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Dudutech awarded funding for beans research from Agri-Tech Catalyst Fund Round 5

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Project title: Improving consistency of yields and quality of large-scale and smallholder bean production in Kenya by precision management of soil, water and pathogens

The fresh vegetable industry forms a vital part of Kenya’s economy. Kenyan growers export around 60,000 tonnes of fine and runner beans each year, worth £385M at retail sales value, with the UK receiving around 50% of the supply. A consortium made up of Flamingo Horticulture – Dudutech Division, Provenance Partners Ltd (UK), Vegpro Ltd (Kenya), NIAB EMR (UK) and WeatherQuest Ltd (UK) received funding for 3 years as part of the UK’s Agri-Tech Catalyst scheme. The project will deliver new science, technology, knowledge and training to accelerate sustainable intensification of large- and small-scale bean production in Kenya. Work on the project, which started in October 2016 and is to be completed by September 2019, focusses on:

  1. Developing and adapting irrigation infrastructure, scheduling tools and weather probability forecasting to improve soil water management, yields and consistency of quality;
  2. Quantifying the effects of soil water availability and continuous cropping on the incidence and severity of soil pathogens targeting bean crops;
  3. Identifying the effects of novel biocontrol agents on the soil/rhizosphere microbiome to guide the optimum combination of treatments;
  4. Adopting integrated biocontrol to improve yields, quality and shelf-life;
  5. Promoting and disseminating the benefits of precision irrigation and biocontrol via outgrower workshops led by Vegpro and Dudutech;
  6. Assessing the economic and social impacts of project outputs and developing and implementing extension services to outgrowers.

At the end of this project, the consortium expect to deliver a 12% increase in average yield and a 20% reduction in wasted crop, in order to increase food and job security and enhance soil management skills among Kenyan growers.

2017 Thrips seminar by Dudutech & Dow Agrosciences

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This is a fantastic opportunity for growers to gain excellent insight and knowledge on Thrips management.

With main speaker, Arturo Goldarazena, sharing his knowledge from working with mites and insects since the 90’s.

For more information about the event – follow the event on our Facebook page

Or contact John Ogechah: Mobile:  +254 (0) 722509746 or


Dudutech and Dow Agrosciences launch thrips training seminar!

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Dudutech and Dow Agrosciences are pleased to invite all growers for a one-day conference titled “New perspectives in Thrips Management” to be held as follows;
March 30th ,2017 –Enashipai Resort-Naivasha
March 31st ,2017 –Kongoni Camp-Nanyuki
The main speaker will be Arturo Golderazana ,a Thrips specialist from the Earth and Life Institute- Université Catholique de Louvain(Belgium).
Follow the event on facebook @

Incredible maize growth with Tricotech® WP

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Great to the see #impact that #tricotech has on #maize – TRICHOTECH ® WP contains spores of Trichoderma asperellum an antagonistic fungus that is used globally for control of soil borne fungal diseases including Fusarium spp., Rhizoctonia spp., Sclerotinia spp., and Pythium spp. In addition, this strain is known to have the ability to increase plant growth vigour.

Drip application
Apply 125g of TRICHOTECH ® WP per hectare. Pour in 125g of Trichotech into 100 litres of water and mix thoroughly. Apply the solution through the fertigation drip system using adequate water volume. Agitation of the mixture should continue throughout the application period to ensure uniform distribution of the TRICHOTECH ® WP.

Drench application
Prepare a solution of TRICHOTECH ® WP at the rate of 125g/ha in adequate water to cover the target area. Pour into a watering can or sprayer / applicator and apply evenly onto the target area. Irrigate the area treated with TRICHOTECH ® WP after application.


Dudutech hosts guests from JICA and JKUAT

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Great day with our visitors at Dudutech Kenya. Professors from Obihiro University of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine and Okayama University through JICA Kenya (Japan International Co-operation Agency). Thank you JKUAT (Jomo Kenyatta University) for your support.

Presenting Dudutech Europe at IFTF Vijfhuizen Trade Show

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Follow the Ladybird for more updates and news from us





Protecting Chrysanthemum Flowers from Red Spider Mites at Hampie Flower, NL

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The Dudutech team visits Hampie Flower in the Netherlands who are growing beautiful Chrysanthemum flowers. They have now become loyal Dudutech customers using our product Phytotech to protect the flowers from Red Spider Mites.


Amblytech C Success with Zantedeschia farm, Call de Roon, NL

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The Dudutech Team in the Netherlands visits our loyal customer, Machiel de Roon at the Call de Roon farm. Machiel is growing healthy Zantedeschia flowers and using Dudutech‘s Amblytech C to protect the crop from Thrips and Broad Mites.

We interviewed Machiel about his farming techniques and his experience with Dudutech so far. He expresses seeing the increasing importance of Integrated Pest Management.

Click here to read the article on the Flora Daily platform.

Dudutech at IFTF, Vijfhuizen

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We are excited to be exhibiting at the 2016 IFTF Trade Show in Vijfhuizen, Holland.

We invite you to visit our stand C4.20 to meet our team and discuss how we can help you with Integrated Pest Management.

Follow us on our social media platforms on the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th of November for live updates on the event.

Follow live updates on our Twitter Page

View images and updates on our Instagram Page and on our Facebook Page



Dudutech featured in the Farmers Review Africa

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We are excited to share with you that Dudutech was featured in the September/October issue of the Farmers Review Africa. Read about all the work Dudutech has been doing in the Agricultural Innovation sector in Africa. Featured on the cover of this issue is our Managing Director, Thomas Mason.





A fascinating Cryptotech story

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One of Dudutech’s oldest clients, RedLands Roses, shared some very exciting news with us.

Our Technical Sales Operator, Hannah Kibiru, applied Dudutech’s product, Cryptotech, three times in a section of one of their greenhouses one month ago. Cryptotech (Cryptolaemus montrouzieri) is the most active Mealy Bug predator. Both the larval and adult stages of this predator attack all stages of mealy bugs.


Stefano Banella, IPM Manager at RedLands Roses, explains to us that two weeks ago he reported seeing one adult Chryptotech. Then last week he reported that they had noticed a number of larvae and adults feeding heavily in that section of the greenhouse. “I think it is quite exceptional” expresses Stefano to our Dudutech team.

Dudutech’s BioPesticide Launch for the Smallscale Farmer

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On the 26th of August, Dudutech partnered with Kenya Markets Trust and KALRO (Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization) to create National awareness on the importance of using BioPesticides and share learnings on the pilot projects ran by Dudutech in Kirinyaga and Meru Counties.

