Millions of dollars are due to be paid out to small-scale farmers in Zambia affected by a recent severe dry spell, following the introduction of a new government insurance scheme powered by University of Reading science.
Satellite-based rainfall estimates for Africa produced by the University’s TAMSAT research group have allowed around US$2.8m to be triggered for farmers in 370 locations in Zambia between December 1 2017 and 20 January 2018.
China’s North Plain is one of the country’s most important – and densely populated – agricultural regions, producing crops such as corn, cereals, vegetables and cotton. A research project led by the James Hutton Institute and China Agriculture University aims to support smallholder farmers in the area through precision agriculture techniques.
It will plough the funds into supporting PhD university students over the next five years, following its recent report which identified a UK productivity gap worth over £4bn in lost Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Making grasses more digestible promises improved feed for ruminants and better biomass for biofuel production, with economic and environmental benefits for both.
Plant biomass contains considerable calorific value but most of it makes up robust cell walls, an unappetising evolutionary advantage that helped grasses to survive foragers and prosper for more than 60 million years.
The trouble is that this robustness still makes them less digestible in the rumen of cows and sheep and difficult to process in bioenergy refineries for ethanol fuel.
Modern farming owes much to long-standing research that continues to pump out results and to provide valuable perspectives to guide the future of agricultural science, achievements that will be celebrated at a three-day international conference in May.