Local scientists could maximise their impacts in food production worldwide

Photo credit: SciDevNet

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Local scientists creating global impacts in agriculture

Nina Dudnik

Speed read

  • Scientists in developing nations are using new tools to spur food production
  • Partnerships and funding are key to helping local scientists to make impacts
  • Investing in the R&D of such scientists could maximise their impacts
Local scientists could maximise their impacts in food production worldwide if supported, argues Nina Dudnik.

In a three-room lab outside Nairobi, Kenya, cutting-edge science is meeting time-honoured farming practices. Steven Runo, a senior lecturer with a specialisation in molecular biology, and his colleagues at Kenyatta University are using the tools of modern molecular biology to overcome constraints of growing maize, sorghum and rice.

In particular, Runo is using a broad range of genomics and molecular biology strategies to fight parasites such as Striga, which strangle the crops.

The type of research being conducted by Runo, his team in Kenya and other scientists in developing countries is key to food security in the world.

Read the full article: SciDevNet

Forests perform a huge range of functions critical to a healthy biosphere

Photo credit : WVC 1999 PENRITH1 copy.jpg

Field work for the Olympic Games in Sydney (Australia) – The Penrith area.


Research helps forests adapt to and mitigate a changing climate

“Resilient and diverse forests are critical to maintaining a livable planet.” This simple statement encapsulates both a potential tragedy, if underestimated, and a critical imperative for humanity if fully accepted: which is to conserve and restore the planet’s forests in the face of rapidly growing threats.

Forests perform a huge range of functions critical to a healthy biosphere. They stabilize soils, maintain moisture levels and fertility and are home to a vast diversity of plant, animal and microbial species, many of which sustain nearby human communities. Forests also sequester carbon and produce oxygen, and so are critical to a stable climate and a breathable atmosphere.

Maintaining and expanding natural forest cover is therefore an essential component of an intelligent response to the climate crisis. However, given the rapidity with which the climate is changing and the impacts of these changes on tree populations, it also presents a complexity of challenges.

Research spanning two decades and multiple continents, which has been reviewed in the recent article, The role of forest genetic resources in responding to biotic and abiotic factors in the context of anthropogenic climate change — part of the Forest Genetic Resources series in a special edition of the Forest Ecology & Management journal — sets out these challenges and points to strategies for addressing them when undertaking conservation and restoration projects.

Dr Judy Loo, Leader of Bioversity International’s Forest Genetic Resources and Restoration Science Domain, who made the above statement, is one of the authors of the article. “Resilience,” she explains, “comes from the ability to adapt to change; that ability comes largely from genetic diversity.”

Species respond to a changing environment by means of one of three processes. The first is migration, in which a population moves over time to a more amenable environment.


Read the full article: Bioversity International

Communities and Iranian desertification projects (Google / RTCC)

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Putting communities at the heart of Iranian desertification projects

By Tierney Smith

Iran is home to two of the world’s largest deserts, and around 100 million hectares of this land – around 70% – is suffering from desertification.

The average rainfall in Iranian deserts is about 50 mm annually compared to 320mm elsewhere in the country.

One professor at the Allameh Tabatabai University, Esmail Kahrom, has called on the government in Iran to improve water management, which he believes has increased desertification across the country.

He said last year Iran had jumped to the top position for soil erosion, from second place in 2010, which he has blamed on the drying up of ponds and lakes, the retreat of groundwater supplies and deforestation and vegetation elimination.

However, action to combat desertification is not new in the country, and the first projects aimed to do just that were implemented over six decades ago.

Dr Farshad Amiraslani, Assistant Professor at the University of Tehran, has been looking back over the last half a century of desertification action in Iran to see what the country has learnt from such projects.

Engaging communities

For Dr Amiraslani, two specific changes to the way Iran dealt with desertification triggered a change in the success of projects on the ground.

Firstly in 2004, following the government’s commitment to the UNCCD, Iran developed a National Action Plan to Combat Desertification (NAP), which outlined the short, medium and long term programmes.

This took desertification planning away from a case-by-case analysis to a province wide and national approach to the problem.

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