Enhancing BioPesticide use with smallholder Farmers in Kenya

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We are proud to share this project with the support of Kenya Markets Trust, Gatsby Africa, and the Department for International Development – UK

Agrichemicals and ever more intensive farming will not feed the world

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The Guardian

Article by:

To view the rest of this article click here

The latest frontier is Africa, where there is a new scramble to spread the agroindustrial model of farming. It may well be in Africa, however, that a different, more ecological vision of the food future emerges. I had a glimmer of it on a trip to a large-scale horticultural export company based on Kenya’s Lake Naivasha.

The company, Flamingo Homegrown, has abandoned its long and heavy use of chemical pesticides, partly in response to a campaign highlighting their effect on workers’ health, but partly too in recognition that they were on a losing treadmill of spraying and pest resistance.

They have reinvented their agriculture in a way that makes the science of agrochemical use look as primitive as a blunderbuss. Instead they employ groups of highly trained African scientists to study and reproduce in labs the fungi and microrrhizae in healthy soil that form intricate links with plant roots. Rather than waging chemical war on the land, they are working to harness its immensely complex ecosystems. They have built vast greenhouses dedicated to breeding and harvesting ladybirds to control pests biologically rather than chemically.

There is an another route to food security – and it is the polar opposite of three agrochemical giants bestriding the world.

This article was amended on 3 October 2016. An earlier version referred to glyphosphate; that has been corrected to glyphosate.

October Open House Training Calendar

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Dudutech is offering a variety of courses this October from the 10th- 14th of October. Each day we are providing a different course for you to choose from. For any price inquiries please contact and confirm your booking

A Dudutech Potato Story– Trichotech Drench

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Meet David, a loyal Dudutech supporter who enjoys helping his father with farming work in Zimbabwe. David and his father were offloading a shipment from farmer, Gareth Palmer, when they came across this 1.88kg potato! Gareth’s biggest potato weighed 2.08kgs!

Gareth has been using Dudutech’s #Trichotech product for his potato crop in conjunction with his other products. He has been using about 5-6 bottles of #Trichotech per hectare. He also had a #Whitefly problem and so used Dudutech’s #Lecatech to solve it. He used a double #Lecatech with a chemical to squash it and is now thinking of using Dudutech’s #Beauvitech to squash the potato #TuberMoth.

Dudutech’s IFBA Certified Professionals – Eric Langat

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Dudutech is proud to announce that our Production Coordinator, Eric Langat, is now an IFBA Certified Professional. Congratulations to Eric for his excellent scores on the Biorisk Management Certification Exam.


Dudutech’s IFBA Certified Professionals – Vitalis Wekesa (PhD)

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Dudutech is proud to announce that our Biorationals Business Manager, Vitalis Wekesa (Ph D), is now an IFBA Certified Professional. Join us in congratulating Vitalis on his Biorisk Management Certification Exam.

How nematodes ‘customise’ the crops they eat

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Invisible to the naked eye, nematodes that parasitize plants are a huge threat to agriculture, causing billions of dollars in crop losses every year.

New research shows that these tiny worms use a specialized hormone to help them feed from the plant—a finding that could one day lead to crop plants with enhanced resistance to these devastating agricultural pests.

“Cell cycle regulation is a key aspect of plant development and one of the first events altered during the formation of the feeding sites nematodes use to acquire nutrients from host plants,” says Melissa Goellner Mitchum, a researcher at the Bond Life Sciences Center and a plant sciences professor at the University of Missouri.

“These discoveries led scientists to suspect that cytokinin, a hormone that promotes cell division in plants, might play a key role in feeding site formation for nematode parasites.”

Doctoral student Carola De La Torre and postdoctoral fellow Demosthenis Chronis worked with Mitchum to determine if nematode infection alters the cytokinin signaling pathways plants use to regulate growth and development and how the process changes due to nematode infection.

“As part of our research, we examined the activation of different components of the cytokinin pathway in response to nematode infection,” De La Torre says. “Also, we evaluated numerous plants that lacked the presence of these components and found that most of these plants were less susceptible to nematode infection.

“These results suggested to us that these little worms are not only utilizing parts of a plant hormonal pathway that is important for plant growth and development, but they also are doing it in a way that allows them to cause disease.”

Mitchum’s team worked with Florian Grundler’s group at Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-University of Bonn, Germany, who further analyzed the connection between cytokinin and nematodes. Using advanced genetic tools, they discovered that nematodes create their own form of plant cytokinin and that, by secreting the hormone into the plant, they actively control the cell cycle leading to the production of ideal feeding sites to support their development.

These findings show the ability of an animal to synthesize and secrete a functional plant hormone to establish long-term parasitism.

“Understanding how plant-parasitic nematodes modulate host plants to their own benefit is an essential first step in finding new technologies needed to develop crop plants with enhanced resistance to these devastating agricultural pests,” Mitchum says.

Source: Sheena Davis for University of Missouri

Advantages of using biopesticides compared to chemical pesticides

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Have you ever wondered why biological pesticides are preferred to their chemical counterparts when it comes to the best pesticide products to use in farming? Could it be due to their intelligent sounding name? No, even though, yes that name sure sounds cute. It is because of the following factors:

  1. How they affect non target species

When a pesticide is applied to counter a specific pest, this pest is referred to as the target species. Biopesticides products usually fight their intended pests while chemicals end up affecting non target species which include; other insects, birds and mammals.


  1. Pollution

Due to the toxic ingredients contained in the conventional pesticides, their pollution levels are so high that they cause serious and most of the times fatal effects to the environment. These negative effects can be experienced from the production of the product to the consumption of the plants that these products have been applied on.


  1. Cost

Most biological pesticide products occur naturally which reduces the cost of production resulting in relatively cheaper prices compared to chemical pesticides whose manufacturing cost is high. This results in the consumer footing the bill at a relatively costlier price.


  1. Pest resistance

Records have shown that pests tend to become resistance to conventional pesticides thus proving that it is not a long term solution, something that never happens with the use of organic pesticides.


  1. Market

As the ordinary consumer became aware of the dangers posed by synthetic chemicals, demand for farm products that have undergone organic treatments rose. This makes the use of these chemicals a potential risk as there’s a glaring possibility of incurring huge losses due to the consumer shunning your product.


