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Conference - Towards sustainable agriculture for developing countries: options from life sciences and biotechnologies
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How can life sciences contribute to a reduction in the use of pesticides?

Peanuts: Identifying sources of disease and pest resistance

The cultivated peanut (Arachis hypogaea) is the most widely grown grain legume in the world, thanks to its high protein and unsaturated oil contents. It is grown extensively in Latin America, where it originated, but is subject to attacks from various pests and diseases, necessitating substantial pesticide use.

The European Commission-funded project (INCO programme) aims to identify wild Arachis species resistant to the most damaging fungal diseases and root knot nematodes in Latin America. The project also involves developing tools and knowledge for the use of wild Arachis germ plasm in breeding to create disease and pest-resistant peanut cultivars.

The project – ‘The identification of resistances to biotic stress in wild Arachis germ plasm, and the development of tools for breeding by genetic mapping and comparative genomics’– combines the forces of South American and European researchers in an effort to provide technologies for sustainable crop production.

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Element graphique For a fuller description of this project click here for PDF (135Kb)
For more information, email: Gerasimos Apostolatos at Research DG
Website
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Pest management: Picking a safer path for cotton production

IPM in ChinaCotton is the main commercial crop in many Asian countries, with India, China and Pakistan responsible for between 50-60% of world production annually.

Although extremely valuable to the local economy, cotton is prone to a range of pest problems that, until recently, were only ever treated through the heavy use of pesticides, causing long-term damage to both the environment and human health. A joint Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and European Commission (EC) project is teaching farmers integrated pest management (IPM) strategies that draw them away from such a reliance on pesticides.

The aim of the project – ‘Integrated Pest Management for Cotton in Asia’ – is to introduce sustainable, profitable and environmentally sound practices to cotton production. The FAO is implementing the project with €12 million of funding from the EC.

Education is the bedrock of the four-year programme of activities. By the time work finishes in 2004, thousands of farmers will have been trained to reduce the use of pesticides while maintaining crop yields.

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Element graphique For a fuller description of this project click here for PDF (135Kb)
For more information, email: Michael Dale at EuropeAid
Website
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Coffee plants: Breeding resistance to nematode attack

Arabica coffee production in Latin America represents about 84% of the world harvest. It is mainly grown on small and medium-sized farms, creating an important source of employment for rural populations, and therefore contributes significantly to the sustainable economic and social development of these countries.

The root-knot nematodes are the most serious pest facing coffee production. Growers in some infested areas have to apply nematicides up to four times a year and often suffer serious yield losses. The nematicides used to control them are very harmful to human health and the environment.

With European funding, a consortium of eight research institutions from European and coffee-growing countries in Latin America are working together to create varieties of coffee that have durable resistance to nematodes, adapted to the different growing areas.

The project has a multidisciplinary approach, and is called, 'Breeding tools for durable resistance to root-knot nematodes of coffee varieties in Latin America'.

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Element graphique For a fuller description of this project click here for PDF (135Kb)
For more information, email: Gerasimos Apostolatos at Research DG
Website
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Biotech: Novel pest-resistant genes – a family affair

Improving the resistance of crops to diseases caused by viruses, fungi and nematodes is a major priority for agriculture. Current protection strategies based on extensive use of chemicals are considered untenable for sustainable agriculture due to negative impacts on the environment. Genetic engineering is a promising technique to successfully overcome these problems by improving the natural resistance of plants. However, the levels of protection achieved are not yet sufficient for commercial use.

A project funded by the European Commission (INCO programme) aims to investigate resistant wild Solanum species and to identify novel resistance-mediating proteins and genes, useful for creating resistant transgenic crop plants.

The project, entitled 'Resistant wild potatoes as a source for novel genes mediating resistance against fungal, viral and nematode diseases', utilises the potato plant and its relatives (Solanum sp.) as a model.

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Element graphique For a fuller description of this project click here for PDF (135Kb)
For more information, email: Gerasimos Apostolatos at Research DG
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