The demise of banana has been greatly exaggerated, but…

By David R Jones

The demise of the banana has been in the news regularly since a 2003 article in The New Scientist suggested that the crop may be extinct within 10 years. However, recent data indicate that between 2000 and 2017, global production of bananas grew at a compound annual rate of 3.2%, reaching a record of 114 million tonnes in 2017, up from around 67 million tonnes in 2000. Not bad for a crop that was supposedly on its death bed!

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Cavendish cultivar with no functional leaves in a plantation in Costa Rica after being left unprotected from Pseudocerscospora fijienis (photo: M. Sanchez and M Guzman, CORBANA)

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Cabbage stem flea beetle and aphids are the curse of every farmer, but CABI and CHAP may have a solution

 

Psylliodes chrysocephala (cabbage stem flea beetle); adult.
Crop pest: The cabbage stem flea beetle – Psylliodes chrysocephalus

By 2050 there could be as many as 10 billion mouths to feed across the world. This is now a much-repeated fact, as is the growing demand for sustainable produce with reduced chemical inputs and environmental impact. In short, there is a need to produce more and more food, with fewer and fewer inputs to protect the environment, increase productivity and minimise costs.

This is where CHAP (Crop Health and Protection), based at Sand Hutton near York, one of the Government’s four Agri-Tech Centres, supported by Innovate UK, comes in. It has been charged with the task of finding scientific and technological solutions to the practical problems facing growers. Working with its 12 Partners, one of which is CABI working from its laboratories based in Egham in Surrey, its priority is to develop and trial solutions to transform crop production so that they can be brought to market on a large scale.

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Is parthenium weed allergy problem worse than that of annual ragweed?

A small clump of field-growing parthenium weed plants approximately 80 days old
Photo Credit: S. Adkins

By Asad Shabbir

Parthenium weed and annual ragweed are closely related members of the Asteraceae, known for their high allergenicity. The detrimental effects on human health of the more temperate annual ragweed are very well known. However, those of the more tropical parthenium weed are less well known and in fact much more severe, affecting many tens of millions of people each year.

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The time is ripe for climate adaptation in agriculture

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By Janny Vos, Director of Strategic Partnerships at CABI

I recently attended the launch of the Global Commission on Adaptation (GCA) in The Hague where the words of the CEO of the World Bank – Kristalina Georgieva – resonated strongly with my work as part of an organisation that aims to improve people’s lives worldwide by providing information and applying scientific expertise to solve problems in agriculture and the environment. In a nutshell, it’s all about working together as we aim to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Ms Georgieva said, “What is new is the scope, the speed and the scale at which we must work to adapt to climate change. And it is cost effective as the returns on investments will be high.” CABI’s primary interests are helping farmers to grow more and lose less to agricultural pests and diseases, and the ‘returns on investments’ are indeed ‘high’ – they’re ultimately about securing food and nutrition security for the world’s growing population.

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Empowering more women in the fight against fruit flies in Pakistan

PRMP females

More women in the Gilgit Baltistan (GB) region of Pakistan are benefiting from a Phytosanitary Risk Management Programme (PRMP) aimed at using a range of biological controls to fight the fruit fly pest which can impact heavily on rice and horticultural crops.

PRMP, which is funded by USAID via United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), was initiated in GB in 2016 with the purpose of implementing the biological control of fruit flies in the region. A Biological Control Laboratory was established to develop mass rearing technologies to facilitate the augmentative releases of the Biological Control Agents (BCA) of fruit flies Dirhinus giffardi and Diachasmimorpha longicaudata. So far, around 400,000 BCAs of fruit flies have been released in the region to control the pest.

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Pakistan’s agriculture sector plays a central role in the economy of the country as it contributes 18.9 percent to the GDP. Almost 42.3 percent of its population is directly involved in this sector of which 73.8 percent employment is held by women.

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Fertilizer Optimization Tool pays dividends for farmers in Uganda

Interacting with members of Kidoko
CABI extension workers meet with farmers in Kidoko to advise on how to maximise the benefits of the Fertilizer Optimization Tool

By Dr Monica Kansiime, Scientist Seed Systems, based at CABI in Nairobi, Kenya

A decision support tool that allows an extension agent to take into account a number of the farmers’ circumstances and investment goals to maximize the benefits of fertilizer use on their farms is starting to pay dividends in Molo Sub-County in Uganda – with some farmers reporting a seven-fold increase in yields.

The Fertilizer Optimization Tool (FOT) incorporates the crop’s value, size of land, nutrient requirements of the crops, and the financial resources that the farmer has to invest in fertilizer. The tool also ensures that fertilizer use decisions are made in line with Integrated Soil Fertility Management practices, further ensuring cost-effectiveness for farmers.

Members of the Kidoko post-test club have been speaking in unison about the benefits of FOT after it was introduced by Ali Mawand – a Community Facilitator who works with the NASECO Seed Company.

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Safer food through Aflatoxin control in Pakistan

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Peanut is one crop affected by Aflatoxins. Image: iStock

Aflatoxins are a group of toxins produced by certain fungi found in crops such as maize, peanuts, cottonseed and tree nuts. The fungi responsible, Aspergillus flavus, can contaminate crops before and after harvest as well as contaminate animal products if infected feeds are given to livestock.

Consumption of these toxins in high concentrations can contribute to stunting growth in children and cause liver illness with fatal consequences. Estimates of deaths due to aflatoxin ingestion range up to 100,000 or more per year worldwide.

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