Be on the winning side! Please Contact Us for assistance on how you can reap big using biopesticides

Dudutech MD to Speak at the GFIA Summit 2016

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The GFIA Summit (Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture), will be held in Abu Dhabi between the 16th – 17th of February, 2016. This is one of the most important global events in the agricultural industry’s calendar, where stakeholders meet to discuss and unveil the latest innovations in the industry.

What’s even more exciting is that, Dudutech’s Managing Director, Mr. Tom Mason will be a guest speaker at the conference. Drawing from the success of Dudutech, he will be speaking about innovations in agriculture.

As the leading biopesticide producer in Africa, Dudutech has overseen the research and development of innovative methods to combat pests and at the same time, reduce the effects of artificial pest control methods.

Built on the friendly slogan of ‘By growers for growers’, Dudutech’s approach to finding pest management solutions for farmers is unparalleled. This is because, while most of the newcomers in the industry push for company-profits-minded solutions, Dudutech develops its products with the farmer in mind. From the large scale rose flower producers, to the kitchen garden organic enthusiast who wants to lead a healthy life free from the disease causing residues of chemically treated products on the shelves. Both of these people, and the many in between, are considered during Dudutech’s production.

Dudutech goes further than developing products to providing a range of biological farming services. They are; certified trainings, scouting and monitoring, trials and laboratory services. These are essential for the implementation of a low residue, low socio-environmental footprint, fully holistic cost natural Integrated Crop Management Program.

In a recent interview by a leading national newspaper, Tom Mason summarises what Dudutech represents in a powerful statement, “It’s a holistic approach to farming where one utilises the full spectrum of environmentally safe farming products and technologies to their full potential.”

Read the full interview by The Star here.

Agricultural policies in Africa could be harming the poorest

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Agricultural policies aimed at alleviating poverty in Africa could be making things worse, according to research by the University of East Anglia (UEA).

Published this month in the journal World Development, the study finds that so-called ‘green revolution’ policies in Rwanda – claimed by the government, international donors and organisations such as the International Monetary Fund to be successful for the economy and in alleviating poverty – may be having very negative impacts on the poorest.

One of the major strategies to reduce poverty in sub-Saharan Africa is through policies to increase and modernise agricultural production. Up to 90 per cent of people in some African countries are smallholder farmers reliant on agriculture, for whom agricultural innovation, such as using new seed varieties and cultivation techniques, holds potential benefit but also great risk.

In the 1960s and 70s policies supporting new seeds for marketable crops, sold at guaranteed prices, helped many farmers and transformed economies in Asian countries. These became known as “green revolutions”. The new wave of green revolution policies in sub-Saharan Africa is supported by multinational companies and western donors, and is impacting the lives of tens, even hundreds of millions of smallholder farmers, according to the study’s lead author Dr Neil Dawson.

The study reveals that only a relatively wealthy minority have been able to keep to enforced modernisation because the poorest farmers cannot afford the risk of taking out credit for the approved inputs, such as seeds and fertilizers. Their fears of harvesting nothing from new crops and the potential for the government to seize and reallocate their land means many choose to sell up instead.

The findings tie in with recent debates about strategies to feed the world in the face of growing populations, for example the influence of wealthy donors such as the Gates Foundation, initiative’s such as the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition in pushing agricultural modernisation in Africa. There have also been debates about small versus large farms being best to combat hunger in Africa, while struggles to maintain local control over land and food production, for example among the Oromo people in Ethiopia, have been highlighted.

Dr Dawson, a senior research associate in UEA’s School of International Development, said: “Similar results are emerging from other experiments in Africa. Agricultural development certainly has the potential to help these people, but instead these policies appear to be exacerbating landlessness and inequality for poorer rural inhabitants.

“Many of these policies have been hailed as transformative development successes, yet that success is often claimed on the basis of weak evidence through inadequate impact assessments. And conditions facing African countries today are very different from those past successes in Asia some 40 years ago.

“Such policies may increase aggregate production of exportable crops, yet for many of the poorest smallholders they strip them of their main productive resource, land. This study details how these imposed changes disrupt subsistence practices, exacerbate poverty, impair local systems of trade and knowledge, and threaten land ownership. It is startling that the impacts of policies with such far-reaching impacts for such poor people are, in general, so inadequately assessed.”

The research looked in-depth at Rwanda’s agricultural policies and the changes impacting the wellbeing of rural inhabitants in eight villages in the country’s mountainous west. Here chronic poverty is common and people depend on the food they are able to grow on their small plots.

Farmers traditionally cultivated up to 60 different types of crops, planting and harvesting in overlapping cycles to prevent shortages and hunger. However, due to high population density in Rwanda’s hills, agricultural policies have been imposed which force farmers to modernise with new seed varieties and chemical fertilisers, to specialise in single crops and part with “archaic” agricultural practices.

Dr Dawson and his UEA co-authors Dr Adrian Martin and Prof Thomas Sikor recommend that not only should green revolution policies be subject to much broader and more rigorous impact assessments, but that mitigation for poverty-exacerbating impacts should be specifically incorporated into such policies. In Rwanda, that means encouraging land access for the poorest and supporting traditional practices during a gradual and voluntary modernisation.

Find the full report here:

Organic Control of Aphids

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There’s a similarity that’s found in aphids, scale, mealybug and whiteflies. It is that they are are all sap-suckers. What’s more? They all release a sweet, sticky liquid that oozes from them as they suck juice from the plants. When this solution lands on the plant, sooty mould takes hold. This ashen-looking fungus does not infect plants, but it blocks the process of photosynthesis. This results in leaf drops and ugly sooty foliage on plant stems, leaves and fruits.

Although common in roses, aphids also attack vegetables such as beans, peas, melons, cucumbers and tomatoes, among others. In addition to sucking, they can also transmit other diseases from plant to plant. Their activities can result in curling and distortion in young foliage, yellowing of leaves and stunted growth in plants.

These soft-bodied insects are about 25mm long and usually wingless and pear-shaped. Depending on the climatic zone, host or species, they can be black, green, grey or milky-cream. They have mouths designed to suck juices from plants.

Aphids’ life cycle is a little different as females give birth to young live and can do so without mating. This they do at a very high rate.

Organic Control

Moist cloth

If you are handling a small area, you can simply use a moist cloth to wipe aphids from plants. This can be time consuming but the results are instant. Do this for two or three days while monitoring the results.

Hose spray

Spray affected plants with a strong jet of water from a hose. Return after a couple of days and see if aphids have left your plants alone. You can then wipe away the soaked aphids or prune the plants.

