countries will be severely affected by climate change and climate variability. This means that countries already struggling with food security are likely to find they struggle still harder in the future. Without compensating by climate smart innovations, climate change will ultimately cause a decrease in annual GDP of 4% in Africa. An increase of global temperatures of just 2-4 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels could reduce crop yields by 15-35 percent in Africa , While an increase of two degrees alone could potentially cause the extinction of millions of domestic and wild species.

Adaptation to climate change

The vulnerability of agricultural system depends on its exposure and sensitivity to climate changes, and on its ability to manage these changes (IPCC, 2001). Climate change adaptation enhanced by altering exposure, reducing sensitivity of the system to climate change impacts and increasing the adaptive capacity of the system while explicitly recognizing sector specific consequences. Adaptation programs include provision of crop and livestock insurance, social safety nets, new irrigation schemes and local management strategies, as well as research and development of stress resistant crop. Options for adapting agriculture to climate change have related cost for research, Irrigation efficiency, Irrigation expansion and development of infrastructures.

Improving the use of climate science data for agricultural planning can reduce the uncertainties generated by climate change, improve early warning systems for drought, flood, pest and disease incidence to increase the capacity of farmers and agricultural planners to allocate resources effectively and reduce risks.

Mitigation for climate change

Climate change mitigation constitutes anthropogenic intervention to reduce the sources or enhance the sinks of GHG to reduce the causes of climate change by limiting the amount of heat trapping gases that emitted into the Earth’s atmosphere. Agriculture had immense potential for carbon sinks, as well as reducing emissions per unit of agricultural product for sustainable development co-benefits. Intervention pillars in climate mitigation are reduction of emissions, avoided the emissions and creating sinks that can remove emissions. Lower rates of agricultural expansion in natural habitats, agro-forestry, treating of degraded lands, reduction or using more efficient use of nitrogenous inputs, better management of manure, and use of feed that increases livestock digestive efficiency are some to be mentioned.

soil carbon sequestration could be realized, if carbon markets could introduce to “ provide strong incentives for public and private carbon funds in developed countries to buy agriculture-related emission reductions from developing countries. Moreover using improved nutrient management could increase the plant uptake efficiency of applied nitrogen; reduce N2O emissions, while contributing to soil C sequestration. Agroforestry systems tend to sequester much greater quantities of carbon than agricultural systems without trees. Planting trees in agricultural lands is relatively efficient and cost effective compared to other mitigation strategies, and provides a range of co-benefits important for improved farm family livelihoods and climate change adaptation. Climate change mitigation through improved livestock brought by research on ruminant animals, storage and capture technologies for manure and conversion of emissions into biogas are additional contributions that agriculture can make towards mitigating climate change. The anaerobic digestion of manure stored as a liquid or slurry can lower methane emissions and produce useful energy, while the composting solid manures can lower emissions and produce useful organic amendments for soils.

Climate smart agriculture (CSA) way forward

The future of agricultural production relies on both designing new ways to adapt to the likely consequences of climate change, as well as changing agricultural practices to mitigate the cli-mate damage that current practices cause, all without undermining food security, rural development and livelihoods. Climate-smart agriculture is a practice that sustainably increases productivity, resilience (adaptation), reduces/removes GHGs (mitigation) and enhances achievement of national food security and development goals. Efficiency, resilience, adaptive capacity and mitigation potential of the production systems can be enhanced through improving its various components. To materialize CSA, major transformation of the agriculture sector is necessary and will require institutional and policy support. Better-aligned policy approaches across agricultural, environmental and financial boundaries and innovative institutional arrangements to promote their implementation. Enabling policy environment to promote CSA is greater coherence, coordination and integration between climate change, agricultural development and food security policy processes.


Fall Armyworm Spodoptera frugiperda (Smith)


The fall armyworm can colonize over 80 different plant species including many grasses, and crops such as alfalfa, soybean, sorghum, and corn.  Fall armyworm is more likely to be an economic pest in corn and vegetable crops. Fall armyworms are similar in size and shape to other moths in the cutworm family.  They are grayish in color with a wingspan of about 1.5 inches.
Upon arrival to a new field, the female moth deposits egg masses on green plants including important crop hosts.  The eggs hatch about five to seven days after oviposition and the small larvae then begin to feed on plants near the ground or in protected areas such as the whorl of corn plants.  They usually go unnoticed until they are approximately an inch long.  The larva goes through six instars (about 15 to 18 days) before burrowing one to three inches into the soil to pupate.  Adults emerge about one to five weeks after pupation depending on soil temperature.

