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Dilijan, Armenia

Lopes M.,Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food | Nesbitt H.,University of Western Australia | Spyckerelle L.,Seeds of Life | Pauli N.,University of Western Australia | And 2 more authors.
Agronomy for Sustainable Development

Collective action through farmer groups has contributed widely to improved rural welfare through more effective utilization of resources such as labour, knowledge and influence. The identification of characteristics of farmer groups that are successful today helps develop tomorrow’s effective groups. This case study examines characteristics associated with the success of community seed production groups in multiplying and disseminating high-yielding maize seed in Timor-Leste. Previous research from Timor-Leste indicates that the likelihood of an individual adopting a new variety is strongly related to the closeness of social relationships with growers already using that variety. This research explored the hypothesis that social capital, that is social relationships within a farmer group, can be leveraged for development through seed production groups. The groups were established in 2011 for seed production as part of the National Seed System for Released Varieties primarily through previously existing farmer groups. After 2 years, in 2013, a survey was conducted on 30 seed production groups. Successful groups produced sufficient seed for multiplication at a larger scale the following year, as well as surplus seed for distribution to group members or for sale. Several characteristics were correlated with the quantity of shared seed distributed to individual group members, as a measure of group effectiveness: meeting frequency, with r of 0.69; the number of positive leadership traits, with r of 0.57; the level of group trust, with r of 0.51; and the number of defined management roles within the group, with r of 0.41. These traits all reflect the strength of social capital and group governance. We conclude that development can be furthered through positively aligning and leveraging existing social capital among farmers for technology dissemination. © 2015, INRA and Springer-Verlag France. Source

Crawled News Article
Site: http://news.yahoo.com/science/

By cooking up a faux comet, scientists have produced the first formation of a key sugar required for life as we know it. By creating ices similar to those detected by the European Space Agency's Rosetta mission, which made the first landing on a comet, scientists were able to produce ribose, a sugar that serves as an important ingredient in RNA, an essential ingredient for life. "There is evidence for an 'RNA world' — an episode of life on Earth during which RNA was the only genetic material," Cornelia Meinert, an associate scientist at the University Nice Sophia Antipolis, told Space.com by email. Meinert led experiments that dosed icy materials produced in a laboratory with radiation similar to what comets would have received in the early life of the solar system, resulting in the creation of ribose. "At a certain point in prebiotic evolution, the availability of ribose would have been, therefore, necessary for life to have started," Meinert said.  [Watch: Comets - The Seeds of Life from Beyond the Solar System] Organisms on Earth are made up of DNA and RNA— the genetic material that controls organisms' physical makeup. Their production has remained a long-standing question since their discovery, as has the origin of the important molecules that they comprise. Many of these molecules would not have survived in the high temperatures of the solar system where Earth formed, so scientists suspect that comets, which formed in cooler regions but travel inward, might have delivered organic material when they crashed into Earth. To test this theory, Meinert and her colleagues recreated ices detected by Rosetta's Philae lander when it touched down on Comet 67P in 2014. In a lab, they created interstellar ices under what Meinert called "realistic astrophysical conditions" — in other words, within a vacuum, surrounded by low temperatures. Then, they blasted the samples with radiation simulating energy from the young sun, which was far more active than today's star, along with cosmic rays from the rest of the galaxy. Some of the material from the ices evaporated, while the leftover material created an organic residue. Sampling this residue revealed not only sugars but also amino acids, alcohols and other material. "We were confronted with a very complex sample containing a huge diversity of molecules," Meinert said. "The identification of individual compounds was, therefore, very difficult." By combining an instrument with higher-resolution power than utilized by previous techniques with an optimized method to selectively detect and extract sugar and sugar-related molecules, the team overcame these challenges to detect ribose and other sugars in larger quantities than previously estimated. The scientists deemed the material "major molecular constituents" of condensed ices found in space. The research was published online today (April 7) in the journal Science. When Philae visited Comet 67P, it carried a Cometary Sampling and Composition Experiment (COSAC) instrument, which employs a gas chromatograph (GC) to analyze material and a mass spectrometer (MS) to measure their masses. COSAC detected 16 organics on the comet, but none were the sugars and amino acids that mission planners had hoped to see. "After landing on Comet 67P, we tried to employ the full GC-MS mode of COSAC, which would have been sensitive enough for amino acids and sugar molecules," COSAC co-investigator Uwe Meierhenrich told Space.com by email. Meierhenrich, a professor at the University Nice Sophia Antipolis, was a co-author on the study. But Philae's landing did not go smoothly; instead of anchoring to the comet, the tiny spacecraft bounced across its surface. As a result, COSAC and other instruments couldn't perform all of the experiments they had planned. "We did not receive enough samples from Philae's drilling and distribution system because of the unpredicted 'vertical landing position' of Philae," Meierhenrich said. However, the experiments revealed a closer kinship of the evolved ices to meteorites than had been suspected. Organic material has been found in some meteorites, and both meteorites and comets are considered possible sources of Earth's water. "We assume that the organics found in meteorites form by very similar initial reactions as compared to the organics in comets," Meierhenrich said. Follow Nola Taylor Redd on Twitter @NolaTRedd or Google+. Follow us at @Spacedotcom, Facebook or Google+. Originally published on Space.com. Copyright 2016 SPACE.com, a Purch company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Jensen L.P.,University of Edinburgh | Picozzi K.,University of Edinburgh | de Almeida O.C.M.,Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food | da Costa M.J.,Seeds of Life | And 2 more authors.
Food Security

