Check out the website http://food.nationalgeographic.com/

National Geographic Society and FAO are teaming up to raise public awareness of food and agriculture topics and the question of how to feed 9 billion people by 2050. The FAO and National Geographic Society are collaborating on an 8-month “Future of Food” series that will run in National Geographic magazine and online at http://food.nationalgeographic.com/

Some of the themes to be explored in the series are food and agricultural statistics and trends, feeding megacities in a world of changing demographics, reducing food loss and waste, the role of animal and insect protein in diets, and global forestry issues.
The official launch of our collaboration will be marked by a three-day event taking place on May 2-4, 2014 at National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington, DC.

The launch will begin with an expert panel discussion on May 2nd from 2-4:30pm. The panel will address the issue of food security and sustainability. The speakers will be author Jonathan Foley, former Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman, chef José Andrés, photojournalist Robin Hammond, and others.

We would be pleased if you could join us. Please see the attached “Save the Date” document for details.
For more information and to request your free tickets, please RSVP at natgeoevents@ngs.org


Gabriel T. Laizer, Jr
Strategic Partnerships and Outreach Coordinator
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
2121 K Street N.W., |Suite 800-B| Washington, DC 20037
Phone: (202) 653-2454| Fax: (202) 653-5760
Website: http://www.fao.org/north-america
Blog: http://www.faowashington.org/



The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) is marking the 150th harvest of its Long-Term Continuous Cropping Experiment (LTCCE), the world’s longest-running rice research project.

This living field laboratory offers humanity a firsthand glimpse into the wonders of how rice production can be sustained in a changing climate without adversely affecting the soil and the productivity of a rice ecosystem.

According to Dr. Roland Buresh and Mr. Teodoro Correa, Jr., who both manage the LTCCE, the production of rice has been sustained after 150 rice crops in 52 years. Soil organic matter, a measure of soil fertility, has not declined in the past 30 years. This has been achieved without the application of crop residues and organic fertilizer.

The soil has remained a healthy medium for microorganisms, which is unique to flooded soils, thus providing sufficient biological input of nitrogen from the atmosphere for rice plants to produce 2 to 3 tons per hectare per crop. The application of fertilizer at an optimal rate for high profit can produce more than double this rice yield.

The experiences of the LTCCE have shown that proper application of fertilizer, sufficient irrigation water, and the use of modern high-yielding rice varieties and good crop management practices are essential for sustainable rice production.


Yields vary from year to year, largely because of climate, and are higher during years and seasons with abundant sunlight. Insect pests and diseases have not been a major factor affecting rice yields because varieties grown in the LTCCE are resistant. They are regularly replaced with new high-yielding ones that are pest- and disease-resistant.

“We were fortunate that the first scientists of IRRI had the foresight to envision intensive cultivation of rice and initiate the LTCCE in 1962 to test the feasibility and sustainability of intensive rice cultivation with up to three crops per year,” Dr. Buresh explained. “Society has and will continue to benefit from the findings of this experiment.”

“The implications of this is enormous, especially as intensive cropping becomes inevitable when more than half of the world’s population or over 3.5 billion people eat rice as their staple food,” he added.

“This living field laboratory will enable scientists to identify and solve potential constraints in intensive rice cultivation before they appear in farmers’ fields. It will continue in the future to provide insight for sustaining the productivity of rice in a changing climate.”


Thompson Reuters Foundation
Source: World Food Programme – Tue, 8 Apr 2014 12:26 PM
Author: World Food Programme http://www.trust.org/item/20140408170802-3zpig/?dm_i=1ANQ,2D17K,6LPWNX,8KKXQ,1


The Coffee Rust Crisis is hitting households; economies in the small village of La Conquista. One of those is Ilianas: Her husband relocated to Mexico to find work. She grew and sold plantains and bananas, but they are not as profitable as coffee. In order to make ends meet she did not enroll her eldest daughter in school. Fortunately between May and October, WFP and the Government of Guatemala will provide food and technical assistance to the families of La Conquista to help them overcome this crisis.