Adult stage: Adult moths are 20 to 25mm long with a wingspan of 30 to 40mm. Forewings are shaded grey to brown, often mottled with a conspicuous white spot on the extreme tip. Hindwings are silvery white with a narrow dark border. Adults are nocturnal and most active during warm, humid evenings. Females lay eggs in clusters of fifty to a few hundred and can lay up to 2000 eggs in a lifetime. The average adult lifespan is estimated to be 10 days.

Egg stage: Eggs are white, pinkish or light green in color and spherical in shape. Clusters of eggs are frequently covered in moth scales or bristles giving a fuzzy appearance. Eggs are usually laid on the underside of leaves.

Larval stage: Larvae generally emerge simultaneously 3 to 5 days following oviposition and migrate to the whorl. Mortality rate following emergence is extremely high due to climatic factors, predators, and parasites. There are six larval instar stages. In the 2nd and 3rd instar stages larvae are often cannibalistic, resulting in only one larva in the whorl. Mature larvae are 30 to 40mm in length and vary in color from light tan to green to black. Larvae are characterized by several subdorsal and lateral stripes running along the body. Dark, elevated spots (tubercles) bearing spines occur dorsally along the body. Larvae of fall armyworm can be distinguished from larvae of armyworm and corn ear worm by a distinct white inverted Y-shaped mark on the front of the head. They have four large spots on the upper surface of the last segment. Larvae mature in 14 to 21 days after which they drop to the ground to pupate.

Pupal stage: Pupation occurs a few centimeters (2 to 8cm) below the soil surface. Cocoons are generally oval and 20 to 30mm in length. Pupae are reddish brown and measure 13 to 17mm in length. Pupation usually takes 9 to 13 days, following which adults emerge.

  • In optimum conditions the entire lifecycle can be completed in 30 days. Maize crops can normally support two generations.
  • Optimum temperature for larval development is 28۫ C, although the egg stage and pupal stage require slightly lower temperatures.
  • Protracted periods of extreme cold will result in death of most growth stages. The fall armyworm has no diapause mechanism and therefore is only able to overwinter in mild climates and recolonize in cooler climates in the summeConfirmation

Host range

The fall armyworm has a wide range of hosts including maize, rice, sorghum, sugarcane, cotton, alfalfa, peanuts, tobacco, and soybean, in addition to various wild grasses. However, gramineous plants are preferred.

  • Mechanism of damage:Damage is caused by loss of photosynthetic area due to foliar feeding, structural damage due to feeding in the whorl, lodging due to cut stems, and direct damage to grains due to larvae feeding.
  • When damage is important:Severe infestations are uncommon and most plants recover from partial foliar feeding. Under severe infestation complete defoliation of the maize plant is possible. Damage is most severe when worms cause direct damage to the ear. Under severe infestation larvae are frequently observed migrating in large numbers to new fields similar to the true armyworm. Late planted maize and advanced growth stages are more vulnerable to fall armyworm damage.
  • Economic damage:Under severe infestation yield loss ranging from 25 to 50% has been documented.


  • Regularly monitor leaves and whorls for presence of larvae and signs of crop damage.
  • Look for masses of larvae migrating between fields.
  • Pheromone traps can be used to determine incidence of adult moths and disrupt mating during the whorl stages.

Cultural control

  • Plant early to avoid periods of heavy infestation later in the season.
  • Plant early maturing varieties.
  • Rotate maize with a non-host.
  • Reduced tillage methods often result in an increase of natural predators and parasitoids. However, in areas where fall armyworm infestation is high, disking or plowing can effectively reduce the survival rate of pupae in the soil.

