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Daily Archives: January 4, 2019

Rice vault offers food security hope as world keeps warming –
                Nikkei Asian Review

Rice vault offers food security hope as world keeps warming – Nikkei Asian Review

LOS BANOS, Philippines — Flora De Guzman pops the seal on a vault door, and a blast of dry, frigid air hisses through the gap. Behind the airlock is a room kept at minus 20C, packed with shelf upon shelf of sealed aluminum cans holding one of the world’s most undervalued resources — preserved samples of more than 130,000 varieties of rice.

For the past 40 years, De Guzman has worked here at the gene bank at the International Rice Research Institute in Los Banos. Some of the samples have been here even longer. “We’ve learned the value of time,” she said.

The IRRI, a couple of hours’ drive south of Manila, is a uniquely comprehensive library of the genetic diversity of a crop that sustains more than 3 billion people worldwide. Seeds from different strains of rice are collected from all over the world, sorted — in some cases by hand — to ensure their purity, and stored in vaults, where they can survive for 50 years or more.

Researchers from the public or private sectors can request samples for a nominal fee, allowing them to crossbreed the institute’s varieties with their own. But the vault’s mission has taken on a new urgency in the last few years as the changing climate generates more erratic and extreme weather, leaving farmers in dire need of rice varieties that can resist droughts, floods and pests. The genes that correspond to these vital traits are contained within the samples held in the vaults.

“Climate change is the greatest threat to food security. The main problem is that the climate change is faster than plants are able to adapt,” said Marie Haga, executive director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, a Germany-based nonprofit organization that works to preserve crop diversity. “In order for us to feed the world in the time ahead, we need to adapt the main plants that feed us to new circumstances,” Haga said. “The diversity of crops in gene banks is the raw material we need to breed plants that can deal with an extreme climate.”


Grains of rice are sorted and examined by hand before they go for storage. (Photo by Peter Guest)

The global scientific consensus is that Earth is now locked in to temperature rises of at least 1.5C above preindustrial levels, unless urgent action is taken. In 2016, governments agreed to take steps to reduce carbon emissions and to prevent further temperature rises above that level, but progress has been slow, and current projections suggest that without dramatic action the world is likely to overshoot the target.

Temperature rises on this scale could have severe implications for the world’s staple crops, whose vulnerability stems in part from their homogeneity. These monocultures, as they are known, are the legacy of a so-called “Green Revolution” in the 1960s and 1970s, which was underpinned by the development of varieties of cereal crops that produced high yields and responded well to the application of nitrogen fertilizers.


Flora De Guzman, who has worked at the facility for 40 years, oversees its day-to-day operations. (Photo by Peter Guest)

The green revolution varieties were extremely successful, rapidly displacing traditional strains of the same crops. A huge increase in crop production headed off an evolving food crisis across the developing world, and built the foundations of today’s agricultural economies in South and Southeast Asia and Latin America. However, the success of the new varieties created new fragilities within the global food system. The crops were well tailored to the conditions they were planted in, but are not well adapted when those conditions change.

Monocultures are also vulnerable to the emergence of new pests, which can spread rapidly through populations that are genetically homogeneous. Nearly 50% of bananas grown worldwide are of the Cavendish variety — clones of a plant grown in the U.K. in the 19th century. This crop is now under imminent threat from an emergent strain of Panama disease, a fungus that practically wiped out another banana variety, the Gros Michel, in the 1950s.


Research plots at the International Rice Research Institute (Photo by Peter Guest)

The impact of climate change is already being felt in important rice-growing regions. In Laos, where much of the rice crop is rain-fed, severe droughts have reduced production in recent years. In Bangladesh, heavy flooding washed away huge areas of rice farms in 2017, while coastal regions have suffered from the encroachment of saltwater, which damages crops. In the Mekong Delta, which supports more than half of Vietnam’s rice production, yields have been hit by a combination of floods, droughts and saltwater intrusion at various points on the river’s length.