Attract beneficial insects

This can be done by planting companion plants that attract predators such as ladybirds that can wipe out aphids. Or, easily get organic bio-controls and reduce the time and resources required to attract them to your plants.

Leave ants alone

There is a misconception among many farmers that ants bring aphids to plants. This is not true. In fact, aphids land there first then ants get attracted by the honeydew. That being said, ants are important predators and decomposers in the farm and often drag aphids away.

Do not over-fertilise

Feeding aphid-infested nitrogen-rich fertilisers only increases the aphids’ feed and result in them multiplying.


Weed out your ornamental garden or patch frequently to keep aphids away


Prune shoots that have been infested by aphids and throw them away.

Would you like to implement an ICM programme? Contact us and we will assist you

Africa’s Agricultural Transformation Opportunity

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The Case for Change

There are, essentially, two truths today about African agriculture: significant progress has been made, and there is potential for much more. Several figures point out the progress. Agricultural production has increased 160 percent over the past 30 years, far above the global average of 100 percent, although lagging South America (174 percent) and Asia (212 percent). Eighteen Sub-Saharan African countries have reached the Millennium Development Goal’s first target of halving the proportion of people who live in poverty. Country-level programs (the Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency is one example), cross-border initiatives (such as the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme), and pan-African groups (such as the African Development Bank, the African Union, and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development) have all played important roles in these advances. Africa’s room for more growth remains vast, however. The continent remains a net importer of food, even though it has 60 percent of the world’s uncultivated arable land, and production has struggled to keep pace with a fast-growing population. To meet the needs of the 2 billion population expected in Africa in 2050, agriculture is the key. Agricultural transformation will build social cohesion, drive beneficial continental trade, provide a platform for sustainable exports to the rest of the world, and, most importantly, help create millions of jobs while pulling subsistence farmers out of poverty

What Has Hampered Africa’s Development?

Many factors have hampered Africa from reaching its full potential. As its population has doubled overall and tripled in urban areas in the past 30 years, agricultural production and food security have had to keep pace. Africa is the only continent where the absolute number of undernourished people has increased over the past 30 years. There are many reasons for the challenges, but three in particular stand out.

A multitude of (somewhat uncoordinated) initiatives. There are many great initiatives, with local and foreign funding, that aim to enhance the state of agriculture in Africa. However in many cases these programs are fairly uncoordinated, often have overlapping mandates, and, to a certain extent, compete against one another for funding and private investments. Pan-African coordination and focus is critical to the future.

Good ideas but not enough implementation. Forests have been harvested to produce the paper to document all of the strategies that have been developed. Through the years, countless commitments have been made and plans have been developed. Although progress has been made, now is the time for this to be all translated into concerted action.

Insufficiently developed ecosystems. The ecosystems required to develop a solid agricultural market in Africa are often underdeveloped in terms of political commitment, the quality of government, infrastructure availability, and regulatory frameworks, among other factors. There is a need for a true commitment among governments and stakeholders to put the basics in place to make these ecosystems happen.

Africa’s Agricultural Transformation at Three Levels

The value chain from farmer to market is central to any potential transformation of Africa’s agriculture. Transformation at three levels can bring broad benefits to this farmer-to-market value chain: Farmers. Smallholders contribute up to 80 percent of Sub-Saharan Africa’s food supply, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, and Africa has an estimated 33 million smallholder farms, according to the International Finance Corporation. Increasing farmer capabilities would increase Africa’s output and, as a consequence, help solve Africa’s poverty and malnutrition crisis. Farmer-level transformation should seek to increase yields, reduce post-harvest losses, improve market access, and increase product margins. Transformation requires granular-level interventions that form the basis for sustained economic and societal success. Enablement in areas such as education, infrastructure, water management, and regulations is crucial as well. Public-private initiatives can ensure capability-building support and the development of structures in areas like financing. These initiatives are, by nature, very local. However, they can be facilitated from a pan-African perspective in three ways:

-Best practice sharing. Providing a best-practice clearinghouse for farmer associations and governments.
-Support of governments. Aiding governments in skills development and coordinating cross-country initiatives.
-Public-private partnership initiatives. Creating a first “port of call” for large corporate and institutional investors to ensure investments’ effectiveness and coordination.
Markets. Farmers need access to markets to earn their fair share of the profits. Good markets, in turn, provide food security for the population and facilitate Africa’s agricultural self-sufficiency. They are at the center of an agricultural ecosystem that forms the basis of sector development.Making markets work is a supply chain infrastructure and information issue. Governments and private investors need to ensure that sufficient roads, warehouses, processing facilities, and other infrastructure are in place to get products to increasingly urbanizing markets. Farmers need access to information to deliver products to the markets that offer the best price advantages. At the regional and country levels, government and market actors need to create the markets that allow the trade of homegrown products. These initiatives in general cut across the wide spectrum of crops and products produced. Markets are often developed at country level, but a pan-African strategy would include the best practice sharing and public-private partnership support we highlighted for the farmer level. Additionally for markets, enhancing inter-African cross-border trade would help facilitate the enablers that remove trade barriers and inefficiencies between countries and free up the traffic of agricultural produce across Africa

Clusters (macro). With agricultural ecosystems in place in this final, macro level of transformation, Africa can become a major agricultural player globally, facilitating the export of its products outside of Africa. Cluster-specific initiatives are typically based on product availability and production competence. Better supply, from farmers who have learned about and invested in improving their yields and product quality, helps build a stronger market. Dairy exports from New Zealand are one successful example of the development of a world-class ecosystem. Years ago, the New Zealand Dairy Board created a platform for best-practice sharing among its members to improve productivity and product quality and actively created export markets for excess products. Some of the Dairy Board’s activities became part of a new cooperative called Fonterra—now one of the leading global milk processors and dairy exporters, with roughly 22 billion liters of milk produced annually. Fonterra also produces more than 2 million tons of dairy ingredients, specialty ingredients, and consumer products annually—95 percent of which are exported. This allows New Zealand to punch above its weight in the global dairy market. Cluster-specific export initiatives like Fonterra should be a government goal in Africa. From a pan-African perspective, identifying sectors and coordinating initiatives across countries are essential steps to a transformation strategy.