GUATEMALA CITY. –Iliana Miranda Alvarez lives in the community of La Conquista, Department of San Marcos. She is 31 years old, married, and mother of five children: two girls and three boys. The youngest one is only one year and five months old. Just like her neighbor’s, her family’s main source of income is coffee. Iliana and her husband own a lot of land in which they grow coffee and bananas. The lot is small and yields are low, to supplement their income and cover the family´s basic expenses, Iliana’s husband works as a migrant labourer.

Coffee Rust: The Silent Plague That Began 2 Years Ago Since 2012, La Conquista (in Guatemala) and other coffee growing communities in Central America have been affected by a plague of Coffee Rust. The result: Coffee crop yields have been reduced drastically during the 2012-2013 harvest season and no change is expected for the current 2013-2014 season. The impact has been considerably negative on families whose main source of income is coffee production. Heads of households are forced to find jobs in nearby coffee plantations, but these have also been hit by the plague. Iliana’s husband used to work for “La Union” plantation, which was also the source of income for many other locals. With coffee trees affected by the Coffee Rust at home and nearby plantations, Iliana’s husband was forced to go to Mexico in search of work. He was successful, but now he has to factor in additional expenses, such as transportation fares and living expenditures, which have reduced the family’s income by 10 percent, when compared to the previous year. The highest family income is 450 Quetzals (US$58), which doesn’t even cover a quarter of the cost of Guatemala’s Basic Food Basket- nutritional necessities, which is around 2,900 Quetzals (US$376) a month.

Bananas and Plantains Can’t Replace Coffee Despite their efforts to commercialize alternative crops, such as bananas and plantains, the women of La Conquista are bearing the brunt of the Coffee Rust crisis. To their dismay, the production and market prices of bananas and plantains are simply not enough to replace coffee. In the face of economic hardship, Iliana had to resort to a coping strategy to save money:  This year she decided not to enroll her eldest daughter in school simply because her family cannot afford the cost of uniforms and books. But at this stage any savings could not be enough. The situation will only worsen come May, which is the beginning of the Lean Season. Prices of staple foods such as maize will rise in the local market, making it harder for Coffee-Rust affected families to access nutritious foods.

La Conquista will receive WFP assistance Fortunately La Conquista will receive food and technical assistance from WFP and the Government of Guatemala. In exchange for building assets, the families in La Conquista will receive food to supplement their incomes between May and October, which is the critical Lean Season. The most vulnerable families will receive food rations with maize, beans, and vegetable oil to cover 50 percent of their food needs for the next six months. WFP works in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture, which will also provide technical assistance to the community to improve soil conservation and raise crop yields. Iliana and other women in the community have started to build live fences (groups of trees, bushes, etc.) on their plots to prevent soil erosion and to improve soil quality in preparation for the technical assistance in the months to come.

16,000 Families in 6 Departments Are Receiving Assistance Besides the families in La Conquista, WFP currently supports 16,000 families affected by the Coffee Rust in six departments: Guatemala, Alta Verapaz, Baja Verapaz, Huehuetenango, El Quiche, and San Marcos. The beneficiary families are selected on criteria defined by WFP to guarantee that the most-in-need households receive assistance. Families are selected based on the following:

1. High vulnerability. 2. Own a small land plot with damaged crops caused by the 2012-2013 dry season, 50% of the crops were affected during the last crop cycle, or the family does not own land at all. 3. No food stocks. 4. Children under 5 years old live in the household. 5. Women as head of the household. 6. Members with special needs, elderly people, etc.




The Ministry of Agriculture Water and Forestry (MAWF) has stepped in to assist hundreds of farmers affected by the outbreak of bollworms that are feeding on immature mahangu grains.

The attack was discovered last week by famers in the regions of Oshikoto, Oshana, Omusati and Ohangwena, and some already fear poor harvest and asked for the government’s intervention. So far the Oshana Region is the hardest hit with the Okaku, Okatjali, Ondangwa, Uukwiyuushona and Ongwediva constituencies worst off. Agricultural technicians and assistants in the MAWF are now hard at work advising farmers in villages to try and use the traditional and biological methods to control the worms. Josua Antonio, one of the agricultural technicians, maintains that the use of pesticide which most famers were asking for can be harmful to the ecosystem. He adds that after officials met and educated the farmers about the negative impact that comes with the use of pesticide, most farmers opted to use biological ways to control the worms, and so far there are only two farmers who have agreed to the use of pesticide.