Rice breeders have for years tried to create varieties that are resistant to these “abiotic” stresses, such as extreme heat or high salinity. However, ensuring that farmers have the right stress-tolerant varieties at the right moment has become far more difficult because weather patterns have become increasingly unpredictable.


Ruaraidh Sackville Hamilton, head of the genebank (Photo by Peter Guest)

“While in earlier days we have tried to improve varieties to a single stress — so we had a drought-tolerant variety or a flood tolerant variety — now we’re trying to put several tolerances in one variety, because we realize that one stress doesn’t come alone,” said Bjoern Ole Sander, a Vietnam-based climate change specialist at the IRRI.

Contained within the samples cooling in the Los Banos rice vault are the traits that will be needed to adapt rice crops to these new conditions, and to make them resilient against future challenges. Ruaraidh Sackville Hamilton, the evolutionary biologist in charge of the gene bank, said climate change is an immediate threat, but the gene bank has to think in terms of decades and even centuries. “It’s what economists call option value,” Hamilton said.

The worth of that option has become easier to measure in recent years. Gene sequencing techniques have become faster and cheaper, changing the economics of research. The first rice genome sequence cost around $1 billion to compile. Today, a “reasonably good sequence” can cost around $1,000, Hamilton said. “The [fall in the] cost of sequencing has been greater than Moore’s Law (the dictum in computer science that every two years, the power of computer processors doubles, while the cost halves).”

This means that researchers have a much greater ability to match genes with specific traits. The gene bank has already sequenced the genomes of 3,000 of its samples, which are referred to as “accessions.” If the cost of sequencing falls even more, it may do the same for the entire collection.


Short-term storage at the institute’s genebank (Photo by Peter Guest)

“Before, it was an almost random decision on what accessions to try and evaluate and see if they had any value, and that was a very difficult process. Now with the 3,000 sequenced genomes it’s very easy to collect the data on agronomic value and line that up with the sequence data,” Hamilton said

The advent of gene editing, which uses enzymes to modify or insert DNA into a genome, promises to make the process even more efficient, allowing researchers to “prototype” varieties more rapidly to prove that an individual gene corresponds with a particular trait.

“Rather than years and years of different approaches, we come down to a very short period of proving the function of the gene. That’s been an impossible thing in the past without huge investment,” Hamilton said.

With the harmful effects of climate change already becoming manifest around the world, and with several major economies unwilling to limit the carbon emissions that are driving global warming, the option value of the gene bank has become greater and more obvious. In October, the vault was granted $1.4 million a year funding in perpetuity from the Global Crop Diversity Trust, securing its samples for the foreseeable future and beyond.

“I think it’s fair to say that crop diversity is probably one of the most important natural resources, and [yet] it is the least recognized. We’ve got to do something about that,” said Haga.

“We have lost so much genetic material in the last 100 years, so now we cannot afford to lose more. Because for each variety of crop we lose, we lose options for the future.”

Source

Rice vault offers food security hope as world keeps warming – Nikkei Asian Review

Source

Rice vault offers food security hope as world keeps warming – Nikkei Asian Review

Source

Rice vault offers food security hope as world keeps warming – Nikkei Asian Review

Source

Rice vault offers food security hope as world keeps warming – Nikkei Asian Review

Source

Rice vault offers food security hope as world keeps warming – Nikkei Asian Review

Source

Rice vault offers food security hope as world keeps warming – Nikkei Asian Review

Source

Rice vault offers food security hope as world keeps warming – Nikkei Asian Review

Source

Rice vault offers food security hope as world keeps warming – Nikkei Asian Review

Source

Rice vault offers food security hope as world keeps warming – Nikkei Asian Review

Ethiopia Food Security Outlook, December 2018

Ethiopia Food Security Outlook, December 2018

Poor October to December seasonal rainfall and sustained ethnic clashes continue

Full Report in PDF

Key Messages

  • Deyr/Hagaya seasonal rainfall (October to December) in southern pastoral areas has been below average. It has been also erratic in temporal and spatial distribution and the onset was delayed. Southeastern pastoral areas continue to recover from drought in 2016 and 2017 and will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) through at least May 2019.
  • Meher harvests are generally average throughout much of the country. Over parts of eastern Oromia, southern Tigray, eastern Amhara, and northern SNNPR, however, rainfall was below-average, leading to reduced production. Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected in affected areas, as well as in many northern pastoral areas.
  • While the country continues to respond to the needs of drought affected populations, large populations are also displaced by conflict throughout the country. Areas where intercommunal clashes are having the most significant impact on food security outcomes include parts of Oromia, SNNPR, Somali, and Benishangul Gumuz regions.

