<body> --------------
Contact Us       Consulting       Projects       Our Goals       About Us
home » Archive »
Nature Blog Network

    The 16th European Biomass Conference & Exhibition - From Research to Industry and Markets - will be held from 2nd to 6th June 2008, at the Convention and Exhibition Centre of FeriaValencia, Spain. Early bird fee registration ends 18th April 2008. European Biomass Conference & Exhibition - February 22, 2007.

    'Obesity Facts' – a new multidisciplinary journal for research and therapy published by Karger – was launched today as the official journal of the European Association for the Study of Obesity. The journal publishes articles covering all aspects of obesity, in particular epidemiology, etiology and pathogenesis, treatment, and the prevention of adiposity. As obesity is related to many disease processes, the journal is also dedicated to all topics pertaining to comorbidity and covers psychological and sociocultural aspects as well as influences of nutrition and exercise on body weight. Obesity is one of the world's most pressing health issues, expected to affect 700 million people by 2015. AlphaGalileo - February 21, 2007.

    A bioethanol plant with a capacity of 150 thousand tons per annum is to be constructed in Kuybishev, in the Novosibirsk region. Construction is to begin in 2009 with investments into the project estimated at €200 million. A 'wet' method of production will be used to make, in addition to bioethanol, gluten, fodder yeast and carbon dioxide for industrial use. The complex was developed by the Solev consulting company. FIS: Siberia - February 19, 2007.

    Sarnia-Lambton lands a $15million federal grant for biofuel innovation at the Western Ontario Research and Development Park. The funds come on top of a $10 million provincial grant. The "Bioindustrial Innovation Centre" project competed successfully against 110 other proposals for new research money. London Free Press - February 18, 2007.

    An organisation that has established a large Pongamia pinnata plantation on barren land owned by small & marginal farmers in Andhra Pradesh, India is looking for a biogas and CHP consultant to help research the use of de-oiled cake for the production of biogas. The organisation plans to set up a biogas plant of 20,000 cubic meter capacity and wants to use it for power generation. Contact us - February 15, 2007.

    The Andersons, Inc. and Marathon Oil Corporation today jointly announced ethanol production has begun at their 110-million gallon ethanol plant located in Greenville, Ohio. Along with the 110 million gallons of ethanol, the plant annually will produce 350,000 tons of distillers dried grains, an animal feed ingredient. Marathon Oil - February 14, 2007.

    Austrian bioenergy group Cycleenergy acquired controlling interest in Greenpower Projektentwicklungs GmbH, expanding its biomass operational portfolio by 16 MW to a total of 22 MW. In the transaction Cycleenergy took over 51% of the company and thereby formed a joint venture with Porr Infrastruktur GmbH, a subsidiary of Austrian construction company Porr AG. Greenpower operates two wood chip CHP facilities in Upper and Lower Austria, each with an electric capacity of 2 MW. The plants have been in operation since the middle of last year and consume more than 30,000 tonnes of wood chips and are expected to generate over €5 million in additional revenue. Cycleenergy - February 6, 2007.

    The 2008 edition of Bioenergy World Europe will take place in Verona, Italy, from 7 to 10 February. Gathering a broad range of international exhibitors covering gaseous, liquid and solid bioenergy, the event aims to offer participants the possibility of developing their business through meetings with professionals, thematic study tours and an international forum focusing on market and regulatory issues, as well as industry expertise. Bioenergy World Europe - February 5, 2007.

    The World GTL Summit will take place between 12 – 14th May 2008 in London. Key topics to be discussed include: the true value of Gas-to-Liquids (GTL) projects, well-to-wheels analyses of the GTL value chain; construction, logistics and procurement challenges; the future for small-scale Fischer-Tropsch (FT) projects; Technology, economics, politics and logistics of Coal-to-Liquids (CTL); latest Biomass-to-Liquids (BTL) commercialisation initiatives. CWC Exhibitions - February 4, 2007.

    The 4th Annual Brussels Climate Change Conference is announced for 26 - 27 February 2008. This joint CEPS/Epsilon conference will explore the key issues for a post-Kyoto agreement on climate change. The conference focuses on EU and global issues relating to global warming, and in particular looks at the following issues: - Post-2012 after Bali and before the Hokkaido G8 summit; Progress of EU integrated energy and climate package, burden-sharing renewables and technology; EU Emissions Trading Review with a focus on investment; Transport Climatepolicy.eu - January 28, 2007.

    Japan's Marubeni Corp. plans to begin importing a bioethanol compound from Brazil for use in biogasoline sold by petroleum wholesalers in Japan. The trading firm will import ETBE, which is synthesized from petroleum products and ethanol derived from sugar cane. The compound will be purchased from Brazilian petrochemical company Companhia Petroquimica do Sul and in February, Marubeni will supply 6,500 kilolitres of the ETBE, worth around US$7 million, to a biogasoline group made up of petroleum wholesalers. Wholesalers have been introducing biofuels since last April by mixing 7 per cent ETBE into gasoline. Plans call for 840 million liters of ETBE to be procured annually from domestic and foreign suppliers by 2010. Trading Markets - January 24, 2007.