Biological control

  • Numerous parasitic wasps, natural predators, and pathogens help to control the population of fall armyworms.
  • The egg parasitoidTelenomus remus is frequently introduced to effectively control fall armyworm and other Spodoptera 


  • Insecticide application should be considered when eggs are present on 5% of seedlings or when 25% of plants show signs of feeding damage. In order to be effective, insecticide application should commence before larvae burrow into the whorls or ears and insecticide spray should penetrate the crop canopy.
  • Insecticides recommended for control ofSpodoptera species include various pyrethroids, carbamates and organophosphates. However, insecticide resistance has been widely reported.

Nutrition Sensitive Agriculture to fight hidden hunger: Implication for Ethiopia

Malnutrition continues to be an obstacle for economic growth and human well-being in many African countries. Despite a high level of commitment, many countries in Africa are not on track to achieve the nutrition-related Millennium development goals by 2015, such as halving child nutrition, reducing child mortality, and improving maternal health. An IFPRI Policy Note highlights some of the factors which inhibit the reduction of malnutrition, mainly due to a lack of political commitment. The cross-sectorial nature of nutrition with linkages to health, agriculture, education, infrastructure, and social development complicates planning processes. Another report indicates that nutrition is not prioritized because policymakers view it as an outcome from, rather than an input into, human development.

It is estimated that one – third of the world’s population are affected by deficiencies of one or several micronutrients. The most prevalent deficiencies are: anemia and iron deficiency affecting 1.6 billion people; iodine deficiency with 1.9 billion people at risk; and vitamin A deficiency affecting 190 million children under 5 years of age (WHO 2004; WHO 2008; WHO 2009). Deficiencies of zinc, folate, and B-vitamins are also prevalent but the extent is less well known. Low intakes and/or low bioavailability of micronutrients from monotonous plant based diets lead to micronutrient deficiencies often in the most vulnerable population groups such as women and young children. Micronutrient malnutrition causes reduced physical and cognitive development of children and increased morbidity and mortality in children and adults.

Cost of Hunger in Africa
Today, there are more stunted children in Africa than 20 years ago. 69 % to 82 % of all cases of child undernutrition are not properly treated. Most of the health costs associated with undernutrition occurs before the child turns one.

Between 7 % – 16 % of repetitions in school are associated with stunting. Stunted children achieve 0.2 years to 1.2 years less in school education. 8 % to 28 % of all child mortality is associated with undernutrition. Child mortality associated with undernutrition has reduced national workforces by 67 % of working-age populations suffered from stunting as children. Undernourished children are at higher risk for anaemia, diarrhoea, fever and respiratory infections. These additional cases of illness are costly to the health system and families. Undernourished children are at higher risk of dying.

Stunted children are at higher risk for repeating grades in school and dropping out of school. Additional instances of grade repetitions are costly to the education system and families.
If a child dropped out of school early and is working in he or she may be less productive, particularly in the non-manual labour market. If he or she is engaged in manual labour he/she has reduced physical capacity and tends to be less productive. People who are absent from the workforce due to undernutrition-related child mortalities represent lost economic productivity.

Control and prevention strategies
Strategies to prevent and control micronutrient malnutrition aim at increasing the micronutrient intake by dietary diversification, supplementation, fortification and Bio-fortification. These approaches should be regarded as complementary with their relative importance depending on local conditions and specific requirements.

Dietary diversification aims at adding micronutrient dense foods, such as animal source foods, fruits and vegetables to diets based on staple food crops. The major constraints to dietary diversification are the availability and accessibility of micronutrient dense foods, especially in poorer settings as well as the need for behavior change and education.

Supplementation is the provision of relative large doses of micronutrients in form of pills or syrup to treat or prevent deficiencies. The most common supplementation programs include the provision of iron and folate to pregnant women and vitamin A for young children. Expensive supply and poor compliance are the major limitations of this strategy.

Fortification of foods with micronutrients is a preventive strategy which has been successfully used in many countries including well known programs such as salt fortification with iodine and wheat flour fortification with iron and folate. Guidelines to plan and implement efficient programs are available (WHO and FAO 2006). A major drawback of food fortification is that rural populations with limited access to processed foods can often not be reached. For these populations living predominantly on staple food crops Bio-fortification is a promising approach.

