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Welcome to Issue 11 of the DrumBeat!

The DrumBeat continues to explore exciting bioscience stories and trends from around Africa. This month’s issue carries a detailed personal account of how the continent should position herself to tap from the numerous benefits provided by application of science, technology and innovations (ST&I). Today, Africa is faced with new-world challenges ranging from the burgeoning global population to climate change, with adverse effects on her food production systems, environment and health. Gertrude Ngabirano, Executive Secretary of the East African Science and Technology Commission (EASTECO), gives an insight on bridging the gap between research and implementation to solve these key challenges.

The Video of the Month takes you inside Ethiopia’s improved enset research where Ibsa Merga, a research associate at the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR), explains the progress of a project that aims at developing bacterial wilt resistant enset plants in the country. Enset is a multi-purpose crop that provides food for about 20 million Ethiopians. However, bacterial wilt disease threatens to wipe out the crop posing a serious food crisis for the population.

In the Story of the Month, we look back at the just concluded UN Biodiversity Conference held in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) AfriCenter Director Dr. Margaret Karembu highlights major steps that the 196 Governments in attendance agreed to take in scaling up investments in nature and people towards 2020 and beyond.

Happy reading!


Biotech crops approved for commercial use in November 2018

Country Crop Modified trait Date of approval
Singapore Soybean Herbicide Tolerance (HT) November 6, 2018
Maize Herbicide Tolerance (HT) and Modified Product Quality (MPQ)
Nigeria Maize Insect Resistance (IR), Herbicide Tolerance (HT), & 2 Herbicide Tolerance and Insect Resistance events (HT+IR) November 6, 2018
Iran Soybean Herbicide tolerance (HT) November 21, 2018
Taiwan Canola Herbicide Tolerance (HT) November 21, 2018
Indonesia Sugarcane Abiotic Stress Tolerance (AST) November 26, 2018
New Zealand Cotton Insect resistance 18/09/2018
Brazil Cotton Herbicide Tolerant (HT) and Herbicide Tolerant and Insect Resistance events (HT+IR) November 26, 2018
Science Forum 2018
1st International Congress of Green Biotechnology
Story of the month
Forging a New Deal for Nature and People

The 2018 UN Biodiversity Conference held on 17th – 29th November in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, closed with broad international agreement on reversing the global destruction of nature and biodiversity loss threatening all forms of life on Earth. The 196 Governments in attendance agreed to scale up investments in nature and people towards 2020 and beyond. Running under theme "Investing in Biodiversity for People and Planet", the conference set the stage for developing the post-2020 global biodiversity framework on safeguarding all life on earth.

Habits of a highly successful cereal killer, Striga

Striga is a highly successful pathogen of cereal crops in sub-Saharan Africa. Most cultivated cereals, including maize, millet, sorghum, and rice, are parasitized by at least one Striga species, leading to enormous economic losses. With limited and ineffective management options, Striga has continued to increase both its host range and area under infestation. In this article, the authors outline seven unique characteristics of Striga as a parasite of great economic importance, explore reasons for its success, and outline emerging control options.

DNA Sequencing Analysis of African Xanthomonas oryzaepv. oryzae Virulence Gene (AXaVrg) DNA Marker

Global rice production is constrained by bacterial leaf blight (BLB) disease caused by Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryzae (Xoo). BLB disease incidence in West Africa was between 70–85% and yield loss in farmers’ fields was in the range of 50–90% from 2005 to 2010. In this study, African Xoo virulence gene OPP-172000 DNA marker was identified and purified using randomly amplified polymorphic DNA PCR products from 50 Xoo isolates. The results of this work are potentially useful for effective management of BLB disease in West Africa.

Sequencing of bulks of segregants allows dissection of genetic control of amylose content in rice

Amylose content (AC) is a key quality trait in rice. A cross between Oryza glaberrima (African rice) and Oryza sativa (Asian rice) segregating for AC was analyzed by sequencing bulks of individuals with high and low AC. SNP associated with the granule bound starch synthase (GBSS1) locus on chromosome 6 were polymorphic between the bulks. This study demonstrated that the approach of sequencing bulks was able to identify genes on different chromosomes associated with this complex trait.

Inside the Biotech Lab: How to Genetically Engineer a Plan, ISAAA 2018
African Union Commission: Post-Harvest Loss Management Strategy