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Welcome to Issue 7 of the DrumBeat!

In this issue, we share highlights on the progress Africa is making in harnessing science, technology and innovation in addressing key challenges facing the continent. The opinion piece features a personal account of Francis Mulaa, a Professor of Biochemistry and Biotechnology from the University of Nairobi, Kenya on how Africa can effectively fix the gaps derailing adoption of bioscience innovations. The video of the month highlights remarkable strides that the continent has made in research and commercialization of biotech crops by 2017. This is from a recent report by the International Service for the Acquisition on Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) – Brief 53: Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops in 2017. Current progress has seen the continent working on 12 crops in 13 countries for improvement of 14 traits of interest. Related to this, the month of July saw Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country make a major breakthrough in crop biotechnology by approving appropriate Bt cotton varieties. This move is projected to boost the country’s cotton production and revitalize the textile and apparel industry.

In other news, Dr. Hennie Groenewald, head of Biosafety South Africa and a DrumBeat contributor recently did a lecture on New Breeding Techniques (NBTs). These new techniques promise to improve the speed and precision in which we improve our crops and livestock.

Finally, the 2018 Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology in Africa (OFAB) Media Awards (OMAs) for Kenya chapter will culminate in a Gala dinner on Thursday 9th August. Join us live on Facebook from 6pm EAT as we recognize excellence in reporting Agricultural Biotechnology.

Happy reading!


The month of July 2018 saw three countries make approvals for commercial cultivation of biotech crops. For the very first time, Nigeria approved biotech cotton for commercial use. The two insect-resistant Bt cotton varieties, MRC 7377 BGII and MRC 7361 BGII were approved by the National Committee on Naming, Registration and Release of Crop Materials. USA approved herbicide tolerant cotton for commercial use while South Korea approved for feed use, two biotech maize events improved for herbicide tolerance and insect resistance.

7th Annual National Biosafety Conference
BIO African Convention
Story of the month
Nigeria approves Bt Cotton for Commercial Release; expected to boost Textile Industry

Nigeria has become the latest country to approve biotech cotton for commercial release; a significant breakthrough in agricultural biotechnology in Africa. Two new Bt cotton varieties, MRC 7377 BGII and MRC 7361 BGII, have been approved by the National Committee on Naming, Registration and Release of Crop Materials. The new varieties are expected to bring fortune to cotton farmers and boost Nigeria’s textile industry with a yield of 4.1 to 4.4 tonne per hectare against the local variety’s yield of 600 to 900kg per hectare.

KSTP 94, an Open-pollinated Maize Variety Has Post-Attachment Resistance to Purple Witchweed (Striga hermonthica)

Striga spp. are obligate root hemiparasites that constrain cereal production in sub-Saharan Africa. In maize, the open-pollinated variety Kakamega Striga-tolerant population of the year 1994 (‘KSTP 94’) has been popularized as a Striga-tolerant/resistant variety. To determine whether KSTP 94 harbors post-attachment resistance, this study used a soil-free assay based on observation chambers called rhizotrons. The results indicate that in addition to pre-attachment resistance, KSTP 94 exhibits post-attachment resistance to S. hermonthica and could therefore be a good genetic source for post-attachment resistance breeding.

Rapid and efficient plant regeneration from shoot apical meristems of finger millet [Eleusine coracana (L.) Gaertn.] via direct organogenesis

A simple and efficient plant regeneration system via direct organogenesis was established in finger millet using in vitro derived shoot apical meristems. Six varieties; GBK-043128, GBK-043094, GBK-043050, GBK-043137, GBK-043122 and GBK-043124 were evaluated. Results indicated that plant regeneration response varied greatly among the varieties. In vitro germinated plants were successfully transferred to the greenhouse after hardening, with 300 shoots developing into fertile plants. This plant regeneration system offers a platform for production of transgenic finger millet.

Assessment of morphological characteristics among upland rice (Oryza sativa and Oryza glaberrima) germplasm

Rice is an important staple food crop that feeds over half of the global population and has become the cereal that provides a major source of calories for the urban and rural poor in Africa. This work aimed to evaluate the morphological of rice (Oryza sativa and Oryza glaberrima) germplasm. Analysis of variance revealed highly significant difference (P≤ 0.01) among the accessions for all quantitative traits studied. The outcome of this study should be useful for the management of the germplasm conservation and future rice genetic improvement.

Feeding 9 Billion: The Contribution of New Genetic Technologies to Global Food Production
Transforming food and agriculture to achieve the SDGs
ISAAA Brief 53-2017: Infographics