Bio-fortification is the process of increasing the level and/or bioavailability of essential nutrients in edible parts of crops by conventional plant breeding or transgenic techniques. Conventional breeding has been the primary approach to enhance staple food crops with iron, zinc and provitamin A carotenoids. Rice, wheat, maize, pearl millet, the common bean, sweet potato and cassava are the main targeted crops of HarvestPlus, the CGIAR’s (Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research) Bio-fortification Challenge program (Pfeiffer and McClafferty 2007; Bouis and Welch 2010). Three prerequisites have been identified to make Bio-fortification successful: i) a bio-fortified crop must be high yielding and profitable to the farmer; ii) the bio-fortified crop must be shown to be efficacious and effective reducing micronutrient malnutrition in target populations, and iii) the bio-fortified crop must be acceptable to farmers and consumers in target regions (Hotz and McClafferty 2007).
For bio fortified crops to be efficacious and effective, not only the enhanced concentration of the micronutrients in the edible part of the crop is important, but also the bioavailability of the micronutrients. In addition, the effect of food processing and preparation on micronutrient concentration and bioavailability needs to be considered.

Linking Nutrition to Agriculture: Nutrition sensitive interventions

Nutrition by nature is a multifaceted, multisectoral issue. Interventions from a variety of sectors should contribute to sustainable improvements in nutrition. Direct interventions improving nutrition are mostly found in the Health domain and Indirect interventions contributing to improved nutritional outcomes can be found in the domains of Agriculture, Economic development, Social development, Social protection, Education, Women and Gender Affairs, Water and Sanitation, etc.

Nutrition sensitive interventions address the underlying causes of malnutrition, while nutrition specific interventions address the direct causes. Nutrition sensitive interventions are never typically in themselves a sufficient intervention to remedy malnutrition.


• Increasing (staple) food production, increasing food availability, lowering food prices
• Diversification of agricultural production
• Micronutrient-rich crops
• Crops/varieties with reduced anti-nutritional factors
• Animal derived foods with higher bio-availability of micronutrients
• Plant breeding for elevated levels of micronutrients (bio-fortification)

Post-harvest processing and food processing

• Reducing food losses
• Extending shelf life
• Increasing food availability
• Adding value
• Maintaining (micro-)nutrients
• Reducing anti-nutritional factors

Recent Development in Ethiopia

Special attention to fight malnutrition is given by policy makers and non-government organizations in as a recent development. Different kinds of intervention including media campaign on feeding children and mothers, nutrition education, nutrition specific interventions to affected population and nutrition sensitive agriculture are materialized.

To make nutritional poor agricultural commodity modified for better nourishment bio fortified crops like orange flesh sweet potato and quality protein maize are promoted to the farming community. In addition to diversification of household produced by giving special intervention to agricultural enterprise which has ignored in previous agricultural development and extension programs mainly backyard agriculture as a source of nutritionally dense green leafy vegetables.

The way forward

Food insecurity and malnutrition is a cumulative effect of previous miss matched development interventions of decades and Even if some efforts made in recent development for giving attention to mainstream a nutrition sensitive agriculture and nutrition sensitive agricultural value chain development is needed. More initiative and programs should be developed so find a social viable and sustainable solution for the multi-dimensional problem of malnutrition in Ethiopia.

Can Ethiopia Maintain Its Great Progress Toward Food Security?

Cross-posted from

Nearly 30 years after the 1984 famine that left more than 400,000 people dead, Ethiopia has made significant progress toward food security. Some of these recent successes include a reduction in poverty, an increase in crop yields and availability, and an increase in per capita income—rising in some rural areas by more than 50 percent!

What happened to cause this breakthrough, and what steps does the country need to stay on track?

Food and Agriculture in Ethiopia: Progress and Policy Challenges, a recently released book by IFPRI Senior Researchers Paul Dorosh and Shahidur Rashid, discusses this. According to the authors, one reason for Ethiopia’s recent economic accomplishments is sustained agricultural growth. In the 1990s, agricultural growth averaged nearly 3 percent. In the next decade, it grew to 6.2 percent. Calorie malnourishment—insufficient diets or diets deficient in vitamins and nutrients—fell from 66 percent in 2000 to 46 percent in 2005. Over the same time period, the prevalence of underweight children younger than five years old dropped from 47.2 to 38.4 percent. A permanent shift from an environment prone to severe food crises to a stable and well-nourished one is possible—if the country maintains this agricultural growth.

