“Carrying out superficial repairs to our existing food systems will no longer suffice. We need disruptive change within and across today’s varied and complex food systems. To be sustainable, food system policy choices must focus on environmental as well as nutritional and health consequences.” This was the stark warning from experts at the 44th Session of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS44) in October 2017.
That this disruptive change needs to include agricultural biodiversity was the central message in Bioversity International’s flagship book published this year. Mainstreaming Agrobiodiversity in Sustainable Food Systems: Scientific Foundations for an Agrobiodiversity Index presents the most recent scientific evidence on how to use agricultural biodiversity in diets and in production systems to help achieve sustainable food systems.
In Bioversity International's 2017 Annual Report, we celebrate our science, our partners, and how #agrobiodiversity nourishes people and sustains the planet @JMartonLefevre @AnnTutwiler @BioversityInt
Agricultural biodiversity is the variety and variability of animals, plants and micro-organisms that are used directly or indirectly for food and agriculture.
Bioversity International's vision is that agricultural biodiversity nourishes people and sustains the planet. Our mission is to deliver scientific evidence, management practices and policy options to use and safeguard agricultural and tree biodiversity to attain sustainable global food and nutrition security. Below are some research highlights from 2017 linked to our four strategic objectives which are to diversify diets, production systems, seeds and planting material, and to safeguard agricultural biodiversity.
In the research highlights section of the Annual Report, you will find ten stories based on scientific papers produced by Bioversity International scientists working with partners.
These highlights represent just a small selection of the 169 papers produced in 2017.
Bioversity International works with partners around the world including a wide range of funders and research partners who share our vision and mission to deliver scientific evidence, management practices and policy options to use and safeguard agricultural and tree biodiversity to attain sustainable global food and nutrition security.
Bioversity International is proud to be a CGIAR Research Centre. We participate in six CGIAR Research Programs and two Platforms supported by CGIAR Trust Fund members in close collaboration with the other 14 CGIAR Centres and hundreds of partner organizations, including national and regional research institutes, civil society organizations, academia and the private sector.
We thank all of our partners for their critical and continued support.
Mobilizing funds for international agricultural research remains challenging. Nonetheless, Bioversity International’s overall revenue from bilateral grants has grown by 21% since 2012 – the highest level of bilateral funding ever! We thank all of our funders for their critical and continued support.
In 2017, our relationships with the governments of Belgium, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Peru and Switzerland were further strengthened. Our partnerships with multilateral organizations keen to mainstream agrobiodiversity in sustainable food systems such as the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), European Commission (EC), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and UN Environment and the Global Environment Facility have also been strengthened, as has our support from foundations. These commitments are complemented by many other supporters of our work who are listed in this report.
We would also like to highlight important additional in-kind contributions of facilities and experts from Belgium’s Katholieke Universiteit of Leuven and the governments of China, Germany, India, and Italy among others. We estimate the value of in-kind contributions amounted to at least $5 million in 2017.
For more information, download our 2017 Financial Statements
Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias
M. Ann Tutwiler
Douglas van den Aardweg
Bioversity International created a UK registered charity (no. 1131854) in October 2008 to increase awareness and support for its research agenda and activities. Bioversity International UK is governed by an independent Board of Trustees.
M. Ann Tutwiler
Bioversity International USA, Inc aims to engage and inspire a wide range of partners and donors to ensure that agricultural biodiversity nourishes people and sustains the planet. It is led by a committed and highly regarded Board of Trustees:
M. Ann Tutwiler
Writing: Arwen Bailey, Jeremy Cherfas, Samantha Collins, Mirna Franic, Marta Millere, with contributions from many of our scientists
Contributors: Nora Capozio, Oonagh Darby, Maria Garruccio, Karen Harmann, Annie Huie, Allison Poulos
Design: Pablo Gallo
Web Editor: Carol Blay
Project Manager: Samantha Collins
For close to two decades, Xanthomonas wilt has devastated banana production across East Africa. Previous recommendations for control were often reported as labour intensive and tedious, with many smallholder farmers reluctant to adopt them. But that is changing thanks to an easier, cheaper option developed by Bioversity International and partners which is helping to restore banana productivity to smallholder farm families in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and across east and central Africa.
Xanthomonas wilt of banana (BXW) is a bacterial disease that destroys bananas. Flying insects, infected tools and planting material easily spread the disease, and in some places it infected the majority of farms within the first year of its arrival. Because banana is the foundation of food and economic security for smallholder farmers in the east and central African region, controlling the disease is of utmost importance.
When BXW first surfaced, the advice was complete mat uprooting – advice copied from control efforts in Asia and Latin America on similar bacterial diseases. A single banana plant develops lateral shoots which together form a mat. All the suckers in a mat are physically interconnected, so it seemed obvious that to remove the disease, even if only one stem in a mat is infected, you need to remove the entire mat.That requires a lot of hard work, especially for large mats on subsistence farms and despite advice to the contrary, many hard-pressed farmers removed just the diseased stems. Often, new stems from the same mat seemed to be free of the disease.
