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Virginia Tech has won a new $18 million, five-year grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) for a research program that will work to raise the standard of living of people around the world through environmentally sound agricultural practices as part of Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative. The Feed the Future Innovation Lab (formerly Collaborative Research Support Program) for Integrated Pest Management will conduct research and extension activities with farmers, counterpart universities, and host-country government research institutes to implement ecologically sustainable pest and disease control strategies. The predecessor programs to this new award have been led by Virginia Tech University for the past 21 years. USAID recently announced that Virginia Tech would once again lead the program, a move that represents a vote of confidence in the work that has been ongoing since 1993. The new program will have a strong foundation in areas such as sustainable intensification, ecological service provision, ecological research, and empowerment of women farmers.

The new Innovation Lab, managed by Virginia Tech’s Office of International Research, Education, and Development, will commit its core resources to Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania in Africa and to Bangladesh, Burma, Cambodia, Nepal, and Vietnam in Asia.

The Asian arm of the program will include two main sub-programs: one focused on rice in Burma and Cambodia, and a second on horticultural crops in Cambodia, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Vietnam. The Nepal program will additionally address integrated pest management for grains and climate change impacts.

The projects in eastern Africa will focus on innovative crop protection research for increased production and preservation of high-priority Feed the Future staple crops like maize, wheat, and chickpea in Ethiopia; rice and maize in Tanzania; and high-value vegetables in Kenya and Tanzania. The program will also research and implement new strategies to control existing and emergent pest infestations in countries where farmers with limited resources are predicted to be heavily affected by climate variability.

Muniappan headshotDr. Rangaswamy (Muni) Muniappan is the Principal Investigator of the IPM Innovation Lab. As a world-renowned specialist in tropical economic entomology, biological control of insect pests and weeds, and integrated pest management, Muniappan has devoted his life’s work to improving conditions for farmers in the developing world. In his eight years at the helm of the IPM Innovation Lab, Muniappan has made considerable contributions: he initiated the development of crop-specific “packages”—easy-to-use sets of technical methods for a given crop; he developed partnerships with private sector organizations; he encouraged scaling up through the dissemination of information via a market systems approach as well as through national extension organizations and NGOs; and he actively worked to promote South-South partnerships for capacity building. His work on the papaya mealybug in India alone brought about economic benefits of well over $500 million, saving the livelihood of thousands of farmers. Not only has Muniappan contributed through program management and research, he has also served in management positions for international scientific bodies. As an honorary member of the International Organization for Biological Control (IOBC), he was instrumental in establishing the IOBC global working groups on Chromolaena in 1988 and on Parthenium in 2009. As chairman of the global working group on Chromolaena, he conducted international workshops in Africa, Asia and Australia from 1988 to 2006. Muniappan has co-written and edited two textbooks: Biological Control of Tropical Weeds Using Arthropods (2009), published by Cambridge University Press, and Arthropod Pests of Horticultural Crops in Tropical Asia (2012), by CABI . While managing the IPM Innovation Lab, Muniappan has mentored dozens of young scientists in developing countries, and continued his own research—making discoveries about invasive pests and publishing his findings. This research has made him a well-regarded scientist of international stature, called on by governments around the world to consult on invasive pests.Dr. Muniappan is an International Association for the Plant Protection Sciences (IAPPS) Governing Board Member and Region XIII Coordinator: North America.

 