Building Pan-African Ecosystems: Financing, Sustainability, and Government Enablement

African smallholders do not yet benefit from best-in-class global farming practices. They are often trapped in a vicious cycle that prevents them from improving their productivity and income. These farmers are, however, the fabric of African rural societies. Their future success is crucial as Africa’s population grows and urbanizes. Strategies are only as effective as the change they bring about. Truly transforming African agriculture at the farmer, market, and cluster levels depends on three key levers: financing, government enablement, and sustainability (see figure 1). FG-Africas-Agricultural-Transformation-Opportunity_01

Financing will fund the improvements in the value chain on both the micro (farmer) and macro (export) levels. Government enablement means putting in place the regulations and structures that foster a strong business environment—for example, giving farmers title to the land they use, enabling them to use that land as collateral for loans for investments that can build. The development will become sustainably effective through the close interaction of public and private enterprises. Good governance is a prerequisite to ensure funds are applied in an effective and efficient manner. Farmer development leads to getting better products to the market. If markets are developed and allow for transparent pricing, the farmer gets a fair price and can become self-sufficient. As more farmers gain access to markets, it creates an ecosystem with enough resources to invest back into improved agricultural processes, which in turn improves yields and lowers losses. This will then facilitate clusters of best-in-class agricultural practices by crop and region that can succeed in the export market. All in all, it’s a self-propelling cycle that leads to advances and supports development of aggregation constructs (such as cooperatives), which help farmers jointly invest in productivity improvements and facilitate access to market (see figure 2). FG2-Africas-Agricultural-Transformation-Opportunity_02Eight specific actions will optimize and grow the entire value chain. These are: Bring innovation to existing farm dynamics Improve access to markets Apply technology to increase market transparency Enhance farmer financing models Use targeted government enablement

Encourage sustainable agriculture practices Empower women Empower youth The following sections provide a brief overview of how Africa can move forward with these eight actions.Bring innovation to existing farm dynamics Smallholders have to understand a complex set of capabilities to bring the highest returns. These include mechanization (equipment for soil preparation, planting, cultivating, harvesting, and processing), irrigation, inputs (seeds, fertilizer, and the like), crop protection, product quality management, post-harvest protection (early processing, storage facilities, siloes, and warehouses), transportation, and direct access to market. The Gap Analysis Tool for Agriculture (GATA), developed jointly by Grow Africa and A.T. Kearney, provides farmer associations with a best-practice framework for smallholders, allowing for country- and crop-specific assessments of how they can improve productivity. The underlying objective of the GATA is to identify opportunities to increase farmer profitability and productivity by:

  • Conducting a detailed analysis of value chains by region or country and by crop
  • Enabling farmers, farmer groups, agricultural departments, and agencies to compare their practices against global and regional benchmarks
  • Identifying agricultural value chain gaps and the investments required to close gaps
  • Calculating the viability of smallholders closing these gaps
  • Determining and providing visibility to decision makers and investors on which strategic interventions assure the highest benefits

Improve access to marketsOne often-overlooked success factor is the structure of market incentives across the value chain from production to market (see figure 3). Unequal distribution of market power and insufficient access to the profit pool at various stages can have huge implications for farmers in low-income countries. Improving market access and transparency can balance market power, especially for smallholders. FG3-Africas-Agricultural-Transformation-Opportunity_03

Modern agricultural value chains have stringent requirements regarding volume, quality, and timely delivery. Combined with a lack of information on prices and selling opportunities and an abundance of “roadside traders” seeking high margins for low value added, smallholders generally find themselves with limited negotiating power and little incentive to grow beyond their current circumstances and to obtain their fair share of the profit in the value chain. Improving farmers’ information bases and introducing value-added market intermediaries are a prerequisite for farmer success. Many smallholders also lack physical and economic access to lucrative markets for their crops because they are physically isolated by distance, poor roads, and lack of access to adequate transport, and constrained by small crop quantities available for sale, inconsistent levels of quality, a need for immediate payment, and limited storage capacity. This highlights the need for public-private initiatives to build a physical supply chain (with storage, processing, and transport capabilities) that allows for quality products to be supplied to the markets in use. With unreliable information on production trends and prices and a lacking infrastructure, few smallholders engage in demand-driven or market-informed production, leading to inadequate production planning and cycles of production surpluses and deficits, which in turn lead to fuel price volatility. One solution to these problems comes from targeted government enablement, which gives smallholders greater market access and information

Apply technology to increase market transparency Ironically Africa has all the opportunity to jump the development curve and become a leader in applying technology to smallholder farming. The continent has high cell phone penetration and even in rural areas connectivity is good. Advanced cell phone applications (like banking, weather information, and market data) can help smallholders tremendously in their decision making and in improving their productivity. There are many examples of innovative uses of state-of-the-art technology that needs to be scaled across Africa (for example, small soil-testing devices that send data to a lab in Europe, which in turn provides soil-specific fertilizer advice by text message to the farmer). The interests for non-traditional private investors and African smallholder farmers go hand-in-hand. Africa provides a massive opportunity to test and commercialize data technology innovations and farmers are longing for the data that provides them with productivity and market opportunities. In specific, non-traditional agricultural sector players such as banks and telcos could step into this field and open new markets for themselves.

Enhance farmer financing models Affordable access to financing remains one of the most significant barriers to investment in agriculture. Access to financial services is critical for smallholders to invest in productivity, improve post-harvest practices, smooth household cash flow, enable better access to markets, and promote better risk management. In addition to formal financial institutions, input suppliers and product buyers often act as alternative financing channels for commercial and semi-commercial smallholders and cooperatives. Formal financing institutions are often hesitant to lend to commercial smallholders for a variety of reasons, primarily related to the scale of risks they face, including the heterogeneous nature of smallholder farmers, irregular cash flows caused by seasonality risks, systemic risk of flood, drought, and plant disease, and the lack of viable risk mitigation tools such as guarantees, asset collateral, and insurance. Financing institutions also struggle with loan processing and disbursement, customizing products for individual circumstances, and providing non-financial services, such as financial education, that will improve farmer success rates but are not core to the business. Farmers’ risks can vary widely. They are generally lower when farmers have stronger relationships with buyers, as this can bring techniques such as shared credit screening, monitoring, and collection, and the use of alternative collateral (such as sales contracts). When farmer-buyer relationships are weak, predatory lending becomes a bigger risk, and smallholders tend to be more focused on subsistence farming. Expanding lending to smallholders depends on several factors

Gaining detailed client knowledge at the smallholder level

Offering flexible loan terms that are adaptable to the diverse profiles of smallholders

Employing diversified risk management tactics, such as cooperatives and asset pooling

Training risk officers to better identify and manage smallholders’ risks

Re-engineering and adapting processes to ease applications and improve disbursement speed

Use targeted government enablement In addition to addressing smallholder needs directly, government can take steps to maximize returns on investment by creating an enabling environment for farmers in the following areas: land access, availability, and security; infrastructure; water management; education; labor; health and housing; security; investor environment; market structure; and public-private partnerships

The right enablers can have an outsized impact on agricultural outputs. This is exemplified by sustainable and equitable access to water.

