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Welcome to the Drumbeat Issue 12!

Happy New Year 2019!

WOW, the Drumbeat is one-year-old! We are grateful to all of you for encouraging us to continue covering bioscience research and impact stories across Africa. Indeed, 2018 was an exciting year.

The first issue of 2019 starts from Nigeria - Africa’s most populous nation and perhaps the most progressed in agri-biotech trends over last year. Dr. Rose Gidado, Assistant Director, National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) and coordinator, Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology in Africa (OFAB) Nigeria chapter gives an opinion on the potential of agricultural biotechnology in transforming African agriculture amidst current intractable challenges.

In the story of the month, we feature Alex Abutu, a communication expert at National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) in Nigeria and a beneficiary of the 2017 Agri-biotechnology and Biosafety Communications (ABBC-2017) conference deliberations in Uganda. We are glad to announce the call for the 3rd ABBC conference to be held in August 2019, in Ibadan, Nigeria. Details of participation will be posted on our website shortly.

In the video of the month, Dr. Margaret Karembu, Director ISAAA AfriCenter gives an account of the first year of Drumbeat. Here, Margaret appeals to all bioscience stakeholders across the continent to use the platform to share their opinions, communicate their research to the world and help build a vibrant bioeconomy. We want to tell your story!

Happy reading!

Country Crop Modified trait Date of approval
Canada Cotton Herbicide Tolerant (HT) and Insect Resistant (IR) events December 4, 2018

The Drumbeat: Covering Africa's Bioscience Landscape

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Southern African Society for Plant Pathology (SASPP) Conference
East Africa Symposium on Sustainable Agriculture and Appropriate Technologies
Story of the month

Alex Abutu, a communications consultant with Nigeria's National Biosafety Management Authority (NBMA) takes us back to 2017's Agri-Biotech and Biosafety Communication (ABBC) Symposium. In this piece, he shares his experiences from ABBC2017 and outlines how he applied lessons from the Entebbe symposium in his day-to-day job.

Genome sequence data from 17 accessions of Ensete ventricosum, a staple food crop for millions in Ethiopia

Enset is a perennial, herbaceous plant belonging to the same botanical family as bananas and plantains. Although it does not yield edible fruits, it is the most important cultivated staple food crop in the highlands of central, south and southwestern Ethiopia with cultural significance and a key food security crop. This study present raw sequence reads and genome assemblies derived from 17 accessions of the Ethiopian orphan crop using the Illumina HiSeq and MiSeq platforms. Also presented is a catalogue of single-nucleotide polymorphisms inferred from the sequence data at an average density of approximately one per kilobase of genomic DNA.

Silencing of the Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases (MAPK) Fus3 and Slt2 in Pseudocercospora fijiensis Reduces Growth and Virulence on Host Plants

Pseudocercospora fijiensis, causal agent of the black Sigatoka disease (BSD) of Musa spp., has spread globally since its discovery in Fiji 1963 to all the banana and plantain growing areas across the globe. It is becoming the most damaging and economically important disease of this crop. This study suggests that Slt2 and Fus3 MAPK signalling pathways play important roles in plant infection and pathogenic growth of fungal pathogens. The silencing of these vital fungal genes through host-induced gene silencing (HIG) could be an alternative strategy for developing transgenic banana and plantain resistant to BSD.

First report of Dasheen mosaic virus Infecting Taro (Colocasia esculenta) from Ethiopia

Dasheen mosaic virus (DsMV) is a member of the family Potyviridae, genus Potyvirus, and infects taro (Colocasia esculenta L.) and other aroids wherever they grow. DsMV infection can cause up to 60% production losses on taro and other edible aroids. Taro is widely grown and as an important staple food crop in south Ethiopia. This study presents the first report of DsMV infecting taro in Ethiopia. The presence of DsMV presents a serious threat to taro production and further work is needed to determine the geographic distribution, incidence, and yield losses associated with DsMV infection in taro-growing areas in Ethiopia.

WATER-WISE: Smart Irrigation Strategies for Africa
National Agricultural Research Systems, the Biotechnology Revolution and Agricultural Development