Daily Archives: January 25, 2017

Danforth Center Expands Major Research Program to Benefit Farmers in the Developing World

A multi-institutional research effort aims to optimize breeding strategies for grain sorghum for Sub-Saharan Africa

ST. LOUIS, Jan. 25, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, one of the world’s largest independent plant science institutes, today announced a three-year $6.1 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to expand and accelerate the development and deployment of advanced sorghum phenotyping and breeding technologies in support of improved varieties for smallholder farmers.

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“The Gates Foundation recognizes that most smallholder farmers rely on small plots of land for food and income. This grant will help increase the productivity of a crop that can, in a sustainable and effective way, reduce hunger and poverty and make communities economically stronger and more stable over the long term,” said James Carrington, Ph.D., president of the Danforth Center.

The funding broadens the impact of the TERRA-REF program launched in June 2015 by the Danforth Center with support from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). TERRA-REF aims to optimize breeding strategies for improving the yield and stress tolerance of sorghum (Sorghum bicolor), a leading bioenergy feedstock crop in the United States, but also a critical source of nutrition for millions of people living in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The Sorghum Genomics Toolbox, led by the Danforth Center with partners at ICRISAT (India), CERAAS-ISRA (Senegal), CIRAD (France), EIAR (Ethiopia), HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, Kansas State University, University of Arizona, George Washington University, and NRGene (Israel), is employing cutting-edge technologies to sequence and analyze grain sorghum genomes, capture tens of millions of phenotypic observations over the course of a growing season, and accelerate breeding efforts by connecting phenotypes to genotypes in the field.

“Initially we launched the TERRA-REF project to gain a greater understanding of the phenotypic and genomic variation of bioenergy sorghum, and to lay the foundation for genomics-enabled breeding strategies for U.S. sorghum bioenergy feedstock production, but the same strategies are directly extendable to food security crops,” said Todd Mockler, Ph.D., Geraldine and Robert Virgil Distinguished Investigator, Danforth Center. “I’m grateful to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for recognizing the need to extend the application of advanced genomics and phenomics technologies to food crops that will benefit millions of people living in the developing world.”

Sorghum is a member of the grass family and is grown worldwide. It is of interest, not only because it is a staple crop in Sub-Saharan Africa, but because grain sorghum yields have been flat or declining due to the lack of sufficient investment in the development of new improved varieties. Sorghum is very resilient to drought and heat stress. Natural genetic diversity in sorghum makes it a promising system for identifying stress-resistance mechanisms in grasses that may have been lost during the domestication of related cereal crops. It is among the most efficient crops in conversion of solar energy and use of water, making it an ideal crop to target for improvement to meet the predicted doubling of global food demand by 2050.

“The National Sorghum Producers is excited to see the additional investment into sorghum research and breeding, which will help farmers around the world as they continue to deal with the challenges of advancing sorghum genetics to address climate variability and the need for increased food sustainability,” said Tim Lust, chief executive officer of the National Sorghum Producers.

About The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center
Founded in 1998, the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center is a not-for-profit research institute with a mission to improve the human condition through plant science. Research, education and outreach aim to have impact at the nexus of food security and the environment, and position the St. Louis region as a world center for plant science. The Center’s work is funded through competitive grants from many sources, including the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Energy, National Science Foundation, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Follow us on Twitter at @DanforthCenter.

For additional information, contact:
Melanie Bernds, +1 (314) 587-1647


Improving the Human Condition Through Plant Science

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XCMG’s “BlueDream” programs win two awards at 6th China Charity Festival

BEIJING, Jan. 25, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — XCMG was recognized for its outstanding contributions in corporate social responsibility with two awards presented by the 6th China Charity Festival held from January 10 to 11 in Beijing, China, the most distinguished Special Tribute Award and Green Model Award.

At last year’s China Charity Festival, XCMG launched “BlueDream” Special Charity Fund jointly with China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation (CFPA), carrying out 14 precisely positioned projects as part of the “For Better Life” global public welfare campaign to bring the much-needed help for people around the world.

“Since the ‘BlueDream’ fund was established, XCMG has gained support from a wide range of communities, the XCMG public welfare ambassadors and members of CFPA has dedicated love and strength to the charitable platform,” said Han Bing, vice general manager of XCMG.

In 2016, XCMG has launched Children’s Home, a comprehensive social care model for “left-behind” children in Qingliang Village, Sichuan Province which can then be introduced to more provinces benefiting children in need; a water cellar project in eastern Ethiopia to build 50 economical and practical water cellars in three years to solve the daily and agricultural water usage issues for 50 families of two communities; and the Global Excellent Operator program that aims to train 200 machinery operators worldwide every year for free at the first mechanical driving training base in the country established by XCMG.

XCMG has devoted tremendous efforts to public welfare in the past 73 years, providing equipment and rescue teams support to 23 major disasters worldwide in eight consecutive years, hosting “one-day salary donation” event for 14 years that have been invested in building 10 XCMG Primary Schools benefiting 5,800 children as well as establishing scholarships for six schools of six countries including Thailand, Indonesia and Bangladesh.