“If you use pesticide on your field, nobody should walk in there for sometime and people cannot consume any produce from that field for at least a month, and this time is a critical time when people are supposed to be consuming watermelon, traditional spinach and beans among others,” explains Antonio.

He further maintains that the use of pesticide can be dangerous to children who may steal and eat watermelons from mahangu fields.

Lucia Iipinge, Agricultural Technician in the MAWF, says although she has never seen the bollworms before, elders in the villages says they have many years ago and used some traditional ways to control them.

Other means of controlling the worms include allowing birds and chickens to feed on the worms, hand picking and shacking them off the crops.

“Our people love chasing the birds away from mahangu fields or killing the birds, but the birds are feeding off the worms. We should let the birds be,” says Iipinge.

He adds that the bollworms breed thousands of eggs inside the head of an immature millet, and the little worms would start feeding from inside.

Wilhelmina Gideon from Okaku village in Oshana region noticed the worms covering the mahangu crops last week. Gideon’s family then started to collect plastic bags filled with the worms and burned them, but the method did not prove to be very successful. Good rains received during March resulted in good crops and the prospects of equally good harvests, but the outbreak of bollworms has put a damper on the expectations.

“These worms are increasing every day. If you come here in the morning you’ll realise that the crops heads are covered, but they disappear as the sun rises,” explains meme Anna Ashikoto from Oluhwa village, also in the Oshana region.

Meekulu Anna Fillemon, also an elderly from the same village, says she has saw the bollworm or similar worms many years ago, but the worms were not as many as the current ones.She adds that villagers used to control the worms by digging trapping channels around the mahangu fields, and by hand picking and burning the worms and it worked.



A web resource for African armyworm and its biological control


Armyworm Network is a free website that provides up to date information on the African armyworm (Spodoptera exempta), an important pest of cereal crops and pasture grasses in sub-Saharan Africa.
Resources available on this website include the latest armyworm forecasts, press reports of armyworm outbreaks, photos, videos, publications, and lots of useful information on the biology, ecology and control of this important African crop pest.

What is the African armyworm?
The African armyworm moth, Spodoptera exempta is one of the most devastating crop pests in eastern Africa.
Like the infamous desert locust it is highly migratory and outbreaks are difficult to predict.

Biological control
African armyworms play host to a highly specific baculovirus: SpexNPV.
Ongoing research on the biology, ecology and genetics of SpexNPV is investigating its potential as a microbial pesticide.
An African armyworm on crops Baculovirus project: The consortial African Armyworm Baculovirus Project has partners in the UK and Tanzania. It investigates the interaction between armyworm and SpexNPV, hoping to develop an Africa-wide strategic control system.

The latest new and videos on armyweb research
Monitoring traps in Africa
Up-to-date forecasts of armyweb outbreaks in Africa
Some newspapers
Press reports
Armyworm news and research in the press


Praise for new website on African crop pest
03 April 2014 Lancaster University

The UK’s Global Food Security Champion says a Lancaster University website about the African armyworm will help to combat the pest.

Armyworm Network provides important information for farmers in Africa plagued by this devastating pest.

Professor Tim Benton said: “The new website will be a valuable resource for all farmers, governments and others whose lives have been impacted by this major pest of cereal crops in Africa. The forecasts the site provides will be particularly useful for farmers and governments to plan armyworm control activities”.

Armyworms are the caterpillar stage of a moth that migrates throughout sub-Saharan Africa. It is a serious pest of all the main cereal crops, including maize (sweetcorn), rice, millet, sorghum and wheat, as well as pasture grasses, threatening food security in the region.

A cattle farmer from South Africa, who has had armyworms on his pastures for the second year running, said: “I went out early this morning and found hundreds of them on our fields. Last year they destroyed all of our winter grazing (150 hectares), despite our best efforts to control them.

“The website of your university, thousands of kilometres away, was the only comprehensive site I could find with useful information.”

Visitors to the new website can email directly experts in African armyworm biology and control, including Professor Ken Wilson from the Lancaster Environment Centre, who developed the website.

He said, “It is fantastic to be able to launch the new website. The previous site was extremely popular, especially with farmers in Africa and with international agencies wanting to know more about this important crop pest. The new website contains so much more information and is also much easier to navigate”.

