Category

Agriculture

Fruits and vegetables as key components of plant-based diet

By | Agriculture, Blog, Fruits and Vegetables, Policy

A balanced nutritional diet rich in minerals, antioxidants, and vitamins is of vital importance for human health. Fruits and vegetables are rich sources for most of these dietary phytochemicals and micronutrients. However, today’s most common diets consist mainly of starchy staples and less of nutrient-rich foods or fruits and vegetables, particularly in the developing world. Keeping in view that the UN General Assembly designated the year 2021 as the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables.

Read More
Prosopis juliflora

Prosopis juliflora acutely reduces water resources in Ethiopia, costing rural livelihoods

By | Agriculture, Forestry, News, Plant Health, Plant Science

New research has revealed how an invasion of the alien evergreen tree, Prosopis juliflora seriously diminishes water resources in the Afar Region of Ethiopia, consuming enough of this already scarce resource to irrigate cotton and sugarcane generating some US$ 320 million and US$ 470 million net benefits per year.

A team of Ethiopian, South African and Swiss scientists, including lead author Dr Hailu Shiferaw, Dr Tena Alamirew, and Dr Gete Zeleke from the Water and Land Resource Centre of Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia, and Dr Sebinasi Dzikiti from Stellenbosch University, South Africa, and Dr Urs Schaffner, Head Ecosystems Management, CABI, have been assessing water use of prosopis and its impacts on catchment water budget and rural livelihoods in the dry Afar Region of Ethiopia, since 2015 as part of a long-term collaboration in the framework of the CABI-led Woody Weeds project.

Their new study, published in Scientific Reports, provides evidence that this alien tree, which has invaded both the floodplains of the Awash River and the surrounding dryland habitats, uses excessive amounts of water by consuming approximately 3.1-3.3 billion m3/yr of water throughout the year in the Afar Region.

Dr Shiferaw said, “We found that single trees of the evergreen prosopis consume between 1-36 liters of water per day, depending on stem diameter and site conditions. Prosopis trees not only use water throughout the year, but even consume more water during the dry season, when almost all native plants have shed their leaves. The high sap flow of prosopis in the drylands throughout the year may be due to exceptionally deep roots that penetrate up to 50m below the surface, where they tap into groundwater that cannot be used by native trees with shorter roots.”

In the context of climate change and an increasing frequency of drought events in dry regions of Sub-Saharan Africa, the report concludes that this invasive tree is likely to have serious consequences for sustainable livelihoods in the region unless its spread is contained and its density reduced.

Dr Urs Schaffner, senior author and Head Ecosystems Management at CABI in Switzerland, said, “Since its introduction in the Afar Region in the 1980s, prosopis has invaded 1.2 million ha of land. Thus, unless the spread of prosopis is contained and the density reduced in areas where it has become established, this invasive tree is likely to have serious consequences for sustainable livelihoods in the region. The estimated net benefits from water savings alone would strongly justify the implementation of a coordinated control programme.”

The report clearly supports findings from work undertaken in South Africa on water use by invasive tree species. Prof Brian van Wilgen from Stellenbosch University, South Africa, previous scientific advisor to the ‘Working for Water’ programme in South Africa and partner of the Woody Weeds project, said, “In South Africa, invasive alien trees are estimated to reduce surface water runoff by between 1.5 and 2.5 billion m3 per year, and this could increase substantially as the invasions continue to spread. In addition, invasive trees in drier parts of the country have substantially reduced water in groundwater aquifers on which local farmers and towns are totally reliant.”

He further explained that, “These losses have serious consequences for a country where water scarcity limits economic activity and growth. The government in South Africa has responded by creating a multi-million dollar, national-scale programme, dubbed ‘Working for Water’, to control invasive alien trees, and has also passed legislation preventing further propagation of invasive alien trees and requiring landowners to control them.”

Read the paper: Scientific Reports

Article source: CABI

Image: Prosopis juliflora. Credit: CABI.

“You Say Tomato, I Say Genomics”: Genome Sequences for Two Wild Tomato Ancestors

By | Agriculture, Fruits and Vegetables, News, Plant Science

Tomatoes are one of the most popular types of fresh produce consumed worldwide, as well as being an important ingredient in many manufactured foods. As with other cultivated crops, some potentially useful genes that were present in its South American ancestors were lost during domestication and breeding of the modern tomato, Solanum lycopersicum var. lycopersicum. Because of its importance as a crop, the tomato genome sequence was completed and published as long ago as 2012, with later additions and improvements. Now researchers have produced high-quality genome sequences of two wild ancestors of tomato from Peru, Solanum pimpinellifolium and Solanum lycopersicum var. cerasiforme.

Read More

Building a corn cob—cell by cell, gene by gene

By | Agriculture, News, Plant Science

Corn hasn’t always been the sweet, juicy delight that we know today. And, without adapting to a rapidly changing climate, it is at risk of losing its place as a food staple. Putting together a plant is a genetic puzzle, with hundreds of genes working together as it grows. Researchers have worked to study genes involved in corn development by analyzing thousands of individual cells that make up the developing corn ear. They created the first anatomical map that shows where and when important genes turn on and off during key steps in development. This map is an important tool for growing better crops.

Read More