“With projects like Children’s Home, water cellar in Africa and more, public welfare campaigns have encouraged XCMG employees, suppliers and clients to continuously contribute physical and emotional support to people in need of help,” Han said.

About XCMG:

XCMG is a multinational heavy machinery manufacturing company with a history of 74 years. It currently ranks ninth in the world’s construction machinery industry. The company exports to more than 176 countries and regions around the world.

For more information, please visit: www.xcmg.com, or XCMG pages on FacebookTwitterYouTubeLinkedIn and Instagram.

Sustainable agriculture, better-managed water supplies, vital to tackling water-food nexus

Highlighting the challenges associated with the inextricable links between water and food � the so-called ‘water-food nexus’ � for food security, as well as for sustainable development, the United Nations agricultural agency today outlined steps that can be taken to improve water sustainability for current and future needs.

The magnitude of the water-food nexus is underappreciated, said Pasquale Steduto, UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) Regional Strategic Programme Coordinator for the Near East and North Africa regions.

In his briefing during an event at UN Headquarters in New York, the FAO official also pointed to the fact that a person needs between two to four litres of water for daily consumption, and for domestic uses (washing, etc.) between 40 to 400 litres per family.

But for food and nutritional needs, the requirement is between 2,000 and 5,000 litres per person, depending on diet, or roughly one litre per kilo-calorie he explained.

He further emphasized that the nexus is particularly significant for strengthening food security given that the world population is estimated to cross the nine billion mark by 2050, another 50-60 per cent food would need to be produced over current levels to feed everyone.

This would imply having at least 50 per cent more water � which we will not have. Estimates show we can mobilize up to 10 per cent more, [highlighting] the issue of water scarcity, added Mr. Steduto.

He also stressed the significance of water for the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

While Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6) explicitly calls for ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all, water is a key component for other Goals including those on poverty (SDG 1), hunger and malnutrition (SDG 2), and climate change (SDG 13).

Thus, highlighting the need for intensification of sustainable agriculture, Mr. Steduto called for improving efficiency in the use of resources; protecting and conserving natural resources; having a people-centred approach and protecting rural livelihoods; strengthening resilience of people, community and ecosystems, particularly to climate change; and ensuring good governance to safeguard sustainability for natural and human systems.

Speaking further on the response to tackling water scarcity, the FAO official emphasized the need to augment the availability of water, such as through employing large-scale water harvesting methods (including for agricultural purposes), as well as the use of non-conventional water (such as treated waste water and desalination plants).

He also underlined the need to be prudential on the demand side, such as reducing food losses and food waste, and promoting sustainable diets, could also go a long way in staving off water scarcity.

Between supply and demand, he outlined enhancing efficiency and productivity, strengthening governance, employing water saving and optimization technologies, as well as strategic planning and policy for water and food security, including the water-food-energy nexus approach, are important components of addressing this complex challenge.

In his briefing, he also noted FAO initiatives tackling water scarcity at various levels.

Source: UN News Centre

Police on sentencing of convicted murderer

Convicted murderer sentenced to 12 years in jail

A 22 year old Thabiso Shadrack Mphuthi was found guilty of murder and was subsequently sentenced to serve 12 years behind bars by the Middelburg High Court on Tuesday ,24 January 2017.

On 24 October 2012 a 14 year old girl left home and told her mother that she was going to study with her friend in Witbank. The girl never returned home that night. The parents tried to call her but her phone was forever on voice mail. The following morning they went to Witbank Police Station and reported the matter. A case of Kidnapping was opened.

One day the parents received a text message from their daughter’s phone number which demanded R400 000 in order for the girl to be released. The message further pointed out that failure to pay the money would lead to the death of the girl.

The matter was transferred to the Hawks and the members of the country’s elite crime fighting unit hit the ground running and recovered the cellphone, arresting the suspect in the process. The man led the Hawks to a spot where he killed and dumped the body of the girl.

Mpumalanga Provincial Head of Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation Major General Zodwa Mokoena welcome the judgement and applauded the members for their determination and thorough investigations which convinced the courts to hand out a guilty verdict and a lengthy jail time.

Source: Government of South Africa

KwaZulu-Natal Treasury hands over water project to school in Sodwana Bay

HOD Magagula hands over water project to school in Sodwana Bay

KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Treasury’s Head of Department, Mr Simiso Magagula, will hand over a water project to Qongwane Primary School in Sodwana Bay tomorrow (Thursday, 26 January 2017).

The water project hand over is a fulfilment of a promise that Mr Magagula made to the school last year when he visited the school under the Provincial Cabinet’s Operation Sukuma Sakhe programme. He found the school without water.

Be part of the exciting moment when HoD Magagula visits the school to hand over the water project and opens the tap to supply learners with fresh and safe water.

Source: Government of South Africa