CABI helps Pakistan Museum of Natural History showcase scourge of noxious parthenium weed

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CABI in Pakistan is helping the Pakistan Museum of Natural History (PMNH) showcase the scourge of the noxious parthenium weed, otherwise known locally at ‘Gajar Booti’, to members of the public visiting its Bio Gallery exhibit.

Parthenium is regarded as one of the major threats to native species, environment and ecosystems in more than 48 countries around the world – including Pakistan where it is also considered as a risk to human health, biodiversity, agriculture, livestock, and food security.

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‘Cracking the code’ of woody weed spread with machine-learnt algorithms

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Machine learning algorithms have their origins in early ‘computers’ such as the German WW2 ciphering Enigma machine

A scientific tool which has its principles in early ‘computers’ such as the German WW2 Enigma machine – used to convey secret commercial, diplomatic and military communication – is helping to map the fractional cover of the woody weed Prosopis juliflora across the Afar Region of Ethiopia.

PhD Candidate Hailu Shiferaw from Addis Ababa University, who is being supervised by CABI’s Dr Urs Schaffner, Professor Woldeamlak Bewket (AAU) and Dr Sandra Eckert (Centre for Development and Environment, University of Bern), has compared the performances of five Machine Learning Algorithms (MLAs) to test their ability at mapping the fractional cover/abundance and distribution of Invasive Alien Plant Species (IAPS) – particularly Prosopis which has already devastated an area equivalent to half of neighbouring Djibouti.

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CABI and IFDC join forces to get soybean film out to farmers in Northern Ghana

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By Duncan Sones – from an article which originally appeared on the Africa Soil Health Consortium (ASHC) website

Farmers in Northern Ghana are reaping the benefit of village-based film screenings to inform them about agricultural practices. Film screenings are growing in popularity amongst farmers and extension projects, as the technique for sharing information. This is because they are a very inclusive way of sharing information.

In mid 2018, IFDC approached Countrywise Communications about working together in Northern Ghana. IFDC wanted to improve the harvest and post-harvest treatment of soybean. They proposed doing this through showing a film. Countrywise knew exactly where to find films that was ideal for this purpose.

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Embracing ‘stakeholder interaction’ for better business strategy and integration in Pakistan

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The betterment of supply chains for condiments including spices is a key aim for some stakeholders

Dr Umair Safdar, Development Communications Executive at CABI in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, looks at ‘stakeholder interaction’ for better business strategy and integration in Pakistan through the cluster-based Agricultural Transformation (CDBAT) Project…

Stakeholders strongly influence a project’s success, particularly for complex projects with heterogeneous stakeholders. Therefore, understanding their influence is essential for project management and implementation.

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‘Switching’ onto ICT approaches to gender in extension services

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Duncan Sones, of the Africa Soil Health Consortium (ASHC) delivery team, looks back on six years of concept and project development that could unlock changes in farmer’s ability to effectively access improved technologies…

I don’t know about you but when I hear about something for the first time, I rarely take in all the nuanced details. However, ask me to sing an advertising jingle for a store than hasn’t existed for 40 years and I am probably able to sing it! My father knew all of the kings and queens of England in order. Well he did and he didn’t – he knew a rhyme that he could reel off 75 years after he learned it!

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Why it’s hard to teach old dogs new tricks

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By https://www.flickr.com/photos/pbump/with/5637773582/

Dogs, just like humans, can have problems with learning, memory and attention, particularly as they get older. Several tests of cognitive ability in dogs have been used in research with a particular focus on the effects of ageing. What is less well understood is how diseases affect these cognitive abilities. In an article in CAB Reviews, Lena Provoost, Margret Casal and Carlo Siracusa discuss how changes in behaviour, such as loss of appetite, house soiling or changes in sleeping are often the first indicators to the pet’s owners that there is a problem. The team from the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania say that while those changes could be caused by mental decline, they could be secondary effects of other medical causes, such as pain from infection swellings or kidney disease.

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Omega-3 fatty acids – what have we learned?

It’s well known that omega-3 fatty acids are crucial to the development of the brain. Animal studies have suggested that a specific fatty acid, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), plays a role in the development of cognitive abilities. So will taking extra DHA as a child make you cleverer? A paper in CAB Reviews by Carol Cheatham at the University of Kansas Medical Center looks at the evidence from both animal and human studies.

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Animal studies have shown clearly that DHA deficiency affects memory and learning, and that providing extra DHA can restore these abilities to some extent. However, in humans, fewer than half the randomised clinical trials report effects on cognition from DHA.

Babies born early miss out on the final weeks of DHA they would receive from their mothers via the placenta. Studies show that providing preterm babies with DHA does improve memory and attention relative to controls. However, for babies born at term, providing extra DHA has not given the same clear outcome, with different trials giving different results.

Cheatham looks at three possible reasons. One is that the doses of DHA may not have been high enough to work. Also, the trials used a wide variety of measures of learning and memory. Looking at more specific measures of cognition could give less mixed results. Few studies have looked at the long- term impacts, and so studying children some years after taking DHA supplements in more sophisticated tests may reveal differences.

The paper,Omega-3 fatty acids and the development of cognitive abilities: a review of DHA supplementation studies, by Carol L. Cheatham appears in CAB Reviews: Perspectives in Agriculture, Veterinary Science, Nutrition and Natural Resources, 2008, 3, No. 001.

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