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New scholarship launched for Malawian grad students

A new scholarship fund will more than 20 Malawian graduate students to continue their studies in the U.S. or South Africa.

The Agricultural Transformation Initiative (ATI) has awarded a grant to the Institute of International Education, Inc. (IIE) for the Fellowship and Scholarship Fund (FSF), a new initiative is designed to strengthen capacity in research areas related to agricultural transformation in Malawi. The FSF will be designed, implemented, and administered by IIE in coordination with the Lilongwe University of Agriculture & Natural Resources (LUANAR). The fund will support more than 20 fellowships and scholarships for graduate study and postdoctoral research in the United States or South Africa.

“This program is providing graduate students and postdoctoral researchers the opportunity to study internationally in high-priority disciplines,” said Candida Nakhumwa, ATI’s Country Director for Malawi. “The goal is to help educate students about innovations in the various sectors that can be applied in Malawi to help the country’s economy become less dependent on tobacco crops and contribute to the transformation of the agricultural sector.”

The FSF is offering opportunities for study and research in agriculture, business, data science, ecology and environment, economics, and engineering. Applicants should be residents or citizens of Malawi and hold a bachelor’s degree or doctorate, depending on the desired program. Applications are due by October 17. For more information, go to www.iie.org/ATI or email ATI@iie.org.

Webinar explores nutritition importance of first 1000 days

USAID Advancing Nutrition is hosting a webinar on Sept. 11 on the importance of nutrition from conception through the first two years of a child’s life.

The first 1,000 days is a period of unique development, representing both risk and opportunity. It is during this time that a foundation is laid in a child’s brain, with 799 new neural connections established every second, making it especially vulnerable to external factors, including optimal nutrition, strong social support, and secure attachment. Enhancing the linkages between good nutrition, brain development, and nurturing care can strengthen multi-sectoral programming to improve health and development outcomes.

Dr. Sarah Cusick , assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Minnesota, will provide an overview of how nutrient deficiency in the first 1,000 days can lead to long-term dysfunction and how application of the general principles of nutrient and brain interaction can help inform programming. In addition, Patricia Jodrey from USAID’s Child Health Team will provide further context through the lens of the Nurturing Care Framework.

Check out the event page to register.

Bertiolis honored by peanut research colleages

David Bertioli

David and Soraya Bertioli, who are leading Peanut Innovation Lab projects that build on their groundbreaking work to map the peanut genome, were honored Thursday night at the closing of the 51st Annual American Peanut Research and Education Society conference.

The two scientists took home the

Soraya Bertioli

American Peanut Council Research Award, while David Bertioli also won the Corteva Agriscience Award for Research and Education.

Soraya Bertioli heads project, Use of novel genetic diversity for peanut varietal development in East Africa, work that involves tapping into wild relatives of peanut to provide new alleles to improve cultivated species to have resistance to groundnut rosette disease (GRD).

David Bertioli leads Incorporating new wild alleles to improve elite West African peanut cultivars, work focused in West Africa where the process has resulted in six new Senegalese varieties with improved yield stability, haulm mass, higher yield and larger seeds.

Malawi food scientist completes peanut research, PhD at UGA

Aggrey Gama, a Malawian food scientist, conducted research at UGA’s Griffin campus under the direction of Koushik Adhikari. (Photo by Allison Floyd)

Aggrey Gama has successfully defended his Ph.D. dissertation at University of Georgia under the Legume Scholars Program and returned to his home in Malawi.

Gama was the first student to complete a PhD under the Legume Scholars Program, a project funded by the Innovation Labs for Peanut and Legumes, as well as ICRISAT, to facilitate grain legume research and bring talents young researchers forward.

Gama investigated groundnut value addition and safety in the Food Science & Technology Department at the University of Georgia under Dr. Koushik Adhikari. Dr. Wanjiku Gichohi from ICRISAT is his CGIAR advisor.

With his research, he has developed a nutrient rich peanut-based drink and conducted consumer acceptance and nutritional testing in Malawi.  He evaluated various peanut varieties grown in Malawi to select the most appropriate in terms of nutrient composition and sensory characteristics. The sensory profiles revealed significant differences among the varieties. The research also included an assessment of the dominant factors affecting food choice in Malawi.

 

 

Nominate an Innovation Lab scientist for BIFAD awards

Do you want to recognize a scientist who is doing outstanding research through a Feed the Future Innovation Lab?

The Board for International Food and Agricultural Development (BIFAD) is accepting nominations for the BIFAD Award for Scientific Excellence in a Feed the Future Innovation Lab. Each year, the Board recognizes a recipient in both the Senior Researcher (or Research Team) and Student Researcher categories.

The nominees are judged based on:

  • Scientific and technical merit of the research;
  • Relevance of the research to developing countries’ national and/or regional agricultural research priorities;
  • Potential for the research to contribute to improvements in food security, nutrition, resilience and inclusive, sustainable economic growth;
  • Evidence of commitment to capacity building.

The full Call for Nominations and submission portal can be accessed on the BIFAD Awards page and at www.aplu.org/bifad.

Please direct any questions regarding the award or application process to dferguson@aplu.org.

 

Peanut Genome Initiative starts phase 2, including flavor research

Can we breed a peanut plant for flavor? The people at The Peanut Foundation think so.

The foundation, which initiated the Peanut Genome Initiative to map the genetic code of the peanut plant, is proposing a second phase of the work. Phase II of the initiative would use the genomic (not GMO) tools developed during the first phase to breed peanuts with improved traits, including:

  • disease resistance (initially focusing on leafspot);
  • aflatoxin resistance;
  • drought tolerance; and
  • flavor conservation.

Flavor conservation was perhaps the most controversial part of this proposal, the foundation said, as some people believe that flavor traits are too complex and genetic traits are inseparable from environmental factors.

But research into other foods has tied flavor to genes, including tomato, which lost genes for flavor as breeders selected for color, shelf-life and other traits.

In. a recent paper published in “Nature,” researchers describe a rare allele selected against during domestication that impacts the flavor of commercial tomatoes. (more…)

Peanut milk product discontinued after just 2 years

Elmhurst has discontinued its line of peanut drinks just two years after launching the products. The change includes Milked Peanuts-Chocolate, Chocolate Peanut Protein and Vanilla Protein Shakes. The company stopped making the original Milked Peanuts drink at the end of last year.

“We made this tough decision based on manufacturing difficulties involving peanuts,” Elmhurst said in a statement to its customers. “By removing this ingredient from our portfolio, we will create more capacity—both in research and production—for the exploration of new, innovative products.”

“Members and alternates at the National Peanut Board, our farm families and staff are disappointed, but we still believe a peanut milk product would be welcomed by consumers who enjoy alternative milks,” said Bob Parker, president and CEO of the National Peanut Board. “We are confident that a peanut milk product with an equivalent nutrition profile to dairy milk; with the same amounts of protein, calcium, Vitamin D and other fortification, at a price point competitive with existing alternative nut milks would be a success.”

Peanut and nutrition advocates were excited when Elmhurst, a former dairy milk producer in New York, launched the product in 2017. While other nut milks may contain water and fillers, Milked Peanuts contained just five ingredients, mostly healthy peanuts.

The NPB plans to contact other makers of alternative milks to draw attention to the potential for peanut milk products.