UK Aid and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation join to support research to protect crops from pests and disease and increase climate-resilience
Visit between Bill Gates and DFID head Alok Sharma featured demonstration of MARPLE mobile rust-testing lab
New £38 million funding from the Department for International Development (DFID, or UK aid), with additional funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will allow scientists to research cutting-edge technology to protect crops from pests and diseases and produce new varieties that are climate-resilient.
The joint funding, which was announced on Monday October 7, will directly contribute to securing global food security against pest and disease threats, climate change and natural resource scarcity. It will also reduce poverty in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia by improving agricultural productivity of smallholder farmers.
The partnership will support biotechnologies to enable crops to convert sunlight and carbon dioxide more efficiently to promote higher yields, tools and methods to reduce the impact of root crop diseases in West Africa, and work to harness naturally occurring biological nitrogen fixation processes to improve crops’ nitrogen uptake and increase yields while reducing fertilizer use among smallholder farmers in Africa.
At a visit to the Sainsbury Lab at the University of Cambridge on Monday, UK International Development Secretary Alok Sharma and Bill Gates participated in a demonstration of Mobile and Real-time PLant disEase) (MARPLE) Diagnostics, a mobile rust-testing lab developed by the John Innes Centre, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), and the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research. The suitcase sized mobile lab can identify strains of wheat rust disease in just 48 hours – a process that normally takes months.
Early last year DFID also announced funding for CGIAR to help scientists identify specific genes in crops related to improved nutrition, faster growth and disease and climate-resilience. Their work will help up to 100 million African farmers and their families lift themselves out of poverty.
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