Where small is beautiful
The Nguni breed of cattle, indigenous to South Africa, is being recognized as a breed that will play an important role in smallholder agriculture. Efforts to conserve it are being stepped up.
In the classification of cattle, the Nguni breed is a subspecies of Bos indicus, and is closest to the Sanga types. The Sanga cattle differ from the Zebu in the size and shape of the horns, and their hump is placed in front of the withers whereas the hump of the Zebu sits above the front legs. The Nguni, originating from Zululand and southern Mozambique, is well adapted to a hot, harsh environment. They are small animals, with cows weighing about 350kg, and have a quiet temperament which makes them very easy to handle. They are also very finehaired but the hair is extremely dense; the skin is thin but pliable and is not easily damaged when grazing among thorn bushes.
The Nguni shows good resistance to ticks if it is allowed sufficient tick challenge. Too frequent dipping reduces tick resistance and, consequently the resistance to some of the tick-borne diseases. The females are some of the most fertile cattle in the world, but there can be problems with the bulls as they may suffer from testicular hypoplasia. Several years ago the South African government set up a research station, the Bartlow Combine in KwaZuluNatal, to save the Nguni, and a breed society was formed. In the past, breeding attempted to make the breed bigger and more suited to commercial needs. However, the aim now is to retain the small size and develop it as a milk breed for the smallholder. The Nguni has been tested and records show that cows can yield between 12-14 litres per day off rangeland without supplementary feeding.
• Bhartlow Combine
The Farm Implement and Tools (FIT) programme is a collaborative technical assistance programme between the International Labour Organization (ILO) and TOOL, a Dutch NGO. The FIT programme focuses on the upgrading of both the manufacturing and the use of farm implements and foodprocessing equipment by developing approaches to enable local organizations to provide more effective support services to small-scale metal working and foodprocessing enterprises.
FIT has produced a brochure to introduce the programme and to give examples of approaches which could be adopted during its implementation. It is intended to stimulate discussion and further ideas, particularly from groups and associations of artisans and small farmers, and from organizations that are working to develop both agricultural and other microenterprises.
Jim Tanbum FIT Programme Field Coordinator ILO 4 Route des Morillons CH1211 Geneva 22 SWITZERLAND
Now that the limitations of Leucaena leucocephala are apparent and its 'miracle tree' reputation increasingly tarnished, researchers and growers are questioning reliance on a single species with a narrow genetic base and are looking for alternatives. However, a slide video entitled Leucaena: miracle tree or myth? explores the rich diversity of Leucaena as a genus, revealing the potential of lesser-known species from Mexico and Central America.
The 18'30" minute slide video has been produced by the Oxford Forestry Institute with support from the Forestry Research Programme of the UK Overseas Development Administration (ODA). Copies are available from:
• Alan Pottinger
Parasitic predator preys on pink mealybugs
The island of Grenada has suffered rapidly mounting levels of damage to its agricultural and horticultural production since the arrival of the pink mealybug (PMB) in 1993. The pest, Maconellicoccus hirsutus, is found in many other parts of the world but is a newcomer to the Caribbean, where it has had a particularly damaging effect on a large number of trees, ornamental shrubs, fruits and vegetables.
As a result of this invasion, Grenada's horticultural production has been severely affected in quantity and quality, with exports being rejected by other Caribbean countries. In early 1995 the mealybug found its way to neighbouring Trinidad and has now been confirmed in St. Kitts. Applying selective pesticides and burning affected materials only offers a short-term solution, so a sustainable control programme has been launched to introduce natural enemies of the mealybug from its native range.
The International Institute of Biological Control (IIBC), supported by FAO and in collaboration with Caribbean ministry colleagues, has been studying mealybug control methods elsewhere, in order to come up with a suitable natural enemy to reduce mealybug populations. The parasitic wasp Anagyrus kamali was recorded as parasitizing 66-98% of PMB in the field: it shows a strong preference for mealybugs in general, and PMB in particular. Female wasps lay their eggs inside the host insect and the wasp larva develops internally, killing its host in the process.
Live wasps were hand-carried to Grenada in October 1995, and are currently being multiplied in an insectary on established mealybug cultures. Staff of the Ministry of Agriculture in Grenada are being trained in rearing methods and they made the first pilot field release of 1,000 adults last November. They will now monitor how the wasp adapts to the environmental conditions in Grenada, make further releases and assess its impact on PMB populations.
