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6TH JULY 2018
Welcome to Issue 6 of the DrumBeat!

In this issue, we share a special feature on progress in research and adoption of biotech crops with a focus on Africa’s milestones achieved by 2017. In a new report released by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), global hectarage of biotech crops stood at 189.8 million hectares in 2017, a 3 percent increase from 2016. The report records 67 countries using biotech crops with 19 out of those cultivating being from developing countries. In Africa, remarkable developments were achieved in biotech crops research, policy development and commercialization. This progress involved 12 crops in 13 countries being improved for 14 traits of interest. Global economic benefits from biotech crops totaling up to US$18.2 billion were accrued in 2016, with US$ 10 billion and US$8.2 billion being shared in developing and industrial countries, respectively.

In our story of the month, we highlight testimonies from Sudanese farmers who cultivated biotech cotton for the 6th year in 2017. Many farmers are reaping benefits of the insect resistant crop, with reduced cost of its production making it a profitable venture. Video of the month section features Kenya’s journey towards adoption of insect resistant cotton as the country edges closer to commercial planting.

In other news, African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) was awarded a $24.6 million grant by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for commercialization of insect-resistant and drought-tolerant maize (TELA®) in Sub-Saharan Africa. This marks a huge milestone in developing climate-smart maize amid numerous challenges facing the crop.

Happy reading!


The month of June 2018 saw a number of approvals granted for cultivation of biotech crops both regionally and globally.

Regionally, Kenya has planted Bt cotton at seven National Performance Trial sites, as the country takes a step closer to commercialization of the insect resistant biotech cotton. This is after the country's National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) issued a license approving the trials. Ethiopia and Swaziland approved commercial release of insect resistant cotton, this is first time the countries have approved cultivation of a biotech crop.

Globally, three countries made approvals for cultivation of four biotech crops for both food and feed use. Malaysia approved two biotech crops; herbicide tolerant canola and two maize events modified for herbicide tolerance and stack trait herbicide tolerance and insect resistance. Taiwan made an approval for herbicide tolerant soybean while Argentina approved biotech alfalfa modified for herbicide tolerance and plant quality, in addition to herbicide tolerant soybean.

31st Annual International Conference
7th Annual National Biosafety Conference
BIO African Convention
Story of the month
Testimonies from Sudan: Farmers recount benefits of Bt Cotton

Sudan is basking in the glory of Bt cotton prospects that have significantly transformed the national agricultural sector and catapulted the country’s economy to new heights. In heart-warming testimonies, cotton farmers in the East African nation delightfully recount how the biotech crop has remarkably turned around their fortunes dispelling inevitable doom that would have befallen them owing to massive infestation by pests on their conventional cotton. With the adoption of Bt cotton, a highly insect-resistant cotton variety, cotton farming woes are now a thing of the past as farmers reap big from the improved crop.

Genomic Prediction in a Multiploid Crop: Genotype by Environment Interaction and Allele Dosage Effects on Predictive Ability in Banana

Improving the efficiency of selection in conventional crossbreeding is a major priority in banana (Musa spp.) breeding. Routine application of classical marker assisted selection (MAS) is lagging in banana due to limitations in MAS tools. Genomic selection (GS) based on genomic prediction models can address some limitations of classical MAS, but the use of GS in banana has not been reported to date. This study evaluated the predictive ability of six genomic prediction models for 15 traits in a multi-ploidy training population. The high predictive values of fruit filling and fruit bunch traits show the potential of genomic prediction to increase selection efficiency in banana breeding.

Microsatellites markers associated with resistance to flower bud thrips in a cowpea F2 population derived from genotypes TVU-123 and WC36

Breeding for resistance to flower bud thrips (Megalurothrips sjostedti) in cowpea has been hindered by the quantitative nature of resistance. To identify simple sequence repeat (SSR) markers associated with resistance to flower bud thrips that could be used for marker-assisted breeding, a F2 population was generated from a cross between genotypes TVU-123 (resistant) and WC36 (susceptible). The population was evaluated for thrips damage scores, thrips counts, and pods number per plant under artificial infestation. Mainly additive gene effects were observed. A more detailed study using more markers on these loci should provide better understanding of this complex trait.

Assessment of Genetic Variation and Population Structure of Diverse Rice Genotypes Adapted to Lowland and Upland Ecologies in Africa Using SNPs

Using interspecific crosses involving Oryza glaberrima Steud. as donor and O. sativa L. as recurrent parents, rice breeders at the Africa Rice Center developed several ‘New Rice for Africa (NERICA)’ improved varieties. This study investigated the genetic variation, relatedness, and population structure of 330 widely used rice genotypes in Africa using DArTseq-based single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). This is the first study using high density markers that characterized NERICA and ARICA varieties in comparison with indica and japonica varieties widely used in Africa, which could aid rice breeders on parent selection for developing new improved rice germplasm.

Brief 53: Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2017
Gene Drives for Malaria Control and Elimination in Africa
Drones on the Horizon: Transforming Africa’s Agriculture
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