One measure Ethiopia has already taken is establishing the Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA). As described in an article in IFPRI’s Insights magazine, the ATA combines the “analytical capacity of a research organization with the political and economic power of an implementing organization” to enact policies based on three common factors for success: strong government support, financial support from both government and large-scale donors, and projects that target the day-to-day financial concerns of Ethiopians as well as national economic goals.

According to the book’s authors, Ethiopia’s future is bright—if it takes concrete steps to:

sustain growth in crop and livestock production
increase market efficiency through better roads and wider access to electricity and information
provide effective safety nets to protect the most vulnerable households
maintain stability of the Ethiopian currency, the birr
manage the country’s demographic transition, as people leave rural areas for the cities

Some solutions are straightforward. For example, increased use of fertilizer, irrigation, and improved seeds can improve crop productivity. Fertilizer use was a large factor behind the cereal production increases in the 2000s, but it is still low: less than half of farmers used fertilizer in 2007 and 2008. And further research shows farmers rarely irrigate or use improved seeds. Others, such as achieving sustained macroeconomic stability, are more complicated and require, as do all new solutions, well-researched policies to implement them.

Ethiopia, by many measures, has made great progress since its great famine of 1984. But, say the authors, there is still work to do: namely continuing with thoughtful agricultural policies informed by research that, in turn, will help create a stable, food secure nation.

Ethiopia: WFP Empowers Smallholder Farmers Through Purchase For Progress (P4P)

As the world’s largest humanitarian agency, WFP uses its procurement needs to boost agriculture in developing nations: in 2012, itbought US$1.1 billion worth of food and more than 75 percent of that was in developing countries. Now, through its Purchase forProgress (P4P) programme, WFP is procuring food from smallholder farmers, giving them a greater incentive to invest in theirfarms.

ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA  – For the people of Fugnan Birra in Ethiopia’s Oromia region, it made all the difference to know that the grains they received in a recent WFP food distribution were grown in Ethiopian soil.

Around 6,800 people received food assistance from WFP in August in Fugnan Birra, a town in the Gursum district. Keddo Hada-Jundi,50, was one of those who came to the town seeking life-saving supplies to tide her family through the lean season following a poor harvest caused by inadequate rains.

“I have learnt that the maize we received today is locally produced, and I’m really thankful for those who provided assistance to us here in Ethiopia,” said Keddo.

WFP has adopted a range of innovative programmes to deliver food assistance while strengthening communities’ abilities to withstand cyclical shocks such as drought. As well as providing traditional food rations during emergencies, WFP provides cash or vouchers for training, or for work on assets such as roads and dams as part of its drive to eliminate hunger, and the causes of hunger.

The Purchase for Progress (P4P) initiative is a core component of  these efforts. In countries like Ethiopia, WFP works with partners and governments to empower smallholder farmers, strengthen local economies and reinforce national self-reliance.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that around half of the world’s hungry people are from smallholder farming communities, surviving off marginal lands prone to natural disasters like drought or floods. Through the P4P programme, these smallholder farmers also receive training in key techniques such as post-harvest handling, group marketing, agricultural finance and contracting.

Smallholder farmers in Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populous state, typically tend to less than two hectares, and make up 70 per cent of the country’s labour force.

Ambitious Programme

Ethiopia has one of the most ambitious P4P programmes in the world. One of the biggest deliveries — almost 19,000 metric tons of maize — was recently completed by P4P-supported smallholder farmers in 16 cooperative unions.

“I have sold 1,000 kg of maize this year and did not need to walk for one and a half hours as before to reach a market,” said Abdallah Dari, who brought his maize on a donkey to the small Medet Boditi Cooperative Union in the Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s Region (SNNPR).

Abdallah proudly added that he was now self-sufficient thanks to the sale of his maize, and he still had enough left over to feed his family.

“Our food assistance is reaching millions of people in Ethiopia every year, and if we can use our purchasing power to make long-term changes to build resilience in Ethiopia, then we will truly be useful here,” said Abdou Dieng, Country Director for WFP Ethiopia.