The new Armyworm Network provides information and forecasts for large- and small-scale farmers in Africa, as well as for governments, donor agencies, non-governmental organizations, journalists and other stakeholders. It replaces and improves upon its predecessor, which received more than 10,000 visitors from 30 countries during the five years it was operational.

It provides visitors with more information about the biology of this major crop pest, how it can be controlled, current research developing a new biological pesticide against it , press reports of armyworm outbreaks, publications, a live Twitter feed, and regular forecasts issued by international pest monitoring organizations.






Photo: Jaspreet Kindra/IRIN- Wheat under threat

JOHANNESBURG, 2 April 2014 (IRIN) – Outbreaks of a deadly fungal disease in wheat crops in Germany and Ethiopia in 2013 have had the scientific community buzzing over the threat posed to global food security.

Wheat stem rust, also known as wheat black rust, is often referred to as the “polio of agriculture”: The rapidly mutating fungal disease can travel thousands of kilometres and wipe out crops.

Wheat farmers and scientists at a recent summit hosted by the Mexico-based International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT ) have been examining outbreaks of different strains of wheat stem rust in the two countries to identify any similarities.

In Germany “the occurrence of stem rust was favoured by a period of unusually high temperatures… and an unusually late development of the wheat crop due to cold spring and early summer temperatures,” explained Kerstin Flath, senior scientist at Germany’s Federal Research Centre for Cultivated Plants at the Julius Kuehn-Institut. The outbreak occurred in June in central Germany, a mainly wheat producing area, and was the first in the country in several decades.

“A changing climate will ‘definitely’ favour this thermophilic fungus” Scientists noted that the rust came so late that even the fungicides sprayed earlier to prevent leaf rust epidemics proved ineffective.

Then in November 2013 the disease struck a popular variety of wheat in Ethiopia called digalu, used to make bread, said Bekele Abeyo, a senior scientist and wheat breeder at CIMMYT.

What was particularly disconcerting for the scientists was that digalu had been bred with inherent resistance to certain strains of stem rust and another wheat disease called “yellow rust” or “stripe”.

The fact that the fungus has been rapidly mutating has prompted scientists to study the two cases with a view to helping with the preparation of new wheat varieties.

David Hodson, a senior scientist with the Global Cereal Rust Monitoring Program at CIMMYT, says the analysis presented on the German outbreak showed “there were some clear specific differences between the races present in Germany compared to Ethiopia, although the races were similar and fitted into the same race group.”

In Ethiopia, he said, the season had also been favourable for rusts, with above-average and well distributed rainfall – conditions similar to those in 2010 when wheat crops there were affected by yellow rust.

However, said Hodson, “the key factor was the presence of a suitable host and the appearance of a race that was able to attack this host.”

Flath said the big question on the German outbreak was whether it “was a unique situation or if it will repeat this year” – particularly because they had had a rather mild winter, so the spores might have survived.

She reckons a changing climate will “definitely” favour this thermophilic fungus. In the last two years two new aggressive variants of the yellow rust-causing fungus have made huge inroads in central and northern Europe.


Fungicides are the first line of defence. A longer term solution is replacing the world’s entire wheat varieties with those that contain several minor rust-resistant genes, which are pooled together to counter the infection, giving them an edge over single rust-resistant genes in combating various mutated variants of the fungus. Digalu contains single rust-resistant genes.

There are 20 new stem-rust-resistant varieties of wheat available. But getting the new seeds to farmers has been a problem, mainly due to poor distribution networks and cost.

Industrialized countries have an edge in terms of resources, said Flath. But even developing countries, realizing that food security is at stake, are beginning to make massive investments, says Abeyo. For instance, after the outbreak in Ethiopia in 2010, the government invested US$3 in fungicides, which helped contain the fungus in 2013.

With global wheat supplies vulnerable to changing weather patterns, Abeyo says developing countries are realizing the need to become self-sufficient in grain.

“Countries are now making the investment in infrastructure and research to develop better varieties.” But they still have a long way to go. Better partnerships with the developed world in sharing information and skills to monitor and protect their crops are also proving to be effective, he added.


All wheat varieties will have to be replaced
Two new wheat varieties offer hope against stem rust
Mutant wheat killer on the prowl
Another strain of deadly wheat fungus in South Africa


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 51 other followers