Successful biocontrol of mealybugs in Africa has resulted in massive savings to farmers; in Togo alone mango growers saved $2 million in lost production. Controlling PMB in Grenada will directly benefit more than 8,000 farmers and, indirectly, all those involved in agriculture, the island's largest employer and foreign exchange earner. As part of its wider aims in the Caribbean, the programme is also training farmers and agricultural industries in how to integrate biological control into their cropping systems and reduce their reliance on chemical methods.
• D J Girling
Turn-key courses for agricultural development
The Centre for Tropical Veterinary Medicine (CTVM) at the University of Edinburgh, UK, has developed teaching courses in a modular form. A module consists of one day of teaching over 10 weeks; students have to pass eight of these modules and submit an acceptable dissertation to be awarded an MSc. The modules do not have to be passed in one year; under the present regulations up to five years are allowed, which means that people in full-time work could take one of these courses by obtaining limited leave of absence.
The range of modules is very large and includes not only those organized by the CTVM, but also by Edinburgh University's Institute of Ecology and Resource Management and the Scottish Agricultural College. New modules this year include 'Sustainable Food Production in the Tropics' and 'Sustainable Use of Wildlife in the Tropics'. Some of the modules have turned into 'Turnkey' courses which can be taught over a two-week period in a tropical country.
The idea behind the turn-key course is that two specialists go out to a research centre and teach the course, while at the same time training local staff to give subsequent courses. All teaching material that has been prepared is left with the host institution. To-date the most popular turn-key course has been one entitled 'Scientific Communication', where individuals are given training on the oral presentation of papers and in addition are shown how to apply for money for research, including production of logical frameworks.
The Scientific Communication turn-key course has also been expanded for those students that have more time available, into a 10-week course 'Publish and Develop' in which training is given in the use of all aspects of editing and publications management, including desk-top publishing. Other turn-key courses available include the 'privatization of Veterinary Services' and 'Draught
• Dr A J Smith
Luring the LGB
The Natural Resources Institute (NRI) has produced a guide How to use pheromone traps to monitor the Larger Grain Borer which presents the best way of using pheromone traps. The guide is divided into sections on how to trap LGB, the traps themselves - (how and where to place them and how to label and retrieve them); and how to identify the catch and record the results. There is also a section on 'Questions and answers' and an LGB identification guide.
These traps are designed to catch flying insects, and are baited with polythene capsules containing a chemical that is attractive to the pest. Although this chemical is a synthetically produced 'pheromone', it is identical to the attractant naturally secreted by the male LGB and is therefore specific in attracting only P. truncatus females. LGB has now been confirmed in twelve African countries and is likely to continue spreading unless checked by effective control measures. The most effective means of monitoring the pest is by the use of pheromone traps.
Wagon-wheel irrigator for small gardens
A simple drip-irrigation system for small family vegetable gardens designed to use household waste water, has been developed in South Africa and could be used elsewhere.
The system is set up like a wagon-wheel and at the centre, or hub, is a 200 litre (44 gallon) drum. An outlet from the base of the drum leads into a plastic pipe which goes completely round the drum. Leading off the central pipe (like wheel spokes) are four- metre long pipes laid out to water the beds. Holes are drilled in these lateral pipes every 30cm so that water will drip out and water the crops growing alongside. To prevent the holes getting blocked a piece of string is threaded through the holes and knotted at each end. Pulling the string back and forth unblocks the holes.
The irrigator will water 18 square metres of garden. Where it is necessary to water the vegetables three times a week, water consumption will be about 600 litres, and that will be sufficient to produce about 500kg of vegetables a year. The irrigator is being used by communities in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa in an arid area which has less than 250mm rainfall per annum and where all-year-round vegetable production has not previously been possible.
Using the irrigator, tomatoes, green peppers, pumpkins, maize and leafy vegetables are being grown.
• Institute of Viticulture and Oenology
LEUCNET NEWS is the newsletter of the international leucaena research and development network, an informal network of scientists, extensionists and tree growers who share a common interest in improving the productivity and utility of leucaena.
LEUCNET NEWS contains articles, research notes and news from collaborators in the network, providing a forum for exchange of ideas. It will be produced every six to twelve months, depending on the number of contributions received from readers. The first issue was produced in March, 1995 and a second (with a special feature on 'Forage Quality of Leucaenas') followed in September, 1995.