    Toyota Tsusho Corp., Ohta Oil Mill Co. and Toyota Chemical Engineering Co., say it and two other firms have jointly developed a technology to produce biodiesel fuel at lower cost. Biodiesel is made by blending methanol into plant-derived oil. The new technology requires smaller amounts of methanol and alkali catalysts than conventional technologies. In addition, the new technology makes water removal facilities unnecessary. JCN Network - January 22, 2007.

    Finland's Metso Paper and SWISS COMBI - W. Kunz dryTec A.G. have entered a licence agreement for the SWISS COMBI belt dryer KUVO, which allows biomass to be dried in a low temperature environment and at high capacity, both for pulp & paper and bioenergy applications. Kauppalehti - January 22, 2007.

Creative Commons License

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Major scientific push to tackle agricultural productivity and food security in developing world

According to scientific projections, the planet has a very large sustainable bioenergy potential, estimated to be around 1550 Exajoules per annum by 2050 (the world's total current energy consumption from all sources - coal, oil, gas, nuclear, renewables - is approximately 450Ej). Theoretically, this much bioenergy can be produced after meeting all food, feed, fiber and forest products needs for growing populations and without deforestation (previous post). But this massive potential can only be tapped on the condition that agriculture in the developing world - where most of it can be found - improves by adopting modern farming techniques. If advanced findings from biotechnology are introduced, the sustainable bioenergy potential is projected to be even larger.

In this context, it is noteworthy that an important new scientific push to tackle agricultural productivity in the South is being launched today by the UK's Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Department for International Development (DFID). £7 million (€9.2/US$13.7 million) is being invested in new research to tackle some of the most damaging and widespread pests, diseases and harsh environmental conditions which can devastate crop yields across the developing world.

Three out of four poor people in developing countries live in rural areas on less than a dollar a day. Most depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. Increasing agricultural productivity will thus benefit millions through higher incomes, more and cheaper food, and more jobs in both rural and urban areas.

The BBSRC and the DFID are unveiling 12 new projects as part of their flagship initiative - Sustainable Agriculture Research for International Development (SARID) - to harness the UK's bioscience research base to address the challenges of agriculture and food security in developing countries.

The new projects will look at how a variety of crops - from maize to coconuts, rice to bananas - respond at a molecular level to hostile factors including attack by pests and diseases as well as inclement conditions. Their findings will offer new and exciting opportunities to develop crops better able to survive and thrive in their changing environments. Such advances in crop science could revolutionise the way farmers are able to farm across the developing world and have a significant impact on reducing poverty.

The following 12 projects [*.pdf] receive funding for the next four years:

Saving staple foods from witchweed attack - Rothamsted Research, UK, and International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology, Kenya: Maize is the staple food for half of the population of sub-Saharan Africa, but unfortunately it is also susceptible to damage from pests and parasitic weeds, which can result in total yield loss. Parasitic witchweed is a major culprit.

Researchers from the UK and Kenya are looking at new ways of tackling witchweed. Research has shown that when desmodium, a nitrogen-rich legume, is grown amongst maize, it can increase yields from less than one tonne per hectare to over five tonnes by preventing witchweed from growing.

Halting armyworm rampage with biological pesticide - University of Lancaster; Natural Resources Institute, Greenwich UK; Laurentian University, Canada; and Sokoine University of Agriculture, Tanzania: Like locusts, the African armyworm is a major migratory insect pest in Africa. Eggs laid by African armyworm moths hatch into extremely dense swarms of caterpillars which feed voraciously on cereal crops. Up to 70% of farmers across Africa suffer from crop damage and loss caused by armyworms.

Outbreaks occur in most years and spread across much of Africa. Currently the only way to control these outbreaks is by spraying with chemical insecticides, but these are too expensive for most farmers and can damage the environment.

Using a radical new solution, researchers will investigate the use of a naturally occurring virus in armyworms - armyworm nucleopolyhedrovirus (NPV). NPV is a highly specific virus, harmless to humans and other wildlife, but in most years the virus appears too late to prevent armyworms from causing serious crop damage:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Rice security for billions of people - National Institute of Agricultural Botany, UK; and International Rice Research Institute, Philippines: Rice is the staple food for over two billion people, but lack of water and disease limit its production across the developing world. There is an urgent need for new breeds of rice that can cope with changing climate conditions and to improve yield to feed growing populations. It is an issue central to future global food security.