CURRENT SITUATION

  • Rainfall performance has been mixed over areas of southeastern and southern Ethiopia that typically receive Deyr/Hagaya rains between October and December. Seasonal rainfall started earlier than normal in the east of the Somali Region but was delayed by one to two weeks in most other areas. Moreover, the rainfall was significantly below average and erratically distributed across Somali region and southern pastoral areas of Oromia and SNNPR. Based on rainfall from October to 15 December 2018 and the NOAA/CPC forecast through December 31, wide areas southern pastoral areas of Ethiopia will accumulate large rainfall deficits (Figure 1).
  • Conditions for pasture and water in northern and southern pastoral areas area mixed. In southern pastoral areas, successive improvements in rainfall seasons had improved water and pasture conditions following droughts in 2016 and 2017. This in turn contributed to improved livestock body condition and conception rates and camels and goats are birthing again. Poor rainfall performance during the ongoing Deyr/Hagaya season, however, will limit the good recovery seen during previous months. In pastoral areas of Afar and northern Somali (Sitti and Fafan zones) regions, availability of pasture and water is expected to seasonably deteriorate during the dry season through March 2019.
  • Livestock prices are generally stable in most markets, improving compared to last year and average. According to field observations in Somali region and Borana zone of Oromia, livestock prices show an increasing trend. The price increases are associated with an improvement in livestock body conditions and low market supply as pastoralists are recovering from past droughts. As per Somali Region DPPB market data for Warder for the month of November, average locally consumed Goat price increased by 9, 23, and 54 percent, compared to last month, the same month last year, and the five years average respectively. Goat to maize terms of trade were up by about 25 percent compared to same month last year and the five years average.
  • On the other hand, livestock prices show a decreasing trend in the north of Afar region. For instance, the price of an average sized goat in November in Teru and Awera woredas declined by 38 and 14 percent, respectively, compared to the same month of last year. Livestock market supply is expected to increase in the upcoming long dry Jillal season due to livestock feed shortages and increased household purchase needs.
  • Following generally average Kiremt seasonal performance, Meher harvest prospects at the national level are expected to be near average. Unseasonal rainfall in October and November, however, did cause minor crop losses in major Meher crop producing areas of the country. The Meher assessment teams did also confirm localized areas of below-average production due to erratic rainfall, conflict, and pests during the main cultivation season.
  • Prices for locally produced staple foods have remained high since the start of the last lean. Prices are stable at elevated levels. For example, the price of sorghum in October in Boke woreda is 36 and 20 percent higher than October 2017 and the reference year, respectively. The wholesale maize price in Hosanna market increase by 9.3 percent compared to last month (October 2018), 6.4 percent compared to the same month last year, and 33.3 percent compared to the five-year average (Figure 2).
  • Conflict across different parts of the country continues to lead to displacement. According to IOM and partner reports, the number of conflict-related IDPs in 2018 alone could be as high as more than 1.5 million people across the country. The level of displacement is expected to increase as localized conflicts continue. For example, in the second week of December 2018, conflict along the Oromia-Somali border in Borena zone, specifically around Moyale, resulted in the displacement of thousands of people. In this clash, as per the report by Ethiopian News agency (ENA) on December 16, 2018, 21 people died, and 61 others injured.
  • Admissions for acute malnutrition treatment in Somali and Oromia regions remain high (Figure 3). The caseload for treatment of severe acute malnutrition in Oromia and Somali regions was approximately 112,956 and 72,144 admissions between January and October 2018 respectively, or approximately 66 percent of admissions in all of Ethiopia (280,892 children). A total of 11,340 and 6,673 admissions occurred in the month of October alone in Oromia and Somali regions respectively.
  • Across the country, total TFP admissions of malnourished children under 5 in October 2018 was 6.1 and 7.8 percent lower than September and July. The level of admissions was similar to the same month of last year but 8.3 percent higher than the five-year average.

