A tale of two CGIAR centres’ media presence

by Luigi Guarino on April 15, 2014

It’s a bit of a cheat, but bear with me for a minute and have a look at a couple of quotes from recent articles in the mainstream media. The first one is from the NY Times. Don’t look at the original piece until you’ve read both quotes:

Drought-resistant X is now providing a better livelihood for some 20 million people. The organization aims to double that reach by the end of next year. The drought-tolerant varieties do as well as or better than traditional X when the rains are good, and when they are bad they will save a farmer from ruin.

And here’s something which came out in The Guardian the day before the previous piece:

The … drought-tolerant varieties developed by Y require a high amount of input of chemical fertiliser and pesticides that are not affordable by the majority of poor farmers. Methods like … organic farming are attractive because they are available and affordable and give a better net income.

Just your normal, fundamental disagreement about what works, and what doesn’t, in agricultural development? Well, maybe. But X in the first quote is CIMMYT’s maize in Africa, and Y in the second quote is IRRI’s rice in the Philippines, so there could be other things at work too. Maize is not rice. Africa is not Asia. And, just maybe, CIMMYT’s media relations are not IRRI’s.

That last possibility only really came to mind because of another recent piece, this one from USAID’s Frontlines newletter:

In partnership with international research institutes and with support from USAID, the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute developed flood- and saline-tolerant varieties of rice that produce higher yields. Rice plants grown using these improved seeds can survive between 12 and 14 days when completely submerged underwater, compared with traditional rice varieties that can only endure three or four days of submersion. For the most vulnerable country in the world to cyclones and sixth-most prone to flooding, these appear to be the perfect seeds to plant.

Now, when I read that, I assumed that one of those “international research institutes” must be IRRI, but that is not specified anywhere in the article. Discrete enquiries with people who should know revealed that IRRI’s Stress-Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia (STRASA) team was indeed closely involved in this work. STRASA has contributed directly to the release of 7 salt-tolerant varieties in Bangladesh and 4 submergence tolerant varieties (BR11-Sub1, Swarna-Sub1, Ciherang-Sub1 and IR64-Sub1), with additional breeding lines combining both traits in the pipeline.

Why would USAID not mention that? Why is IRRI’s message not getting across?

{ 5 comments }

{ 2 comments }

There he is!

by Luigi Guarino on April 13, 2014

{ 0 comments }

Where in the world is Luigi Guarino?

by Jeremy Cherfas on April 9, 2014

BktaHsUIgAAWnry.jpg

The moment he (and we) have been waiting for: #luigigoestosvalbard.

Let’s get that #hashtag trending.

{ 0 comments }

Brainfood: By-the-numbers Indian edition, with a touch of Bangladesh

7 April 2014

SGDB: A Sugarcane Germplasm Database. Cool, but only 131 accessions? One would have thought there’d be more. Essential Oil Composition of Bothriochloa bladhii (Retz.) S.T. Blake: An Introduction from Tropical Region of Western Ghats of India. It’s a widespread neotropical grass. There are about 200 accessions in the world’s genebanks. I wonder if this lot […]

Read the full article →

A food historian at CIMMYT

5 April 2014

Noted food historian Rachel Laudan was at the recent Borlaug Summit on Wheat for Food Security in Obregón, Mexico, organized by CIMMYT to celebrate 100 years of Norman Borlaug, and what an inspired decision it was to invite her. She spoke at the conference about the foundational role of wheat in the development of civilization, […]

Read the full article →

That IPCC report in 3 handy diagrams

1 April 2014

Too busy to go through the latest IPCC report and extract the nuggets relevant to agriculture (including crop wild relatives)? Fear not, we’re not. Here’s three figures which pretty much tell the story, and the relevant bits of text from the report to go with them. There’s lots of commentary and opinion out there on […]

Read the full article →

Agricultural biodiversity where you least expect it

31 March 2014

Continuing our in-depth treatment of The Economist’s (unwitting?) coverage of agricultural biodiversity, two items in the most recent issue. First, consider this photo: It’s from an article on the BBC World Service, and clearly shows the value of a radio in Africa. But what’s that the listener is holding? Could it be a cavy? I […]

Read the full article →

Brainfood: Sunflower genomics, Omani chickens, Ozark cowpea, Amerindian urban gardens, Thai homegardens, Global North homegardens, African pollination, Ugandan coffee pollination, Use of wild species, Wheat and climate change, Iranian wheat evaluation, Tunisian artichokes, Fig core, Onion diversity, Distillery yeasts

31 March 2014

Genomic variation in Helianthus: learning from the past and looking to the future. Paleopolyploid events, transposable elements, chromosomal rearrangements. Is there anything these plants don’t have? But then these guys would say that, wouldn’t they. Assessment of genetic diversity and conservation priority of Omani local chickens using microsatellite markers. Unsurprisingly, the Dhofar (far S) and […]

Read the full article →

So how many crops feed the world anyway?

29 March 2014

I am conscious of the fact that in my recent short post on the paper “Increasing homogeneity in global food supplies and the implications for food security” I did not actually provide the answer to the question that the lead author, Colin Khoury, asked four years back on this blog, when he began thinking about […]

Read the full article →