Researchers will look at the genetic make up of rice as well as its genetic expression to identify genes which may be crucial in developing new types of rice resilient to climate change and diseases.

Improving food security for 500 million people with Pearl Millet - Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research, UK; International Crops Research Institute for the Semi Arid Tropics, All India Coordinated RP on Pearl Millet, India; and University of Cape Coast, Ghana: Pearl millet can produce grain and fodder under hot, dry conditions in infertile soils where other crops fail completely. It provides food security to over 500 million people predominantly in Africa and Asia. Although compared to other cereals, pearl millet is better adapted to cope without much water, low and unpredictable rainfall severely reduces its yield stability.

Improving pearl millet’s genetic tolerance to drought offers a sustainable route to alleviating this problem. Scientists will look at genes and gene behaviour in different conditions to develop tools to simplify and increase the precision of breeding for increased drought tolerance in pearl millet.

Breeding tolerant coconuts - University of Nottingham UK; and Oil Palm Research Institute, Ghana: Lethal-yellowing diseases caused by phytoplasma bacteria have devastated plantations in tropical regions of Africa, causing severe economic hardship and environmental damage.

Coconut breeders have identified some palm varieties which show resistance or tolerance to the diseases. Researchers will study these coconuts and exploit their resistance to produce improved varieties for future plantations. They will examine how phytoplasmas are transmitted between coconuts and to look more closely at the molecular and genetic basis of disease resistance and tolerance in coconuts.

This information will then be used in breeding programmes and replanting programmes to minimise the risk of future coconut harvests being destroyed by disease.

Kale and Cabbages to beat Black Rot - University of Warwick, Central Science Laboratory, UK; and CABI and KARI, Kenya: Kale and cabbage are two of the most important vegetables for the local economy in Kenya and other East African countries, but often, entire harvests are wiped out by Black Rot - a seed-borne disease which penetrates the leaves and causes spreading yellow lesions. Affected leaves drop prematurely and the plants can die.

Researchers are joining forces to provide a sustainable solution to the black-rot problem. They are looking to discover the genes necessary to breed kale, cabbages and other brassicas with resistance to Black Rot. Currently little is known about this type of resistance.

Putting more sweet potato on the table in Africa - Natural Resources Institute, University of Cambridge, and Central Science Laboratory, UK; The International Potato Centre, Peru; Makerere University, and National Agricultural Research Organisation, Uganda: Producing crops by cuttings or other means of vegetative propagation is common for many tropical staple foods including sweet potato. In sub-Saharan Africa, about half of all plant derived calories are grown in this way.

The use of cuttings gives such crops a head start over ones grown from small seeds but the downside is that viruses are often transferred within the cuttings. In developed countries, certified virus-free schemes protect commercial planting materials but these schemes are not financially or logistically viable for staple crops and farming systems in developing countries.

Some local varieties of sweet potato have been found to be highly resistant to a broad range of viruses. Researchers will study this resistance further, seek markers for the responsible genes and use this knowledge to speed up breeding virus resistant crops, particularly orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, as they contain pro-vitamin A to combat blindness in African children.

Fighting nematode worms with fungus - Rothamsted Research, UK; and University of Nairobi, Kenya: Root-knot nematodes are microscopic worms that feed on plant roots, stunting their growth and causing yield losses of US$70 billion each year. Researchers are harnessing a natural soil fungus to destroy the worms’ eggs reducing damage to crops.

Nematodes destroy a wide range of crops worldwide, particularly those growing in tropical soils. In sub-Saharan Africa the devastation caused by nematode worms is set to worsen as a result of climate change. Scientists from Rothamsted Research have been working with the naturally occurring soil fungus Pochonia chlamydosporia, which kills the eggs of nematodes. This fungus has been registered as a bio control agent. But in order to maximise the nematodedestroying potential of this fungus the researchers are now looking at how to create optimal soil conditions for it.

Reducing arsenic levels in rice - University of Aberdeen, UK; and University of Calcutta, India: Arsenic contamination of rice paddies is a major problem across South East Asia. It is caused by irrigation with arsenic contaminated groundwater, pollution resulting from base and precious metal mining and the use of municipal solid waste as fertilizer.

Arsenic is a chronic carcinogen. In Bangladesh alone there has been a three-fold increase of inorganic arsenic in rice. As a result, across the South East Asian region people are being exposed to dangerous levels of inorganic arsenic in their diet.

Preliminary experiments have identified genetic variation rice that affects the amount of arsenic that can accumulate. Researchers will look at types of rice which have lower takeup levels of inorganic arsenic to unravel the genetic basis for this. Field experiments will be carried out in India, Bangladesh and China on arsenic contaminated soils with the ultimate aim of breeding genes for local rice which will have lower uptake levels of inorganic arsenic for use in areas with high arsenic in the soil.

