Mystery cotton disease in Tanzania, climate change in Kent and other latest news from NRI in the February edition of our monthly update

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Welcome to the 10th edition of The Resource giving you the latest news from the Institute. For a full list please visit our website at

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Mystery disease threatens cotton crops in Tanzania

Mystery disease threatens cotton in Tanzania

The main cotton growing area in Tanzania has recently been affected by what appears to be a new disease, afflicting most of the crop in that area. Temporarily named 'Premature Defoliation Syndrome' (PDS), the disease causes leaf distortion, where the leaves become red in colour and are prematurely shed. PDS can cause 100% loss of marketable yield. Dr Rory Hillocks of NRI is working with the Tanzania Gatsby Trust (TGT) as a consultant to support efforts to understand this new problem. Cotton is one of Tanzania's most important exports and reputedly 14 million people, 40% of the workforce, derive at least part of their income from cotton growing, marketing and processing.

Surviving climate change in Kent: forthcoming climate change lecture 

Agriculture in the 'Garden of England' may be dramatically different in the decades to come, but with the right planning, farmers will be able to adapt to the challenges of climate change. Professor Chris Atkinson will be speaking at a special public event to mark Climate Week on Wednesday 6th March. Chris will explain how with help, farmers can adapt to identify alternative food crops that suit the new climate, for example, apricots, vines and melons. These may replace the apple orchards which have been such a feature of the Kentish landscape.

Greater levels of support in capacity strengthening needed

NRI have recently presented their findings of a systematic review on the impact of capacity strengthening of agricultural research for development in developing countries. The review identified many guiding principles for success based on the lessons learned and expert judgements that were found in the literature. The most effective are thought to be long-term, holistic approaches identified by the beneficiaries themselves that address the needs and weaknesses in national agricultural research systems.

A perennial fruit tree orchard during winter dormancy

New paper examines how a decline in UK winter chill will affect crops

A new paper co-authored by Chris Atkinson examines the impact of declining winter chill on the production of perennial crops in the northern hemisphere. Winter chilling is a measure of the requirement for a period of cool temperatures during dormancy, below a threshold temperature, to induce budding, flowering and setting fruit. Developing our understanding of winter chill is vital if production systems and approaches to intensify agriculture are going to deliver more food in a warming world.

PhD student Mr Aliyu Turaki at NRI examines yam plant leaves for virus symptoms

Poor farming communities to benefit from new research into yam viruses

NRI has received a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support research that aims to detect damaging viruses, which can reduce the yield of valuable yam crops of smallholder farming communities in West Africa and other parts of the developing world. NRI researchers aim to develop a cheap and reliable testing system, which can be used to select virus-free yam tubers for smallholder farmers.

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Lady roasting gari from yellow cassava, and researcher Aurelie Bechoff recording temperature

Cassava to help combat Vitamin A deficiency

Vitamin A deficiency is a major public health issue in sub-Saharan Africa. NRI is working with HarvestPlus to understand the factors influencing the level of retention of provitamin A during the processing of yellow cassava 'Gari'. Gari is the most commonly consumed traditional cassava product in Nigeria. If successful, this project will help understand the impact that yellow cassava could have on the nutrition of millions of Nigerians.

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Forthcoming events: 
Job opportunities at NRI: 
  • No vacancies at present
Latest publications from NRI:

Marr, A and Tubaro, P (2013) The microfinance wholesale lending market: a comparative study of India, Peru and Tanzania. International Journal of Economics and Business Research, 5 (1). pp. 33-54. 

Mdangi, M.Mulungu, L.S.Massawe, A.W.Eiseb, S.J.Tutjavi, V.Kirsten, F.Mahlaba, T.Malebane, P.von Maltitz, E.,Monadjem, A.Dlamini, N.Makundi, R.H. and Belmain, S.R. (2013) Assessment of rodent damage to stored maize (Zea mays L.) on smallholder farms in Tanzania. International Journal of Pest Management. (in press)

Read more for a full list of our latest publications.

Copyright © 2013 Natural Resources Institute, All rights reserved.
The Resource #10: 25/02/2013

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