• Mr Alan Pottinger, Editor LEUCNET NEWS
Scientists discover what makes locusts swarm
A chemical sometimes found in the foam that surrounds locust eggs could provide a key to locust control. The chemical is responsible for the young turning into gregarious locusts: when the chemical is not present, locusts will hatch as solitary insects.
This finding comes from recent research at Oxford University, UK. Dr Stephen Simpson and his colleagues have found that the stimulus to producing this chemical is crowding. After rains, a flush of vegetation will attract the solitary locusts, which are living in the locality and, as the vegetation is devoured, the locusts tend to crowd closer and closer together. Once they start rubbing up against each other, the females are stimulated to produce a chemical which they add to the foam that is produced to protect the eggs as they are laid into the soil. The chemical acts on the embryos as they develop in the eggs and switches on the genes which are responsible for turning a locust from being solitary into a gregarious insect. All the young hatch as gregarious locusts which is the key to the locust's importance as a pest: if it did not make that change then it would not become a pest. The researchers at Oxford found that just four hours crowding was sufficient to stimulate the females into producing the chemical.
The work at Oxford complements the findings from ICIPE, the International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology in Nairobi, Kenya (see Spore 61 p12). The Oxford scientists have found the crucial factor that triggers mass swarming, while the ICIPE work has identified the pheromones that maintain mass egg laying and keep the swarms together. With that knowledge the two research establishments can move forward to develop ways to disrupt these crucial phases of the life cycle, leading to the development of a long term control strategy against this age-old pest.
• Department of Zoology University of Oxford
African initiative against food toxins
Representatives of eight African countries (Benin Cameroon, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, South Africa and Uganda) have initiated an action plan to reduce the contamination of maize by harmful fungi. These fungi produce mycotoxins which are carcinogenic.
A meeting held in Cotonou Benin, in November 1995, brought together people who are involved in agriculture, public health and medical research. The meeting heard the results of a survey carried out in Benin by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), which hosted the conference. The survey showed that the incidence of contamination of stored maize by the fungus Aspergillus flavus, was far greater than had been thought. Some of the infection is occurring in the field, but it is suspected that many farm stores harbour the fungus in the mud walls and thatched roofs, leading to an increased mycotoxin contamination of grain whilst in store.
There is now enough evidence to show that people are at risk when they consume grain con taminated with mycotoxins. They definitely increase the incidence of oesophageal cancer, and it is suspected that some nutritional disorders of children may be due to the toxic compounds.
The meeting in Cotonou determined that a priority was to investigate the link between mycotoxins and human disease and funding for this research is now being sought. Representatives from African countries agreed to put more effort into reducing mycotoxin contamination by creating greater awareness of the problem. They will strive for greater collaboration between countries by setting up the Mycotoxin African Initiative, with funding from African and international donors. Until the proper mechanism is set up, a steering group consisting of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture and the African Medical Research Foundation will coordinate activities.
• International Institute of Tropical
Safeguarding grain with gas
Insect pests can quickly turn grain stocks into a pile of dust, and to prevent this happening methyl bromide has been used for many years to fumigate grain. Although this gas is an excellent fumigant, it is now known to be one of the causative agents of the depletion of the ozone layer in the earth's atmosphere. Countries that are signatories to the Montreal Protocol will probably phase it out by the year 2006.
In the search for alternatives to methyl bromide, scientists at the UK's Natural Resources Institute (NRI) have teamed up with the Kenyan Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) to test the effect of carbon dioxide, a gas more commonly associated with fizzy drinks but which is toxic to insects at high concentration.
Stocks of maize, which form part of Kenya's national reserve held in silos at Nakuru, are treated with carbon dioxide which is supplied by a local Kenyan company, Carbacid, who operate a well to tap local volcanic sources. The silos in the tests each hold about 2,000 tonnes of maize and to supply enough gas for fumigation, liquid carbon dioxide is delivered eight tonnes at a time by tanker. The liquid, which is delivered at 56°C, is fed into one end of a heat exchanger and emerges at the other as CO2 gas at ambient temperature: this gas is then fed into the base of the silo cell. CO2 is heavier than air, so as the silo fills from below, air is displaced through an open hatch at the top. Once the concentration at the hatch has reached 80% the silo is sealed and the gas left to do its work of fumigation.
Initial studies have overcome a number of technical problems and results have been promising. However the development of a fully operational fumigation technique that can be used in place of methyl bromide is dependant on additional research into maintaining high gas concentrations for long periods. The necessary investigations are being funded by Britain's Overseas Development Administration (ODA) and will be completed by the end of 1996.
