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USAID calls for new Soybean value chain lab

USAID has issued a call for U.S. universities interested in managing a new Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Soybean Value Chain Research.

The cooperative agreement will set up a five-year leader-with-associates award for $30 million, including $10 million in development assistance funding, $10 million in associate awards and $10 million in mission buy-ins. Eligibility for this award is restricted to qualified U.S.-based Title XII universities. 

The deadline to ask questions is August 9, 2021, and the closing date to submit a proposal is Oct. 18.

Go to the webpage for Notice of Funding Opportunity Number: 7200AA21RFA00018.

12 graduate students share at int’l meeting

Congratulations to all the Peanut Innovation Lab students who presented this past week at the annual conference of the American Peanut Research and Education Society. The week-long meeting was held online, creating more opportunity for international students to participate – and they took advantage of that chance.

Seven master’s students presented papers – Jennifer Abogoom, Ivan Chapu, Danielle Essandoh, Ellah Liwonde, Brian Mkanda, Precious Mtengzo, and Emmanuel Sie – and three master’s students submitted posters – Daisy Kemigisha, Ruth Martha Mirembe and Henry Ssendagire. The students represent four universities in three countries: Ghana, Uganda and Malawi.

Esther Achola, Stephen Arthur, Leslie Commey, Lutangu Makweti and Ahmed Seidu also presented in the PhD student section, making up nearly one-quarter of the total presentations this year.

Graduate students compete as they present to a panel of judges at the APRES conference, which included 41 student presentations this year.  While none of the international students won, their presentations added much to the scope of the offerings this year, moderator Bob Kemerait said. 

In addition to the students, two dozen Peanut Innovation Lab scientists presented their most recent work at the conference.  

African plant breeders plan blended conference

The African Plant Breeders Association is holding its 2021 conference in Rwanda on Oct. 25-30 at the Kigali Convention Centre, with a virtual option available to people who want to join online.

The conference will follow the theme “Accelerating Genetic Gains in Plant Breeding for Resilience and Transformative Food Systems and Economic Growth in Africa” and is hosted by APBA President Eric Yirenkyi Danquah, with co-host Dr. Gerardine Mukeshimana, Hon. Minister of Agriculture for Rwanda.

The registration fee to attend in person is $20-$100, while the virtual option is free.

Register at or find out more about the APBA at the organisation’s website.

AWARD offers leadership program for young African women science fields

African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) is accepting applications to Leadership Program for Emerging African Women in Science, a program for African women under 35 years of age. The two-month virtual program is designed to equip women from Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, and Zambia with the skills and confidence to lead and innovate in science.

Deadline to apply is June 23.The AWARD Leadership Program for Emerging African Women in Science will offer customized learning experiences that will equip participants with skills and knowledge to develop their leadership capacity, leverage networks to advance their careers, enhance their personal brands, and navigate the challenges in leadership space. Participants will also get one-on-one coaching sessions.

The AWARD Leadership Program for Emerging African Women in Science is offered under the umbrella of the Global Forum on Women in Scientific Research (GoFoWiSeR) initiative. GoFoWiSeR is an initiative of AWARD which focuses on contributing toward bridging the gender gap in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) by spotlighting the strategies and approaches that improve the numbers and experiences of women in STEM.

Apply here

Does hermetic storage in PICs bags impact quality?

Chris Butts, an agricultural engineer at the National Peanut Research Laboratory in Dawson, Ga., investigated how storing shelled peanuts in burlap bags and PICS (Purdue Improved Crop Storage) bags impacts the quality of the stored nuts. The work, which was one of five quick-start projects when the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Peanut began in 2018, looked to see if hermetically sealed bags are as effective at preventing aflatoxin growth in peanuts as they have been with other crops.

“By funding collaborative research efforts, USAID has been instrumental in improving peanut production methods to increase yields so that a commercial enterprise can begin to use locally sourced peanuts in countries such as Guyana, Haiti, and Malawi,” according to a recent paper on the research findings. “A level of success in production had been reached to require research and education efforts on postharvest drying and storage to maintain edible peanut quality related to aflatoxin contamination and future seed viability.”

While aflatoxin levels remained low for 250 days in both burlap sacks and the PICS bags, contamination shot up after 250 days in the nuts stored in burlap, showing that the hermetically sealed PICS bags do suppress aflatoxin accumulation in peanut.

In general, the study found that PICS bags also prevented insect and rodent damage, but germination took a big hit. In fact, by the end of 301 days of storage, none of the nuts stored in PICS bags would germinate. On the other hand, nuts stored in burlap sacks were much more susceptible to pests, but germination rates stayed over 70% for approximately 250 days.

The big take-away? Storing shelled peanuts in PICS bags or similar hermetically sealed containers may be beneficial to smallholder farmers, but only if they are growing for grain, not seed. More study is needed before researchers make a recommendation, however.

Check out the research in Peanut Science.

Burow team lands peanut breeding grant

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced $8.65 million in grants on Wednesday to 22 plant breeding research projects through its Agriculture and Food Research Initiative program.

The funding includes $650,000 for a project led by Texas A&M’s Mark Burow, who also directs the Peanut Innovation Lab project, Breeding for Drought, Leaf Spot and Oil.

The NIFA grant includes Peanut Innovation Lab co-PIs from Ghana, Theophilus Tengey, Richard Oteng-Frimpong, and James Asibuo, as well as Venu Mendu at Texas Tech, who leads a Peanut IL project exploring biochemical markers for aflatoxin resistance in peanut seed coat

The NIFA project uses modern biotechnology tools to help with advancing alleles for resistance to pathogens and pests by transferring novel wild species alleles into a set of backcrossed breeding lines sharing a common, popular genetic background (the variety Florunner), and each possessing a small segment of chromosomal DNA inherited from the wild species parents. 

As part of the effort, the team will screen the breeding lines for disease and pest resistance, identify DNA markers diagnostic for these resistances, and identify candidate genes responsible for resistance. The product breeding lines will be available for marker-assisted pyramiding of alleles into multiple disease-resistant cultivars.

The project also will create opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students in natural sciences and agriculture at US universities, including a minority-serving undergraduate college, and in universities in West Africa.

Read more about the project here. 

Agrilinks celebrates 10 years with webinar

Agrilinks is celebrating 10 years of spreading information about agricultural research and innovation around the world.

Supported by the USAID Bureau for Resilience and Food Security (RFS) through the Feed the Future Knowledge, Data, Learning, and Training (KDLT) program, Agrlinks is a hub sharing knowledge, training and connections through blogs, newsletters, webinars and other digital means.

To celebrate the 10-year anniversary, Agrilinks is hosting a special webinar on a new platform.

Zachary Baquet of USAID will give an introductory talk on the history of Agrilinks, and a little information on how you can use Agrilinks to enhance your work. Food security specialists then will share perspectives on the past, present, and future of agricultural development. How did we get here and what can we do to achieve a zero hunger future? Join Agrilinks to find out. 

Sign up for the webinar here.