Hildegarde Dukunde brings innovative solution to safeguard maize storage

By Jennifer Johnson

Hildegarde Dukunde has a mission: to make sure the DryCard, an inexpensive device developed by researchers at the University of California-Davis (UC Davis) to determine if food is dry enough to prevent the growth of mold and harmful aflatoxins, reaches as many farmers as possible. The 28-year old Rwanda native works as a sales associate in agrifood business and was recently recognized for her innovative work by the 2019 Maize Youth Innovators Awards – Africa, winning in the “change agent” category at an awards ceremony in Lusaka, Zambia on May 9.

Increasing maize resistance to parasitic weeds: Admire Shayanowako

By Jennifer Johnson

Admire Shayanowako is no stranger to agriculture or the problems that smallholder farmers in Africa face. The 31-year old maize researcher grew up on a small farm in Zimbabwe where his family was constantly plagued by parasitic weeds. Now based at the University of Kwazulu Natal in South Africa, he is working on biocontrol agents and maize genetic resistance against Striga, also known as “witch weed”. He was recently recognized for his innovative research as one of the winners of the 2019 Maize Youth Innovators Awards – Africa, in the category of “researcher” at an awards ceremony in Lusaka, Zambia on May 9.

Remote Sensing for phenotyping tar spot complex in maize

by Carolyn Cowan

Multispectral and thermal images taken by cameras on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are helping researchers to monitor the resistance of maize to foliar diseases.

A new study from researchers at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) can reduce challenges associated with plant disease assessment in the field. By deploying cameras mounted on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that capture image information from non-visible sections of the electromagnetic spectrum, the interdisciplinary team demonstrated the effectiveness of remote sensing technologies in maize disease phenotyping.    

“Plant disease resistance assessment in the field is becoming difficult because the breeders’ trials are becoming larger, the trials have to be conducted in multiple locations, and because sometimes there is a lack of highly trained personnel who can evaluate the diseases,” said Francelino Rodrigues, CIMMYT Precision Agriculture Specialist and co-lead author of the study. “In addition, the disease notes taken in the field by a human eye can vary from person to person depending on the persons’ experience.”

Preparing the UAV for radiometric calibration for multispectral flight over a maize tar spot complex screening trial. CIMMYT’s Agua Fria Experimental Station, Mexico. (Photo: Alexander Loladze/CIMMYT)

Shifting to a demand-led maize improvement agenda

In annual meeting, STMA project partners build on the successes of research in combatting drought, heat, pests and disease. 

By  Jennifer Johnson

STMA meeting participants pose for a group photo at a field day visit to Zamseed seed company, Lusaka, Zambia. Photo: Jerome Bossuet

Partners of the Stress Tolerant Maize for Africa (STMA) project held their annual meeting May 7–9, 2019, in Lusaka, Zambia, to review the achievements of the past year and to discuss the priorities going forward. Launched in 2016, the STMA project aims to develop multiple stress-tolerant maize varieties for diverse agro-ecologies in sub-Saharan Africa, increase genetic gains for key traits preferred by the smallholders, and make these improved seeds available at scale in the target countries in partnership with local public and private seed sector partners.