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Great opinion piece by Märianne Banziger, DDG for Research and Partnerships at CIMMYT, a CGIAR Consortium center.

Many African countries have recently harvested maize – or are preparing to do so. They may avoid the full impact of high prices for months. Once their local production is consumed, these countries must rely on maize from international markets where there is no escape from high prices.”

Key Point:

  “There are many developing countries where productivity could be increased to reduce overreliance on imports and benefit rural poor and development in those countries at large. The potential for improvement is enormous”……a reliable supply of locally tested and produced high quality seed is essential to achieve this. We are working with many African seed companies and entrepreneurs to improve their production and access to genetics and skills. 

  “Individual countries must increase investment in agriculture. Agriculture remains one of the best uses of development money. Africa has invested in developing drought-tolerant maize and improving the productivity of maize-legume cropping systems”.

Holistic approaches must be used and all the tools at our disposal including both new and traditional approaches, new and older technologies, improved agronomy and extension, solving cash flows and markets to provide better access to inputs and knowledge. In terms of ‘bang for the buck’ we believe improved seed access ranks among the highest.

  “The goal is not simply to avoid another food crisis responsibly and efficiently grow enough food to feed the planet”

  “We have the means to eliminate hunger and malnutrition in spite of climate change and rising demand, but we need political will and investment”

African Seed Network agrees !

Related articles

Originally posted on Agricultura e Segurança alimentar:

How to avoid another food crisis – AlertNet.

Climate Conversations – How to avoid another food crisis

By Marianne Bänziger | Wednesday at 2:17 PM | Comments ( 3 )

A farmer harvests wheat on Miet Radie farm at El-Kalubia governorate, about 60 km (37 miles) northeast of Cairo, on May 8, 2012. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

A farmer harvests wheat on Miet Radie farm at El-Kalubia governorate, about 60 km (37 miles) northeast of Cairo, on May 8, 2012. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

By Marianne Bänziger

The United States is currently in the midst of a severe drought, its worst in 50 years. Half of all U.S. counties have been declared disaster areas. In response, the international prices of maize and soybeans have risen past 2007-08 peaks, when they fueled food riots in more than 30 countries.

There have not been food riots but the world remains in a tenuous position. Another shock to the global food system could spark another food crisis. Here are four things to watch:


The demand for maize has risen…

View original 942 more words


Posted by on August 15, 2012 in General


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Scientists Sow Ancient Seed to Survive Global Warming | NTDTV, YouTube

Scientists in Mexico have discovered that ancient maize and wheat varieties can resist the drought and heat of today’s weather conditions. The researchers are crossing the plants with other strains to grow different types of maize and wheat, more resistant to climate change for future generations.A seed bank which could hold the key to saving some crops from global warming.Scientists in Mexico have found that ancient wheat and corn varieties have particular drought-and heat-resistant traits.

So, researchers at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center in El Batan are developing new strains which they can cross with plants grown from the ancient seeds.They hope these plants can fight off the ill effects of rising temperatures, says scientist Matthew Reynolds.

“These wild relatives have been around for hundreds of thousands or even millions of years. And so, of course, they have experienced climate changes that are probably miniscule compared to what we’re anticipating will occur within the next hundred or a thousand years.”

Mexico is considered to be a birthplace for corn, which is a staple for Mexicans.Native species dating back to long before the Spanish conquest, still survive.And the new plants are inheriting traits from the old seeds such as longer roots that suck up water and a capacity to store more nutrients in their stalks.The center’s research director, Marianne Bänzinger says science has to anticipate the inevitable temperature increases.

Climate change is really happening and we need to be concerned, we need to be concerned that we cannot change agriculture overnight. So we need to look ahead what is happening in 10, 15, 20 years when our children had grown up and we need to start to invest now in those solutions to make sure that we have them with farmers when they are needed.”

Seed breeders say they are the first line of defense in protecting farmers from climate change, widely expected to heat the planet between 1 and 3 degrees over the next 50 years. And using the innate information found in ancient seeds is one way of ensuring future food supplies

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Posted by on April 17, 2012 in General


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The Importance and Challenge of rapid multiplication of Vegetative Crops in Africa |

This is a kumara (a kind of sweet potato). Deu...