That prompted research by Bioversity International scientists in Uganda to look more closely at bacterial movements within a mat, particularly at new developing stems in diseased mats. Fewer than a quarter of stems attached to a visibly diseased plant developed symptoms of disease. When the researchers looked more closely, they also discovered that although stems might contain the bacteria that causes BXW, they did not always develop the disease and could go on to produce healthy bunches of bananas, hence latent infections occur.
And that led to a new idea: would it be possible to control Xanthomonas wilt by removing only visibly diseased stems?
To find out, the researchers picked out five study sites in South Kivu and three in North Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the disease was omnipresent. One of these, Katana Centre in South Kivu, is a worst-case scenario. The disease arrived in 2011, and by January 2013 had infected 80% of the mats. Desperate farmers had already cut down all the banana stems, though they had not yet removed the root systems. Worse, they had done so without disinfecting their machetes between each stem, thus risking spreading the disease to uninfected mats/plants.
Starting in February 2013 and working with local village-level agronomists, the researchers began to try single diseased stem removal (SDSR) on 600 mats at a heavily affected farm. Each week, any diseased stem was cut out at ground level. The growing point of the stem was scooped out with a machete to prevent any regrowth of vegetative stage plants. Knives and other tools were carefully sterilised in a fire after all diseased stems had been cut, and the diseased stems were left intact rather than cut into pieces, which is what farmers usually do, again to reduce the presence and availability of bacterial ooze. In addition, farmers were instructed to use a forked stick to break off the male bud as soon as the final hand of fruit had formed to avoid transmission of the bacteria by insects attracted to the male flowers. SDSR was also tested in the other seven pilot sites.
The results were very encouraging. At Katana centre, incidence of diseased stems dropped rapidly, from above 80% to below 2% in less than three months. New stems sometimes contained the Xanthomonas bacteria, but often did not show symptoms. About 21 months after the start of the trial there were 700 healthy bunches of fruit, more than 1 per mat. Selling these brought the owner of the farm around US$2333. SDSR saved restored banana production in the worst case scenario, and was just as effective at the other 7 pilot sites.
One of the good things about SDSR is that it allows a motivated farmer, in highland production regions, to manage the disease on his or her own plot, without having to rely on a coordinated community approach. It can, however, lead to friction between men and women. Banana farmers in the highland production systems of eastern DR Congo generally grow annual crops, such as beans and leafy greens, intercropped with the bananas. These annual crops are tended by women, while men tend the perennials like bananas and cassava. SDSR can damage the annual crops if carried out carelessly, for example, a large, cut pseudostem could fall on annual crops and damage them. There is also often a labour shortage for applying SDSR techniques in the early stages of the annual cropping season.
These problems are not, however, insurmountable. Extension agents working with the farmers advise them to cut all the visibly diseased stems before the annual planting season. If any have to be removed later, do so in stages (i.e. use multiple cuts to remove a plant), so as not to damage the annual crops. There are also techniques such as leaf bending that allow farmers to allow more sunlight on the annual crops – without risking new infections through cutting tools use.
The success of the trials has encouraged the researchers to recommend SDSR as a novel technology to add to options for BXW control.
“Complete mat uprooting is probably better for market-oriented farms that aim to eradicate the disease,” said Guy Blomme, who led the research team. “SDSR, tailored for particular social and economic needs is better for smallholder subsistence farmers. And that is a lot of farmers in East and Central Africa.”
'A control package revolving around the removal of single diseased banana stems is effective for the restoration of Xanthomonas wilt infected fields'
This paper was co-authored by Bioversity International scientists Guy Blomme, Walter Ocimati, Charles Sivirihauma, Lusenge Vutseme, Bumba Mariamu, Muller Kamira, Boudy van Schagen with partners from the Institutional Learning and Change Initiative.
Citation: Blomme, G.; Ocimati, W.; Sivirihauma, C.; Vutseme, L.; Mariamu, B.; Kamira, M.; van Schagen, B.; Ekboir, J.; Ntamwira, J. (2017) A control package revolving around the removal of single diseased banana stems is effective for the restoration of Xanthomonas wilt infected fields. European Journal of Plant Pathology 149(2). p.385-400. ISSN: 0929-1873; http://hdl.handle.net/10568/82867
A better option to manage #Xanthomonas wilt of #banana – a study in #DRC shows that single diseased stem removal is effective & popular with farmers @BioversityInt @RTB_CGIAR
The success of single diseased stem removal in #banana trials has encouraged researchers to recommend it as a valuable addition to options for #Xanthomonas wilt control
This work was supported by the Directorate General for Development, Belgium and is part of the Consortium for Improving Agriculture-based Livelihoods in Central Africa (CIALCA) project. The study was carried out in partnership with the Institut National pour l’Etude de la Recherche Agronomiques and the Université Catholique du Graben, DRC.
This research is part of the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB) and is supported by CGIAR Trust Fund Donors.