For detailed projection click Full Report in PDF

The post Ethiopia Food Security Outlook, December 2018 appeared first on .

Rice vault offers food security hope as world keeps warming –
                Nikkei Asian Review

Rice vault offers food security hope as world keeps warming – Nikkei Asian Review

LOS BANOS, Philippines — Flora De Guzman pops the seal on a vault door, and a blast of dry, frigid air hisses through the gap. Behind the airlock is a room kept at minus 20C, packed with shelf upon shelf of sealed aluminum cans holding one of the world’s most undervalued resources — preserved samples of more than 130,000 varieties of rice.

For the past 40 years, De Guzman has worked here at the gene bank at the International Rice Research Institute in Los Banos. Some of the samples have been here even longer. “We’ve learned the value of time,” she said.

The IRRI, a couple of hours’ drive south of Manila, is a uniquely comprehensive library of the genetic diversity of a crop that sustains more than 3 billion people worldwide. Seeds from different strains of rice are collected from all over the world, sorted — in some cases by hand — to ensure their purity, and stored in vaults, where they can survive for 50 years or more.

Researchers from the public or private sectors can request samples for a nominal fee, allowing them to crossbreed the institute’s varieties with their own. But the vault’s mission has taken on a new urgency in the last few years as the changing climate generates more erratic and extreme weather, leaving farmers in dire need of rice varieties that can resist droughts, floods and pests. The genes that correspond to these vital traits are contained within the samples held in the vaults.

“Climate change is the greatest threat to food security. The main problem is that the climate change is faster than plants are able to adapt,” said Marie Haga, executive director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, a Germany-based nonprofit organization that works to preserve crop diversity. “In order for us to feed the world in the time ahead, we need to adapt the main plants that feed us to new circumstances,” Haga said. “The diversity of crops in gene banks is the raw material we need to breed plants that can deal with an extreme climate.”


Grains of rice are sorted and examined by hand before they go for storage. (Photo by Peter Guest)

The global scientific consensus is that Earth is now locked in to temperature rises of at least 1.5C above preindustrial levels, unless urgent action is taken. In 2016, governments agreed to take steps to reduce carbon emissions and to prevent further temperature rises above that level, but progress has been slow, and current projections suggest that without dramatic action the world is likely to overshoot the target.

Temperature rises on this scale could have severe implications for the world’s staple crops, whose vulnerability stems in part from their homogeneity. These monocultures, as they are known, are the legacy of a so-called “Green Revolution” in the 1960s and 1970s, which was underpinned by the development of varieties of cereal crops that produced high yields and responded well to the application of nitrogen fertilizers.


Flora De Guzman, who has worked at the facility for 40 years, oversees its day-to-day operations. (Photo by Peter Guest)

The green revolution varieties were extremely successful, rapidly displacing traditional strains of the same crops. A huge increase in crop production headed off an evolving food crisis across the developing world, and built the foundations of today’s agricultural economies in South and Southeast Asia and Latin America. However, the success of the new varieties created new fragilities within the global food system. The crops were well tailored to the conditions they were planted in, but are not well adapted when those conditions change.

Monocultures are also vulnerable to the emergence of new pests, which can spread rapidly through populations that are genetically homogeneous. Nearly 50% of bananas grown worldwide are of the Cavendish variety — clones of a plant grown in the U.K. in the 19th century. This crop is now under imminent threat from an emergent strain of Panama disease, a fungus that practically wiped out another banana variety, the Gros Michel, in the 1950s.