Brhane image1Dr. Brhane Gebrekidan is the Africa Program Manager of the IPM Innovation Lab. He is also an IAPPS Governing Board Member and is Region V Coordinator: East Africa. Gebrekidan has over 40 years of Ethiopian, African, and global experience in agricultural research, education, technology transfer, and project management. A plant breeder, Gebrekidan has developed new varieties of sorghum and maize for different ecological zones across Ethiopia. Gebrekidan brings a wealth of experience in research, teaching, and management. He has taught courses in plant breeding, genetics, biometry, and cropping systems at the former Alemaya College of Agriculture at Addis Ababa University (now Haramaya University). He is a founding fellow, vice president, and board member of the Ethiopian Academy of Sciences. He has served as the founding editor of the Ethiopian Journal of Agricultural Sciences, as the chairman of the Agriculture Working Group of the Ethiopian Academy of Sciences, and as vice-chair of the Ethiopian Association of Agricultural Professionals. He is also vice-chair of the Professional Advisory Group of Colleges of Agriculture of Ethiopian Public Universities, and serves as an advisor to the Agricultural Transformation Agency of Ethiopia. Gebrekidan was director of the IPM CRSP from 1994 to 2002. He has also served as chief of party and senior research advisor for the USAID-funded Amhara Micro-enterprise development, Agricultural Research, Extension and Watershed Management (AMAREW) project based in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia. Gebrekidan’s other management experience includes stints as the associate program director of the International Sorghum and Millet CRSP (INTSORMIL), the Ethiopian national team leader and coordinator for sorghum and millet for International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), maize breeder and team leader for Eastern and Southern Africa under the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), and Head of the Plant Sciences Department of Alemaya College of Agriculture at Addis Ababa University. As leader of both the Ethiopian and eastern and southern Africa regional sorghum/maize programs, he has worked closely for over two decades with the Ethiopian Institute for Agricultural Research and the other national research institutes in the region. Throughout his career, Gebrekidan has devoted himself to promoting good practices and policies in maize, sorghum, and millet improvement, and agricultural development in general.

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Dr. E. A. “Short” Heinrichs is the Asia Program Manager of the IPM Innovation Lab. Heinrichs is a world-renowned specialist in rice entomology, host plant resistance to insects, and integrated pest management. He has had long experience in agricultural development programs in Asia, South America, and Africa, and has conducted collaborative research with national agricultural research systems in 36 countries. His experience with IPM is both broad and deep. He served as director of the IPM CRSP from 2002-2005, and has held IPM-related management positions with a number of international development organizations, serving as the interim coordinator of the Global IPM Facility of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), heading up the entomology department for a decade at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), and serving for six years as entomologist at the Africa Rice Center in Côte d’Ivoire. He also served as the associate director of the USAID-funded Sorghum, Millet and Other Grains Collaborative Research Support Program (the INTSORMIL CRSP) for eight years. He has consulted on IPM with international agencies, including USAID, the World Bank, and the African Development Bank. Heinrichs has published about 300 peer-reviewed scientific articles and authored or co-authored ten books, including Biology and Management of Rice Insects (in Asia), published in 1994 by Wiley, and Rice-Feeding Insects and Selected Natural Enemies in West Africa, published in 2004 by IRRI with the West Africa Rice Development Association. In the teaching and research realm, Heinrichs has taught entomology at four universities in the United States and the Philippines. He developed the IRRI Rice IPM Training Program and has worked with farmer field schools in order to spread new agricultural techniques. Where appropriate materials weren’t available, he created his own, for example, at IRRI, co-authoring IRRI training modules and then working to implement them. Heinrichs is associate director emeritus and research professor in the department of entomology at the University of Nebraska and IAPPS Secretary General, a position he has held for eleven years.

 

 

 

 