Promoting techniques such as on-farm water management, rainwater harvesting, and conservation can potentially triple crop yields.

Improving rural water infrastructure can improve productivity, especially for women who spend hours a week collecting water for domestic and agricultural use.

Water capture and storage solutions can mitigate the impact of rainfall uncertainty.

Well-negotiated and managed private-sector presence in commercial agriculture can ensure fair access to water for smallholders.

Empower women Many studies suggest that female empowerment can speed up development, as women reinvest their incomes in their families. For example, in Brazil, when income is a mother’s responsibility, a child’s survival probability increases by 20 percent; when the same happens in Kenya, a child is about 17 percent taller. If women worldwide had the same access as men to productive resources, yields could increase by 20 to 30 percent. The FAO estimates that gains in agricultural production alone could lift as many as 150 million people out of hunger. Most people today recognize the opportunity to close the gender equality gap; however, words of support only go so far. Recent work by the World Bank and the ONE campaign point to several barriers that women currently face in agriculture, including struggles finding adequate labor on their farms, unequal access to inputs, fair access to quality farmland, access to knowledge and training in farming methods, and a long-standing gender gap in education. Empower youth Sub-Saharan Africa’s population dynamics offer a unique opportunity, if managed well. Half of the population is younger than 25; every year between 2015 and 2035 there will be a half-million more 15-year-olds than the year before (see figure 4). This demographic dividend could radically accelerate Africa’s transformation if properly harnessed.


Over the next decade, however, as few as one in four Sub-Saharan African youth will find a wage job, and only a fraction of those jobs will be “formal” jobs in modern enterprises. Thus, agriculture will be central to providing meaningful and rewarding work. More than two-thirds of the young people who work in rural areas already work in agriculture, and most will remain there, even if the non-farm sector develops rapidly. As such, it will be important to help youth see farming not as an occupation of last resort, but rather one of opportunity and skill. Broadly speaking, agriculture offers three potential pathways for rural youth: full-time work on family farms; part-time farm work, combined with running a household enterprise (which can include the sale of farm services or inputs); and wage work. Several common constraints affect youth in agriculture: credit and financial services, land policies, infrastructure, and skills. Of these, only skills needs to specifically address youth at this point, as the others affect the wide pool of smallholders, regardless of age. In some countries, agricultural vocational institutes have traditionally provided these skills, but these institutes have mixed records of accomplishment; there is often a disconnect between academic teaching methods and the need for on-the-ground practical training. Well-thought-out extension programs and farmer-field schools have a bigger impact, especially if these are combined with support programs to entice youth to seek a living in farming

Encourage sustainable agriculture practices There are two simultaneous objectives here: improving the lives of Africans while minimizing environmental impact and ensuring that natural capital is not depleted. These objectives can be at odds with one another—in truth, agriculture is both a contributor to and victim of climate change—yet they can also be complementary. Sustainable farming, when done well, adds immediate value to the farmers as it increases the longevity of their operations and increases the value of their product

Cluster Development: Ensuring Viable Exports

With ecosystems in place, agriculture and agribusiness are huge economic opportunities for Africa, particularly if they can become revenue generators through an export model and enhance the continent’s balance of trade through value-adding operations. According to the World Bank, agriculture and agri-business will by 2030 be a $1 trillion industry in Sub-Saharan Africa, up from $313 billion in 2010. Agribusiness can help jump-start economic transformation through the development of agro-based industries that bring much-needed jobs and incomes. Successful agribusiness investments in turn stimulate agricultural growth through new export markets. These markets play either at the high-volume, low-value end of the market, or, ideally, they retain most of the value in Africa by incorporating value-added steps and local beneficiation in the value chain

Conducting a cluster review can help countries identify more value-retention opportunities. The challenge is identifying what crop types will be suited to export, where those crops are currently cultivated, and the current stage of excellence by crop (see figure 5).
Africa has traditionally struggled to compete as an agricultural exporter, starting with the challenges we outlined earlier in this paper. Erratic legislation impacting levies on seeds, fertilizers, and agriculture processing equipment, and duties on exporting agricultural output, can hamper exports. These key constraints vary by country and value chain. As such, it is instructive to look at select African countries and how their export value chains differ, and how the right solution can bring export success to Africa.
Rice in Senegal.
Rice has in recent years become Africa’s largest and fastest-growing import, valued at $3.5 billion, or nearly half of total consumption, in 2009. Urban consumers are seeking more storable and easily prepared foods, and higher-income consumers are showing a distinct preference for higher-priced imported rice with aromatic qualities. Given the size of domestic markets and good rice-growing conditions in Western Africa, several governments have begun raising import duties on rice to boost local agriculture and production. The improved policy incentives, coupled with higher world prices, have brought sharply higher local production in some countries, with private partnerships taking control of elements in the value chain. To determine global competitiveness, Senegal benchmarked value chain costs against the world’s leading rice exporter, Thailand, for both white rice and aromatic rice. In Senegal, rice from the Senegal River Valley is produced under irrigation and partial mechanization delivers the crops at costs only slightly above those in Thailand. With relatively efficient milling and transportation, local rice can be quite competitive, even more so if aromatic rice varieties can be produced commercially at the correct scale and quality. Senegal has made major progress increasing yields to 3.6 tons per hectare nationally (and more in irrigated areas). Competitiveness has been held back, however, by the difficulty of accessing secured, tradable land rights. This discourages significant private investments in irrigation systems, which is key to increasing production to boost exports. Nigeria is following a similar path in limiting rice imports, developing policies to incentivize local cultivation and allowing for exports to neighboring regions. It is clear that the potential and willpower are there in West Africa for a more effective rice value chain that ultimately can be a solid base of exports.
Maize in Zambia.
Maize is a crucial food staple in Eastern and Central Africa, with per capita consumption in some countries exceeding 100 kilograms, and feed consumption growing 6 percent annually. Most years, Zambia (133 kilograms per capita consumption) is self-sufficient, but there is substantial room for growth. With more than five million hectares of uncultivated land suited to maize production (nearly 10 times the current area), Zambia could become a breadbasket for its region. High yield and price risks and a lack of suitable financing and agri-insurance options have constrained further expansion thus far. For now, a handful of large- and medium-sized farms produces more than half of the country’s maize; at the other extreme is a huge pool of poor smallholders who do not produce maize at all and struggle to meet their daily needs. Helping these farmers meet their potential is key to bringing Zambia to its full potential. There are a few key steps to make this happen. Transport costs are high, so affordable access to a well-run port is vital for trading any surplus maize. Higher fertilizer costs and limited mechanization result in higher labor costs, so improving mechanical harvesting will have an exponential effect on efficiency.
Identifying more clusters in Africa
Those examples highlight the varied opportunities for Africa to becoming an agriculture-trading powerhouse. The challenge lies in how to increase the portfolio of crops that can be exported at world-class productivity levels. At first, the focus should be on clusters with established comparative advantages and strong market prospects. With resources few and challenges large at first, a strong focus on a few strong locations or value chains offers the opportunity to pilot cross-country collaboration and difficult reforms, demonstrate success, and learn from scaling efforts. It also channels scarce resources most effectively to tackle a critical mass of issues, whereas scattered reforms and public investments may find little success, given the long list of constraints affecting agribusiness. A tight focus on a particular area or value chain may also increase the chances of achieving sensitive and complicated cross-cutting reforms (such as piloting fertilizer and land reforms) and dealing with vested interests between governments and private institutions or investors. Figure 6 offers an overview of some of Africa’s cluster opportunities. FG6-Africas-Agricultural-Transformation-Opportunity_06