More bananas for Africa - University of Leeds, UK; and International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Uganda: Nearly one third of the sub-Saharan African population is severely undernourished. Plantain and other types of cooking banana provide 27% of the daily calorie intake of Ugandans and many people in several African countries. But up to 70% of plantains are often damaged or destroyed by nematode worms, which feed on the roots of plantains.

To stop the devastating impact of nematode worms, breeding plantains resistant to the worms is vital. Plantains are sterile crops that produce no seeds, this hampers their improvement by conventional plant breeding but not by plant biotechnology. Creating the new biosafe plants will build on previous work carried out in both the UK and Uganda. A major part of the project is ensuring the new resistant plantains can be produced in Africa and made widely available to subsistence growers to improve their yield and ultimately the dietary intake of millions.

Defeating the witchweed famine threat - University of Sheffield, National Institute of Agricultural Botany, UK; International Crops Research Institute for the Semi Arid Tropics, India; and African Rice Centre, Senegal: Many important subsistence crops, relied on by billions of people, are at risk of attack from a noxious parasitic plant - witchweed. Over 40% of the cereal-producing areas of sub-Saharan Africa are infested with the parasite and the livelihoods of some of the world’s poorest farmers are threatened. Researchers will try to find ways to produce crops resistant to witchweed.

Currently, the most commonly used strategies to reduce the impact of witchweed are hand weeding, improving soil fertility and growing some crops which are not attacked by the parasite, but these methods are costly and largely ineffective.

Producing crops resistant to witchweed would improve the stability of food supply for people who rely on crops such as sorghum, maize, millet and rice. Researchers from the University of Sheffield have already identified some rice varieties that are resistant to attack by witchweed. The next step for the international team is to identify what makes these varieties resistant and which genes play a role. Once this is known, they will look for similar genes in other cereals and explore the possibility of breeding cereals with increased resistance to witchweed.

Eradicating a new strain of wheat disease that threatens African crops - John Innes Centre, UK; and University of Free State, South Africa: A new strain of stem rust, a major fungal disease of wheat, has emerged in East Africa. With the ability to spread thousands of miles and the potential to wipe out 40-70% of wheat yields an outbreak has already caused a painful spike in wheat prices in the region. Scientists are now working together to identify genetic resistance to the disease and protect vital crops.

In the past, stem rust was effectively controlled using cultivated wheat resistant to the disease. However, in 1999 a new virulent strain of stem rust emerged in Uganda - Ug99 - infecting many previously resistant wheat cultivars. Ug99 presents a new threat across the developing world, not least because of its ability to spread thousands of miles. Most farmers cannot afford to use expensive fungicides to control the disease so breeding new resistant varieties of wheat is crucial.

Scientists will spend the next four years looking at the genetic make up of over 300 types of African wheat varieties for resistance to both stem rust and a related fungal disease, stripe rust. DNA markers will be used to define the extent of the variation between these different varieties. One wheat of particular interest to the scientists is Cappelle Desprez, an old European variety which has so far proved resistant to stripe rust in both Europe and South Africa.

A genetic mapping study will look specifically at this wheat to identify the genes
contributing to the resistance.

Investing in science and research is essential to provide poor farmers with the seeds, knowledge and tools they need to make a better life for themselves. This research, bringing together UK, African and Asian scientists, has the potential to revolutionise farming in the developing world and reduce global poverty. The UK is delighted to support this initiative. - Gareth Thomas, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for International Development and Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform
Bioscience research can make a vital contribution to improving sustainable agriculture across the globe. These projects will build on the world-leading research on fundamental plant science and plant disease in the UK and apply this to crops of importance in the developing world, increasing yields and helping to alleviate the suffering of millions living in poverty. - BBSRC Interim Chief Executive, Steve Visscher
All of the projects unveiled today involve unique partnerships between UK scientists and researchers from institutions in Africa, Asia and elsewhere.

BBSRC and DFID announced the SARID initiative in 2006 to foster high-quality research that will contribute to achieving the Millennium Development Goals for combating the eight major problems faced by the developing world including poverty and starvation.

The research announced today is the first from this initiative. A second grant round, focussing on animal health will be announced later in 2008.

Picture: the African armyworm is a major migratory insect pest in Africa. Eggs laid by African armyworm moths hatch into extremely dense swarms of caterpillars which feed voraciously on cereal crops. Up to 70% of farmers across Africa suffer from crop damage and loss caused by armyworms. New research funded by SARID will help tackle this pest. Credit: BBSRC.

Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council: Major scientific push to tackle agricultural productivity and food security in developing world - 21 February 2008

BBSRC and DFID: Improving agricultural productivity and food security in developing countries [*.pdf] - February 21, 2008.

Biopact: FAO unveils important bioenergy assessment tool to ensure food security, shows global biofuels potential - February 11, 2008


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home