• Dr. Rick Hodges NRI Chatham Maritime, Kent ME4 4TB, UK
Courses and conferences
• AGROFORESTRY: TREES IN SUPPORT OF AGRICULTURE 5-30 August, 1996
Kate Harris, Course Coordinator, Oxford Forestry Institute, Department of Plant Sciences, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3RB, UK Fax. +44 (0) 1865 275074 Email: email@example.com
The courses below are offered by the Mananga Management Centre:
• ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT IN DEVELOPMENT 8 July-9 August, 1996
The Director, Mananga Management Centre, PO Box 20, Mhlume, SWAZILAND Fax. +26831135
The courses below are offered by The University of Hohenheim:
• LEGUMES IN THE CROPPING SYSTEMS OF THE TROPICS AND SUBTROPICS
• SOIL DEGRADATION AND CONSERVATION IN THE TROPICS
• ANIMAL TRACTION AND IMPLEMENTS 4
The Course Coordinator, University of Hohenheim, Tropical Centre 790, 70593 Stuttgart, GERMANY Fax. +49 (0) 711459 3315
• PUBLISH AND DEVELOP!
A course on the production of newsletters, annual reports and scientific journals in developing countries. The course has two major aims: to stimulate interest in good scientific writing and to encourage the production of quality publications by the use of modern desk-top publishing facilities. It is designed for all those concerned with the dissemination of information in the written form, particularly in the rural sector.
Hamish Macandrew, Tropag Courses, UnivEd Technologies Ltd. Abden House,
The courses below are offered by Ian Macdonald Associates:
• MANAGEMENT & EXTENSION
The courses from 8 July-21 September, 1966 are aimed at participants who are involved in the implementation of government and NGO projects concerned with all aspects of rural development.
IMA, 36 Robertson Road, Brighton, BN1 5NL, UK
• GRAIN STORAGE MANAGEMENT POSTGRADUATE DIPLOMA MSc
The course covers the principles, practices and management of stored cereals, pulses, seeds and a range of other durable commodities at producer, trader, processor and national levels. The Postgraduate diploma runs from 2 September-17 December, 1996 and students continuing to the MSc will be required to attend the Research Methodology unit from 18 December-17 January, 1997 before beginning a research project either at NRI, or in their home country.
Training Contracts Officer, Natural Resources Institute,
• RESEARCH GRANTS AVAILABLE FOR FORESTRY OR AGROFORESTRY IN THE DRY AREAS
The International Foundation for Science (IFS) supports scientists in the developing countries through its research grant programme. Candidates should be under the age of 40, nationals from a developing country, holding an MSc diploma or equivalent, and should carry out their programme within an institution of a developing country. Applications are welcome from the IFS forestry or agroforestry special programme, with emphasis on the dry areas.
International Foundation for Science Grev Turegatan 19, S-114 38 Stockholm, SWEDEN
• AGRICULTURE IN A LIBERALIZED ECONOMY
Mr J Muasya, Chairman, Farm Management Association of Kenya, PO Box 30547, Nairobi; KENYA Fax. +2542218327
• CONFERENCE OF THE INTERNATIONAL SOIL CONSERVATION ORGANISATION (ISCO)
A Klein, Federal Environmental Agency; FG // 3.2/Soil Quality, PO Box 330022, D-14191 Berlin, GERMANY Fax. +49302293096/2315638 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
• GLOBALIZATION OF INFORMATION: THE NETWORKING INFORMATION SOCIETY FID Conference and Congress to be held from 21-25 October, 1996 in Graz, AUSTRIA
FID General Secretariat, PO Box 90402, 2509 LK The Hague, THE NETHERLANDS Fax. +31703140667 Email: email@example.com
• CHANGING AGRICULTURAL OPPORTUNITIES THE ROLE OF FARMING SYSTEMS APPROACHES
Symposium Coordinator, Secretariat, PO Box 42, Peradeniya, SK/LANKA Fax. +94888206/32517 Email: Sympo@deptag.ac.lk
• INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON SUSTAINABLE USE OF BIOLOGICAL RESOURCES
Dr Gusztáv Hencsey Chairman of Technical Organizing Committee, Computer and Automation Research Institute, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, H-1111 Budapest, Kende utca 13-17, HUNGARY
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