Partnerships are key

The success of P4P deliveries in Ethiopia derives largely from the excellent partnership between all those involved in working towards agricultural transformation, including international donors such as Britain’s Department for International Development (DFID), and an Ethiopian bank.

Thanks to a multi-year funding agreement with WFP, DFID is committed to an annual contribution of GBP20 million. This allowed WFP to sign forward delivery contracts with 16 cooperative unions for the 2013 growing season.

“It is quite simple: without the three-year advanced contribution that we got from DFID, we would not have been able to do this,” said Abdou Dieng.

Shaun Hughes, head of livelihoods and humanitarian team at DFID Ethiopia, said this kind of funding was more cost-effective.

“It promotes local production and allows WFP to buy food at a better price than in the middle of a drought when prices are at their highest. It also makes sense environmentally as the food is produced nearby,” Hughes said.

Banks have also played a critical role. The Commercial Bank of Ethiopia (CBE), WFP and cooperative unions signed an agreement allowing the latter to obtain loans to purchase maize directly from the farmers.

“Not only did this loan allow us to buy maize and increase our sales to WFP from 400 metric tons last year to 2,500 metric tons this year, it also helped to create market access for these farmers and train us about quality and storage (of the grains),” said Kalifa Ossero, manager of the Melik Cooperative Union in Warabie town, in the Silti zone of SNNPR.

ACDI/VOCA, a USAID-funded economic development agency, helped negotiate and draft the contract signed with CBE.

“This is extremely innovative in Ethiopia and the negotiation of the contract will really help in the future”, said Alex Pavlovic, a senior public-private partnership specialist for ACDI/VOCA’s Agricultural Growth Program-Agribusiness and Market Development in Ethiopia.

“Cooperative unions learnt how to draft these contracts but also how to borrow money for the first delivery of maize, for example, and use the payment for this delivery to make the second round possible, rather than getting all the money at once.  It was also a good experience for the bank in its relationship with small cooperative unions,” he added.

On 27 August 2013, WFP and its Maize Alliance partners in Ethiopia renewed their agreement and launched an ambitious plan to purchase 40,000 metric tons of maize in 2014.

“The success of local food purchases in Ethiopia also comes from a strong drive from the government. Maize has been identified as one of its key cereals to support Ethiopia’s Growth and Transformation Plan, under which productivity of major crops is planned to double. Smallholder farmers are essential to this strategy and the P4P approach fits into this plan for all services including training in post-harvest handling facilities, storage, finance and access to stable markets,” said Mauricio Burtet, P4P country coordinator in Ethiopia.

Cross posted from 

AGRA, EIAR launch New Initiative to boost Ethiopia

AGRA, EIAR launch New Initiative to boost Ethiopia PDF | Print | E-mail Written by Eimel Tadesse A new breeding program has been launched by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA and the Ethiopian Institute for Agricultural Research (EIAR). The programme will target five Ethiopian grain crops. The initiative – ‘Seed System Enhancement through Development of Improved Varieties of Maize, Tef, Sorghum, Soybean and Faba bean in Ethiopia’ – which will run for three years will make a significant contribution to enhance household food security and incomes. The Alliance for a Green Revolution (AGRA) will invest over US$ 1 million to reach directly and indirectly more than 200,000 smallholder farmers in Ethiopia. The majority of Ethiopians rely on these key grain crops for their calorie and protein intake, but yields are currently low. This initiative will help to improve the food security situation through developing and deploying more than 10 improved crop varieties better than varieties on farmers hand and previously released and promoting these among farmers. The initiative will also build capacity among researchers, extension agents, and public-private seed companies, and enhance the linkages between all the seed value chain players of target crops. The initiative will be implemented through various EIAR research hubs/centers at Bako, Debre Zeit, Melkasa, Kulumsa and Pawe. Dr. Adeferis Teklewolde, Crop Research Director at EIAR says: “Ethiopian farmers face a number of constraints, such as drought, diseases and insect pests that, combined together, greatly lower their yields. This initiative will introduce crop varieties that can better withstand these constraints, thereby contributing to improved food security in Ethiopia.” Joe DeVries, Director for AGRA’s Program for African seed Systems (PASS) which oversees the program, says: “AGRA is pleased to have this opportunity to work with the Ethiopian Government to tackle a key bottleneck to farmers’ productivity. Through this collaboration, 20 tons of breeder and foundation seeds – the basic seed multiplied and sold to farmers – will be availed to seed enterprises annually.”