The right clusters are driven by interactive, iterative, evidence-based analysis in which the main opportunities and constraints are identified through a combination of desk research, expert interviews, and workshops. In general, clusters with competitive advantage and already-proven investor demand are preferable over attempts to initiate new industries in new areas. Key policy reforms need to come before committing to large public investments. Priorities and action plans will need to be flexible enough to meet unanticipated cluster opportunities, yet also allow for constraints that will inevitably emerge. Finally, and crucially, strong governance and monitoring systems should be put in place to correct or terminate failures but most importantly replicate and scale up successes. It is time for Africa to grow!

Let’s Get Going

A few key numbers highlight the opportunity—and the challenge. To meet growing global food demand, production must increase by an estimated 50 percent by 2030. Sub-Saharan Africa’s 33 million smallholder farms—a number that will increase rapidly as the population continues to increase—contribute up to 80 percent of the region’s food supply. Improving the odds of prosperity for these farmers lies at the heart of prosperity for African agriculture. Success at the farmer, market, and cluster levels requires assistance from many sources.

Governmentsneed to focus on significantly improving the enabling environment for local agriculture, particularly as it comes to land rights, infrastructure, market access, and elevating women’s roles in society.

Pan-African institutions such as the African Union can help develop cluster opportunities across the continent and promote intra-Africa trade and best practice sharing.

The private sector can help invest with funds and knowhow, understanding that Africa’s potential for growth and its untapped arable land offer huge opportunities in spite of the risks. Public-private partnerships can unlock value, as long as both sides share the onus of success. No longer must Africa go hat-in-hand to feed its vibrant and resourceful population. It can help its own people feed themselves, their villages, towns, and countries. As scale and quality develop, export markets from the continent can flourish, leading increasingly to not just poverty alleviation but wealth creation. As more inhabitants see the promise of a better future in agriculture, many more clusters will be developed, truly making Africa the breadbasket that the world so desperately hungers for. It can be done. Now is the time to put our shoulders to the wheel.

Source: A.T. Kearney, 2015

Research: Weed blasting offers new control method for organic farmers

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Weeds are a major scourge for organic growers, who often must invest in multiple control methods to protect crop yields. A relatively new weed control method known as abrasive weeding, or “weed blasting,” could give organic growers another tool. The method, recently field-tested at the University of Illinois, is surprisingly effective.

In conjunction with plastic mulch, abrasive weeding reduced final weed biomass by 69 to 97 percent compared to non-weeded control plots, said U of I agroecologist Samuel Wortman.

Abrasive weeding involves blasting weed seedlings with tiny fragments of organic grit, using an air compressor. For the current study, grit was applied through a hand-held siphon-fed sand-blasting unit connected to a gas-powered air compressor, which was hauled down crop rows with a walk-behind tractor. The study looked at a number of grit sources: walnut shells, granulated maize cob, greensand, and soybean meal. If applied at the right plant growth stage, the force of the abrasive grit severely damages stems and leaves of weed seedlings.

Wortman found no significant differences between the grit types in terms of efficacy. “When it leaves the nozzle, it’s at least Mach 1 [767 mph],” Wortman noted. “The stuff comes out so fast, it doesn’t really matter what the shape of the particle is.” Because ricocheting particles can pose a risk to the applicator, Wortman advises using protective eyewear.

Blasted grit does not discriminate between weed and crop seedlings, which makes it important to use this method in transplanted crops that are substantially larger than weed seedlings at the time of grit application. Although some visible damage occurred on stems and leaves of both tomato and pepper crops, the damage did not affect marketable fruit yield. Studies are ongoing to determine whether abrasions on crop tissues could result in increased susceptibility to disease, but early results show little effect.

Importantly, plots with plastic mulch and one or more blasting treatment achieved the same fruit yields seen in hand-weeded plots, and 33 to 44 percent greater yields than in non-weeded control plots.

An additional benefit of weed blasting is the potential for growers to use organic fertilizers, such as soybean meal, as blasting material. “We expect that abrasive weeding could contribute between 35 and 105 kg nitrogen per hectare [31 – 94 lbs per acre] to soil fertility.” The idea that a grower could both fertilize and kill weeds in a single pass is appealing, but it is still unknown whether the fertilizer would be available for plant uptake within critical windows.

According to Wortman’s research, weed blasting does affect some weeds more than others. Essentially, the smaller the seedling, the better. Also, seedlings whose growing points are aboveground (annual broadleaf species) are more susceptible to blasting than seedlings whose growing tips are located belowground (grasses and broadleaf perennials). Finally, Wortman noted that the presence of plastic mulch seemed to factor strongly into the equation. Weed blasting alone “is not a silver bullet, but it is an improvement,” he said.

The method is now being tested in different horticultural crops, including broccoli and kale, with and without additional weed control methods. Early results suggest that the presence of polyethylene mulch or biodegradable plastic mulch strongly enhances the success of weed blasting, as compared with straw mulch and bare soil. Wortman and his collaborators have also developed a mechanized grit applicator, which they are currently testing.