Factors related to adoption of new agricultural technologies have been given increasing attention, especially in developing countries where such technologies offer opportunities to increase food production. One of the most immediate ways to improve food production significantly is through the adoption of high yielding varieties of food crops, but rates of adoption are often low, especially among the rural poor. In Timor-Leste, improved varieties of food crops with yield advantages across all agro-ecological zones have been introduced. However, despite yield advantages, suitability and high levels of food insecurity, discontinuance occurs and adoption rates are low. To identify factors related to adoption of the improved varieties across agro-ecological zones, binary logistic regression was performed on data collected from 1511 rural households. The results identified several factors related to adoption and showed that their impact varied across agro-ecological zones. The factor most strongly related to adoption was having a relationship to a grower of an improved variety of food crop and the closeness of this relationship. Furthermore, the following factors were related to adoption with variation across agro-ecological zones: age; education; size of farming plots; travel time between household and farming plot; involvement with the programme developing the improved varieties of food crops and participation in groups and training programmes. Overall, the findings of this study emphasize that dissemination strategies should embrace social relationships and be sensitive to agro-ecological zones. © 2014 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht and International Society for Plant Pathology. Source

Williams R.,University of Western Australia | Soares F.,Ministry of Agriculture | Pereira L.,Ministry of Agriculture | Belo B.,Ministry of Agriculture | And 5 more authors.
Field Crops Research

Calorie malnutrition is chronic in Timor-Leste, where vitamin A deficiency is also common. Sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas L. (Lam.)) is a staple in cropping in Timor-Leste, of particular importance in the diet as household cereal stocks dwindle. This study tested if promising on-station results of introduced sweet potato clones were validated on-farm under farmer management across a wide range of agro-ecologies over the 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 growing seasons using participatory varietal selection. Additionally, as the clones differed in tuberous root flesh colour we evaluated their β-carotene content and, hence, potential contribution to the alleviation of Vitamin A deficiency. In the 2006-2007 growing season three introduced clones (later released as Hohrae 1, 2 and 3) significantly out-performed the local by 29-45%, while in the next season the yields of these clones were more than double that of the local. Whereas only 29% of farmers gave positive comments about the local cultivar, 66-71% of farmers commented positively on the Hohrae clones. We assessed the β-carotene content of five introduced clones, only light orange-fleshed tuberous roots had detectable levels of β-carotene (802-1209μg 100g-1). It was concluded that 221gd-1 - slightly less than 1 cupd-1 - of Hohrae 3 with light orange fleshed roots will meet the requirement of an individual with Vitamin A deficiency in Timor-Leste. With an improved production potential combined with substantial β-carotene, the clone Hohrae 3 has the potential to contribute to both calorie and Vitamin A deficits in Timor-Leste. © 2013. Source

Molyneux N.,Seeds of Life | Soares I.,Seeds of Life | Neto F.,Seeds of Life
Journal of Crop Improvement

To learn about spatial climate variations across a topographically nonuniform area, quantitative predictions built on top of high-resolution baseline climate models are necessary. The WorldClim program performs this task, allowing monthly rainfall and temperature baseline predictions (current conditions based on 1950-2000 averages) at a 5 km × 5 km pixel resolution to be visualized anywhere on the Earth through the DIVA mapping software. HADLEY CSIRO CCCMA and CCM3 climate predictions for the years 2020, 2050, and 2080 can be overlaid on the baseline climate. The resulting visualizations allow easy understanding of predicted rainfall and minimum and maximum temperatures across the globe, an important tool for anyone trying to understand climate-crop interactions across a nonuniform area. Indian baseline climate and projection visualizations for some years and locations are discussed. In a country as topographically variable as Timor Leste, where huge variation occurs in both rainfall and temperature across small spatial areas, this tool is especially useful. Known crop preferences for minimum and maximum temperature and rainfall thresholds can be inputted with these data to identify suitable areas for current species and cultivars, as well as suitable species and cultivar characteristics that should be focused on for future climate scenarios in specific locations. This type of information is important for research institutions, governments, and development agencies, and is also important for identifying agronomic interventions and directions for assisting local farmers to increase yields and reduce food insecurity. Timor Leste's climate and agriculture interactions have been studied using this tool and are summarized. Results revealed that, on average, the climate in Timor Leste (East Timor) is predicted to become about 1.5°C warmer and about 10% wetter by 2050. Improved cultivars of maize, rice, cassava, sweet potato, and peanuts with increased yields have been introduced, but these will need to be augmented with better adapted cultivars and new crops and management practices specific to the changing climatic niches across the country. The hottest, low-lying areas are likely to become too hot for some species, and there will be a general upward movement of crop ranges toward the cooler, higher elevations. Coffee, the main agricultural export of the country, will likely have to shift upwards, implying massive social complications caused by land disputes and huge managerial challenges with respect to shade tree planting and ownership of the coffee plants. Temperate species currently grown at higher elevations are likely to become less common and may be phased out because of low productivity. Maize will likely be less productive at lower, hotter elevations but will respond well to higher temperatures and reduced chances of drought at middle to higher elevations. Rice yields may be affected by heat stress damage. Interventions, such as identifying and disseminating cultivars that are adapted to the predicted future conditions, are discussed. Other interventions, such as the requirements for fertilizers to boost yields; legumes to increase protein availability; and terracing and/or contour hedgerows to prevent soil erosion of steeply sloping terrain, are also identified and discussed. Copyright © Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. Source

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