Research plots at the International Rice Research Institute (Photo by Peter Guest)

The impact of climate change is already being felt in important rice-growing regions. In Laos, where much of the rice crop is rain-fed, severe droughts have reduced production in recent years. In Bangladesh, heavy flooding washed away huge areas of rice farms in 2017, while coastal regions have suffered from the encroachment of saltwater, which damages crops. In the Mekong Delta, which supports more than half of Vietnam’s rice production, yields have been hit by a combination of floods, droughts and saltwater intrusion at various points on the river’s length.

Rice breeders have for years tried to create varieties that are resistant to these “abiotic” stresses, such as extreme heat or high salinity. However, ensuring that farmers have the right stress-tolerant varieties at the right moment has become far more difficult because weather patterns have become increasingly unpredictable.


Ruaraidh Sackville Hamilton, head of the genebank (Photo by Peter Guest)

“While in earlier days we have tried to improve varieties to a single stress — so we had a drought-tolerant variety or a flood tolerant variety — now we’re trying to put several tolerances in one variety, because we realize that one stress doesn’t come alone,” said Bjoern Ole Sander, a Vietnam-based climate change specialist at the IRRI.

Contained within the samples cooling in the Los Banos rice vault are the traits that will be needed to adapt rice crops to these new conditions, and to make them resilient against future challenges. Ruaraidh Sackville Hamilton, the evolutionary biologist in charge of the gene bank, said climate change is an immediate threat, but the gene bank has to think in terms of decades and even centuries. “It’s what economists call option value,” Hamilton said.

The worth of that option has become easier to measure in recent years. Gene sequencing techniques have become faster and cheaper, changing the economics of research. The first rice genome sequence cost around $1 billion to compile. Today, a “reasonably good sequence” can cost around $1,000, Hamilton said. “The [fall in the] cost of sequencing has been greater than Moore’s Law (the dictum in computer science that every two years, the power of computer processors doubles, while the cost halves).”

This means that researchers have a much greater ability to match genes with specific traits. The gene bank has already sequenced the genomes of 3,000 of its samples, which are referred to as “accessions.” If the cost of sequencing falls even more, it may do the same for the entire collection.


Short-term storage at the institute’s genebank (Photo by Peter Guest)

“Before, it was an almost random decision on what accessions to try and evaluate and see if they had any value, and that was a very difficult process. Now with the 3,000 sequenced genomes it’s very easy to collect the data on agronomic value and line that up with the sequence data,” Hamilton said

The advent of gene editing, which uses enzymes to modify or insert DNA into a genome, promises to make the process even more efficient, allowing researchers to “prototype” varieties more rapidly to prove that an individual gene corresponds with a particular trait.

“Rather than years and years of different approaches, we come down to a very short period of proving the function of the gene. That’s been an impossible thing in the past without huge investment,” Hamilton said.

With the harmful effects of climate change already becoming manifest around the world, and with several major economies unwilling to limit the carbon emissions that are driving global warming, the option value of the gene bank has become greater and more obvious. In October, the vault was granted $1.4 million a year funding in perpetuity from the Global Crop Diversity Trust, securing its samples for the foreseeable future and beyond.

“I think it’s fair to say that crop diversity is probably one of the most important natural resources, and [yet] it is the least recognized. We’ve got to do something about that,” said Haga.

“We have lost so much genetic material in the last 100 years, so now we cannot afford to lose more. Because for each variety of crop we lose, we lose options for the future.”

Source

Rice vault offers food security hope as world keeps warming – Nikkei Asian Review

Source

Rice vault offers food security hope as world keeps warming – Nikkei Asian Review

Source

Rice vault offers food security hope as world keeps warming – Nikkei Asian Review

Source

Rice vault offers food security hope as world keeps warming – Nikkei Asian Review

Source

Rice vault offers food security hope as world keeps warming – Nikkei Asian Review

Source

Rice vault offers food security hope as world keeps warming – Nikkei Asian Review

Source

Rice vault offers food security hope as world keeps warming – Nikkei Asian Review