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Press Release

Virginia Tech University

Friday, December 19, 2014

Blacksburg, VA, USA

University awarded $18 million to implement integrated pest management program in developing countries
Virginia Tech has won a new $18 million, five-year grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) for a research program that will work to raise the standard of living of people around the world through environmentally sound agricultural practices as part of Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative.
The Feed the Future Innovation Lab (formerly Collaborative Research Support Program) for Integrated Pest Management will conduct research and extension activities with farmers, counterpart universities, and host-country government research institutes to implement ecologically sustainable pest and disease control strategies. The predecessor programs to this new award have been led by Virginia Tech University for the past 21 years.
USAID recently announced that Virginia Tech would once again lead the program, a move that represents a vote of confidence in the work that has been ongoing since 1993. The new program will have a strong foundation in areas such as sustainable intensification, ecological service provision, ecological research, and empowerment of women farmers.
“We’ve been forming partnerships, conducting research, and getting to know farmers all over the world for the past two decades,” said Rangaswamy “Muni” Muniappan, who has led the Innovation Lab since 2006. “Our work has shown great results, and we look forward to continuing the fight against hunger.”
The competitively-awarded program will address new and emerging pest problems that plague farmers in the developing world, as well as model and manage the spread of invasive species. Program scientists will also be investigating ways to preserve biodiversity and offset the impacts of climate change on agricultural pests and diseases.
The new Innovation Lab, managed by Virginia Tech’s Office of International Research, Education, and Development, will commit its core resources to Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania in Africa and to Bangladesh, Burma, Cambodia, Nepal, and Vietnam in Asia.
The Asian arm of the program will include two main sub-programs: one focused on rice in Burma and Cambodia, and a second on horticultural crops in Cambodia, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Vietnam. The Nepal program will additionally address integrated pest management for grains and climate change impacts.
The projects in eastern Africa will focus on innovative crop protection research for increased production and preservation of high-priority Feed the Future staple crops like maize, wheat, and chickpea in Ethiopia; rice and maize in Tanzania; and high-value vegetables in Kenya and Tanzania. The program will also research and implement new strategies to control existing and emergent pest infestations in countries where farmers with limited resources are predicted to be heavily affected by climate variability.
“This program has been working on the ground with poor farmers, making a difference in their lives, and contributing to global food security,” said Guru Ghosh, vice president for Outreach and International Affairs at Virginia Tech. “We’re pleased to have the opportunity to learn from past challenges and build on our successes.”
As in all the previous phases of the program, U.S. researchers will strengthen and forge new partnerships with international colleagues and work directly with farmers. The core tenets will remain unchanged: The program will strive to reduce pesticide use, increase food production, improve health, and make a difference in the lives of poor people in developing countries all over the world.
“A small innovation in a farmer’s life can have a huge impact on their family and on succeeding generations,” said Muniappan.

About Feed the Future
Feed the Future (www.feedthe future.gov) is the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative. With a focus on smallholder farmers, particularly women, Feed the Future supports partner countries in developing their agriculture sectors to spur economic growth and trade that increase incomes and reduce hunger, poverty and undernutrition.

About USAID
USAID is the lead U.S. Government agency that works to end extreme global poverty and enable resilient, democratic societies to realize their potential.
About Virginia Tech
Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 225 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $496 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.

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National Geographic

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/07/140708-ancient-grains-quinoa-fonio-food-africa?rptregcta=reg_free_np&rptregcampaign=20140623_t1_rw_membership_r1p_us_dr_w#

Ancient grains and “orphan crops” like fonio and amaranth have advantages for farmers and consumers

By Andrea Stone
for National Geographic
PUBLISHED JULY 8, 2014

Once as popular as corn in Mexico, amaranth was more or less forgotten for centuries before its recent revival there and in other countries. Now, the crop’s edible seeds could be “the new quinoa.”

That is, unless teff—a tiny grass seed eaten in Ethiopia for millennia—becomes “the next quinoa.”

Then again, the “next quinoa” might just be fonio, a hardy cereal that’s been grown for thousands of years in West Africa.

Ever since quinoa was rediscovered a decade ago—launching a worldwide craze for the Andean grain that sent prices soaring so high that many Bolivians are now unable to afford their own staple crop—farmers, foodies, and marketers have been hunting for other forgotten “orphan crops” with global market potential.

There’s a lot more at stake than food fads. As the global population grows, climate change eats at farm yields, and food becomes more processed and less nutritious, sustainable agriculture advocates are looking to the past for healthy ways to feed the nine billion people expected to inhabit the world by 2050. (Read “Food Ark” in National Geographic magazine.)

They’re increasingly turning to grains that have been the basis of subsistence farmers’ diets in Africa, South Asia, and Central and South America since the time of earliest agriculture. Because such grains adapted to grow on marginal land without irrigation, pesticides, or fertilizers, they are often more resilient than modern commodity crops are.

And the grains have undergone little if any genetic tinkering, which is appealing to the growing organic and non-genetically modified food markets. Another selling point: These nutrient-rich, often gluten-free grains are considered by many health experts to be “superfoods” that can help people lose weight and live longer.

Benefits for Producers, Consumers

Take fonio. As the cost of imported rice has risen, a Senegalese nonprofit group called Environmental Development Action in the Third World is trying to expand the market in sub-Saharan Africa for this drought-resistant, protein-rich cereal, the continent’s oldest.

Though cultivated for more than 5,000 years, fonio is rarely eaten by city dwellers, who prefer wheat or rice. Yet the translucent, gluten-free grain—which has been found in ancient Egyptian tombs and is considered “the seed of the universe” in Mali’s mythology—can survive drought and needs no fertilizers.

