Agricultural revolution in Africa could increase global carbon emissions

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Productivity-boosting agricultural innovations in Africa could lead to an increase in global deforestation rates and carbon emissions, a Purdue University study finds.

Historically, improvements in agricultural technology have conserved land and decreased carbon emissions at the global level: Gaining better yields in one area lessens the need to clear other areas for crops, sidestepping a land conversion process that can significantly raise the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. Read more

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Using technology to decrease the knowledge gap between Ugandan men and women

URBANA, Ill. – If an in-the-flesh Extension specialist isn’t available to provide training, is a video of the specialist’s presentation or a video of a new agricultural practice a good substitute? The answer, according to a University of Illinois study with farmers in rural Uganda, isn’t simple, particularly when gender is factored into the equation.

“The literature in the field says communication materials like videos work best to support face-to-face communication,” said U of I agricultural communications professor Lulu Rodriguez. “But if you don’t have an Extension specialist available in a certain locale, a video is the next best thing. The two modes of presenting information work well, particularly for African women learners. It follows the African penchant for having a live presenter, someone to talk to, and their affinity for visuals. Those are important components to how they learn. If situations get dire, a video is a viable option, particularly if there is a live facilitator.” Read more

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Insights into plant growth could curb need for fertilizers

New insights into how plants regulate their absorption of an essential nutrient could help avoid pollution caused by excess use of fertiliser.

The findings could lead to the development of crop varieties that need less of the primary nutrient – nitrogen – than conventional crops. It could also inform how much nitrogen should be added to plant feed.

This would allow optimum plant growth without producing excess nitrogen in run-off from fields, which is a major source of water pollution. Read more

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Getting more out of nature: Genetic toolkit finds new maximum for crop yields

An array of gene variants provides ‘breakthrough benefits’ in tomato yield for breeders; other crops next

Cold Spring Harbor, NY – Scientists at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) today announced a new way to dramatically increase crop yields by improving upon Mother Nature’s offerings. A team led by Associate Professor Zachary Lippman, in collaboration with Israeli colleagues, has discovered a set of gene variations that can boost fruit production in the tomato plant by as much as 100%.

CSHL scientists have identified a set of genetic variants that can dramatically increase tomato production. On the far left is the average yield from a plant that grows standard canning tomatoes. The next three piles were produced by plants with mutations found in the toolkit. The combination of genetic mutations on the far right produces twice as many tomatoes as the standard variety.

Plant breeders will be able to combine different gene variants among the set to create an optimal plant architecture for particular varieties and growing conditions. The set of mutations will enable farmers to maximize yield in tomatoes and potentially many other flowering plants, including staple crops like soybeans. Read more

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University for Women Key to African Agriculture

“ARU was incubated by the Uganda Rural Development and Training Program (URDT), a non-governmental organization (NGO) founded in 1987. It is the first African university dedicated to training women.  It is one of the first African universities to be incubated by a rural NGO and show great promise in the potential for growth among local organizations. ARU is one the first universities to focus on rural development and entrepreneurship considering that Africa is largely rural.”


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Feeding Africa: Why Biotechnology Sceptics are Wrong to Dismiss GM

“Genetically-modified (GM) crops or any other breeding methods on their own cannot solve the challenges related to food quality, access to food, nutrition or stability of food systems. But their role cannot be dismissed for ideological reasons.”


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