Spanning the whole crop production process, from seed provision and field hygiene to post-harvest protection, how to keep crops safe from pests, diseases and other threats.
Yam farmers in West Africa often fail to get good yields, with one major cause being disease in their crop. Unfortunately, diseases can be passed from one generation of the crop to the next, through the planting material. In response, farmers and scientists have been experimenting with a new technique to produce seed yam for planting, which has the advantages of producing more seed yams which are also free of diseases. Beatrice Aighewi and Danny Coyne, two researchers who have been working with yam farmers in Nigeria, discuss how the technique works and the benefits it offers.
published: February 2013
The Plantwise Knowledge Bank is a new website that has been designed to provide up-to-date information on crop pests and diseases. It is part of the Plantwise programme, led by CABI, to help smallholder farmers lose less of their crops. Marylucy Oronje, who has been involved in constructing the site, explains to Pius Sawa how it works, enabling farmers and farming advisors to diagnose problems, learn about control measures and access factsheets that summarise the essential information in a simple form. The site is particularly valuable for Plantwise plant doctors who are running plant health clinics in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda among other countries. Giving farmers information about pests and diseases can also help them to avoid these problems, by choosing appropriate varieties and spotting symptoms early.
published: September 2012
Coffee leaf rust, caused by a fungus, is a damaging disease in coffee farms around the world which can reduce harvests by 40 per cent or more. Until recently, the disease was not commonly found in highland areas, as it favours a warmer climate. However, with rising temperatures as a result of global warming, coffee growers in highland areas of countries such as Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda, are increasingly finding their crop attacked by the disease, with a significant impact on both the quantity and quality of their yields. In response, the research organisation CABI is working with national coffee institutions to identify varieties of coffee that are resistant to the disease, and train farmers in other methods of protecting their crops.
published: July 2012
In Zambia, farmers and researchers are testing the efficacy of a powder made from the root bark of a local plant - Securidaca longepedunculata - in protecting stored maize against weevils. Tests over two seasons suggest the biological protection is as effective of use of chemical products, without entailing high costs. Farmer Steven Mazibuko and researcher Donald Zulu of the Kasisi Agricultural Training Centre, describe the challenges involved in post-harvest crop protection and the benefits offered by Securidaca root powder. The powder is also being tested more widely in Africa, under the African Dryland Alliance for Pesticidal Plant Technologies (ADAPPT) project.
published: November 2011
Originally an Asia-based organisation, AVRDC (the World Vegetable Center) now has regional offices in East and West Africa, where it develops improved vegetable varieties on behalf of smallscale farmers. The mission of the Center is to tackle poverty and malnutrition through increased production and consumption of nutritious and health-promoting vegetables, including indigenous and exotic species. Recently, Center staff in Cameroon held a vegetable day to showcase new varieties developed in partnership with Cameroonian farmers. Takemore Chagomoka, a Center liaison officer and seed business specialist, explains more about the varieties developed, and the opportunity they provide to farmers in the region.
published: October 2011
A new laboratory in Kenya is a hub for pest identification in East Africa. With sophisticated equipment and well trained staff, the laboratory will be used as a referral centre for confirmation of plant disease and pest problems (including bacteria, viruses, fungi and insects) that occur in the region. Senior plant health inspector, Isaac Macharia, takes Geoffrey Onditi on a short tour of the facility, and explains how farmers will also be able to take advantage of its services to get diagnosis of pests at a subsidised rate.
published: October 2011
Poor or unreliable rainfall not only reduces crop yields, but can also deter farmers from investing in high yielding farm inputs, such as seed and fertiliser. In Kenya, the UAP Insurance company now offers weather-index based insurance to small-scale farmers. This means that if rains fail, participating farmers can be refunded what they spent on seed and other inputs. Under a new development, they can also insure the earnings they hope to gain from their crop. Eric Kadenge finds out more from a company representative and from a farmer who was among the first to buy the insurance.
published: June 2011
In 2008, Malawi's Bunda College of Agriculture applied for permission to hold confined field trials of genetically modified Bt cotton. Malawi had been one of the leading countries in Africa, in getting regulatory and legal frameworks in place to permit biotechnology research. However, three years later, permission for the trials had still not been granted and Malawi was falling behind several other African countries in making progress on GM research. Moses Kwapata, head of Bunda College, and Water Alhassan, coordinator of an Africa-wide project to build safety in biotechnology research, offer their views to George Kalungwe.
published: May 2011
Ug99, a new strain of wheat stem rust first identified in Uganda, has since spread across much of Africa, and could soon threaten wheat crops in India and Pakistan. Working in partnership, the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) are breeding new varieties of wheat with resistance to the disease. As KARI wheat breeder Peter Njau explains, these could be available in large quantities by April 2012. Meanwhile, farmers need to protect their wheat crop with fungicide spray, if they can afford to do so.
published: April 2011
In central Nigeria, hundreds of yam farmers have adopted an improved technique for producing seed yam. The technique - called mini-setting - has a very high germination rate, and protects the yams from soil-borne diseases and fungi. Now, with funding from the UK's Research into Use programme, the technique is being used as part of a project to develop large-scale seed yam production. This could have major benefits for yam farmers in Nigeria and more widely, as poor quality seed yam is a leading cause of poor harvests in the region.
published: January 2011
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- Online knowledge bank to combat plant pests
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