Those qualities make fonio a good crop for developing nations in West Africa and elsewhere that are dealing with the fallout from climate change, which has withered or drowned crops as extreme weather events have multiplied.

Consumers in industrialized nations have their own reasons for trying heritage grains. Millet, sorghum, wild rice, and teff contain no gluten, a big selling point at a time when wheat intolerance and celiac disease are on the rise.

Ancient wheats such as spelt (also called farro), Khorasan, einkorn, and emmer also rate lower on the glycemic index, which measures how carbohydrates raise blood glucose. They also provide more protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals than commonly available grains do.

Quinoa alone has seen a fivefold rise in consumption in the past five years, according to the Whole Grains Council, an industry group. Chia, the seeds of a Latin American herb once known mainly as a novelty item that grew “fur” on terracotta “pets,” is gaining in popularity on kitchen tables as a topper for yogurt, cereal, and salads.

Sales of amaranth are soaring as well. The seeds have plenty of calcium, iron, potassium, and magnesium, as well as protein and fiber. Yet the grain disappeared in Mexico five centuries ago, after Spanish conquistadors and the Catholic Church banned it because it was mixed with human blood in Aztec rituals.

Now, efforts are under way in Mexico, which was recently declared the world’s most obese country by the United Nations, to reintroduce the gluten-free seeds in hopes of encouraging a more healthy and sustainable diet.

Plants like amaranth are “resilient to drought, high temperatures, and disease, so they might be the crops of the future,” says Danielle Nierenberg, president of Food Tank, a think tank focused on sustainability. “It’s a case of where going forward means we need to go back.”

Nierenberg says many local, ancient grains were originally neglected by the so-called green revolution of the mid-20th century, which promoted hybrid commodity crops that “grew faster, grew bigger, and produced more yield.” With their relatively low yields, the ancient foods just couldn’t keep up.

Diversifying for Doomsday

Today, the world has more than 50,000 edible plants, yet just three commodity crops—rice, maize, and wheat—provide 60 percent of the plant-derived calories we eat. With such heavy reliance on so few foods, the consequences of crop failures due to disease, drought, floods, and other catastrophes that could be driven or exacerbated by climate change mean more food insecurity for the planet.

“This narrow food basket cannot sustain ever-growing populations,” says Stefano Padulosi of Bioversity International, a global research organization that helps smallholder farms grow and market neglected and underutilized species. “We must diversify.”

That impulse fueled the founding of Norway’s Svalbard Global Seed Vault, nicknamed the “Doomsday Seed Vault,” a repository deep inside an Arctic mountain that has set itself the ambitious mission of safeguarding seeds from every known species on Earth. (See “Doomsday Seed Vault’s New Adds: ‘Space Beer’ Barley, Brazil Beans.”)

Besides preserving common varieties, the vault has sought ancient seeds and wild crops that are particularly resilient to harsh conditions, which could come in handy in a worst-case scenario. For now, the seeds are being kept safely in the deep freeze.

Native American Rice

For North American Indians working to conserve and cultivate heirloom seeds that are closely linked to their history, identity, and health, the mission is more local but no less urgent.

Tribes in the American Midwest and Southwest are “reclaiming their own cultural resources as a way to deal with contemporary problems” like diabetes, heart disease, and obesity, says Craig Hassel, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota’s Department of Food Science and Nutrition.

He works with the Anishinaabe nations of Minnesota, which, like other native tribes, suffer from some chronic diseases that were virtually unknown before they were exposed to European foods.

In recent years, the tribes have reached out to plant scientists at the University of Minnesota to relay concerns about the threat of genetically modified varieties of manoomin, their ancient wild rice. Manoomin is integral to Anishinaabe culture; their creation story tells of prophecies that instructed the tribes to move west in search of food that grows upon the water, like rice.

In 2007, Minnesota adopted legislation mandating research and an environmental impact statement before any field release of genetically modified organisms near tribal lands.

The move was welcomed not only by native peoples but also by their artisanal-minded clients, including the Common Roots Café and the Wedge Community Coop, both in Minneapolis.

Hassel, an extension nutritionist, understands the yearning for what he calls “food sovereignty” over the food supply.

“When Western science comes in,” Hassel says, “the response almost universally among indigenous communities is, ‘How can you perfect what is already perfect?'”

Jeff Hertrick contributed to this report.

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