Kumara (a kind of sweet potato).

Realizing the potential of Africa’s vegetative crops requires new tools for rapid multiplication of healthy and improved planting material 

Bananas, plantains, cassava, potato and sweet-potato, as well as other indigenous African root vegetables are key in solving Africa’s food and income security challenges. The total production of these crops almost doubles that of maize, rice and wheat in Africa. These vegetatively propagated crops are an excellent source of cheap energy and are a key staple foods in Sub-Saharan Africa. The importance of these crops is well known for example East African Highland bananas in the African Great Lakes region, and Cassava and Plantains in West Africa. Some cultivars are very nutritious because they are rich in vitamins or essential minerals. Research shows that a family of five could meet their annual vitamin A requirements from only a small 10 x 50 meter plot of recently developed orange flesh sweet-potato, even at low yield levels of around 5 tonnes per hectare.

Root and vegetative crops such as these are mostly produced, processed, and traded in farm households or locally, making them less vulnerable than grain to abrupt price changes in international markets. Cassava and sweet-potato can be grown in marginal conditions and nontraditional areas, and can be produced with relatively few inputs because of their ability to tolerate many abiotic stresses such as drought or heat or poor soils. In some agro-ecosystems, they often complement cereals to cut risk and make more efficient use of resources by providing food earlier in the farming calendar or by be planted in otherwise fallow periods between grain crops. They are also known as “famine crops” because of their particular role during the “lean or hunger season” when their tuberous roots can be harvested as needed to meet shortfalls in grain.  and other vegetative crops. A uniquely African Green Revolution requires urgent improvements in the supply of  new and improved cultivars of these vegetative crops.

Multiplication and dissemination of new varieties requires new innovation in greenhouse, tissue-culture, micro-propagation and decentralized field multiplications of healthy planting materials. In Africa today, farmer or commercial multiplication of these crops is very low compared with multiplication of cereal and pulse seed. Most planting materials used by farmers are often of poor quality because they are infected with pests and diseases, which perpetuate (and exacerbate) pest losses through successive growth cycles. Newly developed higher yielding, or disease and pest tolerant cultivars, have not been made available in sufficient and reliable quantities to satisfy the demands of African growers.

The best strategy to deliver healthy planting materials for vegetatively propagated crops includes micro-propagation of healthy propagules of selected germplasm along with multiplication in greenhouses, shade-houses and field plots. Micro-propagation is the process of growing tissue culture for plant shoot-tips in a laboratory until they are ready for transplant into the field. This propagation system significantly reduces pathogen incidence and may dramatically improve yield when coupled with good agronomic practices. Micro-propagation systems can easily include quality control to ensure certification and delivery of “clean” propagules. Tissue culture-derived materials can rapidly grow, helping  the introduction of newly bred germplasm at reasonable cost and speed.  They are also amenable to biological enhancement (e.g. with endophytes that extend the benefits of “clean” planting material) before delivery to farmers. Macro-propagation will be further use to multiply additional clean planting material locally and at a lower cost. However, when re‐infection rates are high, a continual supply of new planting material will be a must for annual or biennial replanting or these vegetatively propagated crops.

Phytosanitary testing to support schemes for certifying the quality of such materials throughout the production chain will be also a key element for this rapid multiplication system. The production, conditioning, and marketing of certified planting materials will be the responsibility of the public or private grower but the certifying agency must verify that they follow the approved regulations outlined by the national authority to meet the required standards for certification.

African Seed Network
Guest Contribution by Rodomiro Ortiz, PhD
Professor, Genetics and Plant Breeding
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), Alnarp, Sweden

Rodomiro Ortiz worked as researcher at UNALM, CIP (Perú), Rutgers Univ. (USA) and IITA (Nigeria), held a Nordic professorship in plant genetic resources at the Univ. Copenhagen (Denmark), and director at ICRISAT (India), IITA and CIMMYT (México).

Posted by on April 12, 2012 in General


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