Scientists Sequence the Wheat Genome in Breakthrough for Global Food Security

ScienceDaily (Nov. 28, 2012) — U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists working as part of an international team have completed a “shotgun sequencing” of the wheat genome, a paper published in the journal Nature reported today. The achievement is expected to increase wheat yields, help feed the world and speed up development of wheat varieties with enhanced nutritional value.

“By unlocking the genetic secrets of wheat, this study and others like it give us the molecular tools necessary to improve wheat traits and allow our farmers to produce yields sufficient to feed growing populations in the United States and overseas,” said Catherine Woteki, USDA’s Chief Scientist and Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics. “Genetics provides us with important methods that not only increase yields, but also address the ever-changing threats agriculture faces from natural pests, crop diseases and changing climates.”

Olin Anderson and Yong Gu, scientists with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) based at the agency’s Western Regional Research Center in Albany, Calif., played instrumental roles in the sequencing effort, along with Naxin Huo, a post-doctoral researcher working in Gu’s laboratory. All three are co-authors of the Nature paper.

ARS is USDA’s principal intramural scientific research agency, and the work supports the USDA goal of ensuring global food security.

As the world’s largest agricultural research institute, USDA is focused on reducing global hunger by increasing global cooperation and collaboration on research strategies and their implementation. For example, through the U.S. government’s Feed the Future initative, USDA and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) are coordinating their research portfolio with ongoing work of other donors, multilateral institutions, and government and non-government entities at the country level to effectively improve agricultural productivity, reduce food insecurity and generate economic opportunity.

Grown on more land area than any other commercial crop, wheat is the world’s most important staple food, and its improvement has vast implications for global food security. The work to complete the shotgun sequencing of the wheat genome will help to improve programs on breeding and adaptation in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa for wheat crops that could be drought tolerant and resistant to weeds, pests and diseases.

ARS is one of nine institutions with researchers who contributed to the study. The lead authors are based in the United Kingdom and were funded by the British-based Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. Funding also was provided by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). NIFA focuses on investing in research, education and extension programs to help solve critical issues impacting people’s daily lives.

The study represents the most detailed examination to date of the DNA that makes up the wheat genome, a crop domesticated thousands of years ago. The wheat genome is five times the size of the human genome, giving it a complexity that makes it difficult to study. The researchers used the whole genome shotgun sequencing approach, which essentially breaks up the genome into smaller, more workable segments for analysis and then pieces them together.

Another international team of scientists is working on a long-term project expected to result in more detailed sequencing results of the wheat genome in the years ahead. But the results published today shed light on wheat’s DNA in a way that will help breeders develop hardier varieties by linking genes to key traits, such as disease resistance and drought tolerance.

Wheat evolved from three ancient grasses, and the ARS team, working closely with partners at University of California, Davis, mapped the genome of one of those three parents, Aegilops tauschii. That mapping, funded in part by the National Science Foundation, was instrumental in the study. It allowed researchers to identify the origins of many of the genes found in modern-day wheat, a key step in linking genes to traits and developing markers for use in breeding new varieties.

Wheat growers face numerous challenges each year. Acidity in the soil can make wheat difficult to grow in some areas. Stem rust, a fungal disease, can wipe out entire crops, and a particularly aggressive form of stem rust has developed the ability to knock out genetic resistance in many popular wheat varieties and is causing major losses overseas.

USDA scientists have conducted similar genomic studies that have helped to increase the productivity of dairy operations, enhance cattle breeding and improve varieties of a number of other crops, including tomatoes, corn and soybeans. In 2010, Anderson and Gu, along with other ARS staff, were part of a team that published a paper in Nature detailing the sequencing of Brachypodium distachyon, a model plant used to study wheat, barley and biofuel crops.

Recent international research collaborations have been critical to meet challenges such as combating wheat rust and increasing wheat productivity, fighting aflatoxin contamination in corn, and sequencing genomes of important crops.

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