Full research paper here:

How to find a market for your farm products

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You have spent a whole season tending to your crops, all the while dreaming of how much you will earn when your produce reaches the market. Along the way you even found them healthy enough and #instaworthy. Now they are ready for harvesting but, to where? All of a sudden the fantasy evaporates and in sinks reality: You don’t know where to sell them! How will you get that money?
Here are a few places to get you started;

Do your homework

Before setting off on your journey to farming success, do some research. Find a niche and determine if there is demand for your intended crop. The lack of a product in the market could be due to arrange of reasons. From the lack of demand to the cost of production being higher than the potential returns.

Consider organisations
Instead of selling to individuals or small markets, consider applying for tenders in institutions and the government. Start with inquiring about in those found around your local area.

Exporting need not necessarily mean out of the country. You can sell to another town or city. When doing this, remember to include the transportation costs in your calculations. If you can afford your own transport, this can lower the cost significantly.

Establish a new market
Sometimes all you need to do is take the leap of faith and establish your own market. Remember to base it on your research though as some factors e.g religious practices and local customs might be the reason a certain product is not available in a certain area.

Local market
You can also start small. Find a stall at your local market and start building a loyal customer base. Depending on your skills, this can turn out to be a huge opportunity as you expand.

Would you like to implement an ICM programme? Contact us and we will assist you.

Closer look reveals nematode nervous systems differ

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Nematodes, an abundant group of roundworms that exist in nearly every habitat, have long been used as model organisms for studying the function of neurons – the basic unit of animal nervous systems. For years, it was assumed that neuron anatomy was remarkably similar across this large and diverse group. A recent study by University of Illinois researchers turns that assumption on its head.

“It was a comparative study looking at all of these different species of nematodes, including some parasites, and seeing that there are some substantial differences in the number of neurons in the ventral cord,” says U of I nematologist Nathan Schroeder.

According to Schroeder, discovering this degree of variation across the group suggests that neuron number and anatomy may have changed numerous times during nematode evolution. This is significant because the evolution of nervous systems is notoriously difficult to study in complex higher animals. Being able to study the relatively simple nervous system in nematodes can shed light on some basic research questions in nervous system evolution.

“This group of animals has the simplicity that makes it easy to work with in the lab, but there are these differences across species. So, we can target that and figure out how nervous systems are evolving.”

On a more practical level, the results of this study may lead to development of new nematicides – pesticides that target plant-parasitic nematodes.

“We know from some of the old nematicides that the nervous system is a very effective target. Unfortunately, some of those nematicides were very broad spectrum and would target anything with a nervous system, including us,” Schroeder noted.

The study showed that soybean cyst nematodes, a major crop pest in Illinois, may have unique neurons that could be targeted by new nematicides to avoid harming beneficial soil organisms. More research will be required to determine whether such a product could be developed, but the study indicates that the potential may exist.

The authors are now focusing their attention on soybean cyst nematodes to identify unique neurons and to learn more about how those neurons affect the movement of the microscopic roundworms in the soil and in soybean plants.

Original paper can be found here:

Video: The Dudutech team discusses new farm methods on prime time television

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Aphids balance their diets by rebuilding plant amino acids

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Aphids suck up an almost endless supply of sugary sap from their plant hosts. They can survive on this junk food diet because bacterial partners help them convert the handful of amino acids in the sap into other, essential amino acids–not by recycling them, but by breaking them down and rebuilding from scratch, a new study finds.

Scientists have long assumed that aphids either use these amino acids directly or convert their carbon skeletons into other amino acids, which they use to make proteins. But by following the fate of carbon and nitrogen atoms ingested by the aphids, BTI scientists Georg Jander and Meena Haribal found that amino acid synthesis takes a very indirect route. Their findings appear in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

“We were surprised,” said Haribal, a research associate. “We didn’t know that they would deplete everything and make it from scratch.”

Plant sap is such a limited food source for the aphid because it predominantly contains four amino acids–glutamine, glutamate, asparagine and aspartate–which serve as the primary nitrogen source for the aphid. Plant roots synthesize these amino acids to transport nitrogen compounds, which they take up from soil.

To keep from starving, aphids have evolved a symbiotic relationship with a bacterium called Buchnera aphidicola, which helps to provide essential amino acids. Buchnera is an endosymbiont that can no longer survive independently outside of the aphid.

Earlier studies of the aphid genome suggest that the insect uses the carbon backbone of the plant amino acids to build the rest of the amino acids that they need. Scientists have also used amino acids labeled with radioactive carbon and nitrogen atoms to see where these amino acids end up, but these experiments were not precise enough to show how individual carbon and nitrogen atoms move through the insect’s metabolism.

Haribal fed pea aphids (Acyrthosiphon pisum) a diet of sugar sap and amino acids containing heavier isotopes of carbon or nitrogen–rare atoms that have extra neutrons in their nuclei and thus higher mass–that can be detected using a mass spectrometer. She supplied the insects with the liquid by sandwiching it in between two layers of Parafilm, which the aphids accessed by poking their needle-like stylets through the film.

Once the aphids had incorporated the isotope-labeled amino acids into their bodies, their structures were broken up and analyzed with a GC-MS, which separates out the individual pieces and allowed Haribal to figure out where the heavy carbon and nitrogen atoms ended up.

Jander and Haribal saw that the amino acids inside the aphid’s cells were a mixture of heavy and light atoms, indicating that the plant amino acids had been completely dismantled and remade. Even aspartic acid, which the researchers supplied in bulk to the aphids, was broken down and reconstructed.

“Because they have an unbalanced diet, whatever amino acids they get, they just break it down and resynthesize,” said Haribal. She suspects that this strategy is a result of their limited diet, coupled with the fact that levels of amino acids can vary greatly within plants, depending on the available nitrogen sources. Breaking down all amino acids into their components to make essential amino acids and other molecules, such as DNA, likely evolved as the most efficient process.

Haribal is interested in exploring this phenomenon in other species. Many animals subsist on unbalanced diets but have gut microbes or symbionts that break down their diet and provide more nutrition. For instance, similar to aphids, cows can survive on a diet with an imbalanced amino acid content because their rumen bacteria contribute to the supply of these essential nutrients.

“Lots of insects feed on only one thing, so they have to have some way of getting a balanced diet,” said Haribal. “They have to get all the essential amino acids from somewhere.”

Source: EurekAlert