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Biotechnology, Panacea To Army Worm Maize Infestation – Leadership Newspapers

Posted: August 16, 2017 at 5:50 pm

By Nkechi Isaac

Maize (also known as corn in some countries) is one of the most common and important food crops across Africa. It is widely eaten in various forms and more than 900 million Africans depend on maize every year because it is often cheaper than rice and wheat, two of the other most consumed cereals.

A report released by the IITA estimates that about 800 million tons of maize is produced worldwide every year.

According to the report, though the United States remains the worlds largest producer with 42 percent of all maize produced globally, Africa contributes significantly in this production with 6.5 percent of this volume which is still insufficient for local consumption.

Nigeria remains Africas largest producer with nearly 8 million tons per annum. It is closely followed by South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda.

It was therefore a nightmare when Nigeria like the rest of Africa woke up to the Fall Armyworm (FAW) infestation which was rapidly spreading across the region.

Army worm is very deleterious and like the name suggests it derives its name from its feeding habits, of marching in large numbers from grasslands into crops. They strongly prefer grasses, cereals like maize, and can mercilessly eat the stem of the crop as well as the leaves.

Army worm infestation can be disastrous on the crops. It affects the yield of the crop from the stalk to the stage of maturity and is capable of destroying entire crops in a matter of weeks if it is unchecked.

Like other African countries, Nigeria woke up to a nightmare of recent army worm infestation in the region, leaving farmers worried as the pest, which has grown resistance to chemicals, wreaked havoc on newly cultivated maize farms across the country. This resulted in the severe reduction on the yield recouped by farmers on their maize field.

The Federal Government quickly waded and convened a meeting with commissioners for agriculture from the 36 states in Abuja to find ways of ameliorating the effect of the havoc and contain the infestation.

In his speech, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, said the achievement of self-sufficiency in maize production would continue to be a mirage with the pest infestation.

He said the spread of the maize disease had negatively affected the poultry industry, which largely depends on maize for the production of feeds.

The minister explained that the aim of the meeting was to brainstorm on ways of finding sustainable solutions to the army worm infestation which had ravaged maize farms in the states.

It is the state government that owns lands; so we need to tackle this problem to boost agricultural production, he said.

Ogbeh told the meeting the federal government required N2.98 billion to curb the army worm infestation of farmlands across the country, adding the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) had pledged to support the country in its fight against the army worm infestation.

However, scientists are calling on farmers to embrace biotechnology by using genetically modified crops which have been proven safe for man and the environment to permanently tackle such occurrences.

Speaking during an interview with journalists in Abuja, the country coordinator of Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB), Nigeria Chapter, Dr Rose Gidado, said genetic modification, also known as genetic engineering, is a technologically advanced way to select desirable traits in crops, pointing out that while selective breeding has existed for thousands of years, modern biotechnology is more efficient and effective because seed developers are able to directly modify the genome of the crop.

The OFAB coordinator said adopting genetic modification technology to develop maize variety resistant to pest provided a lasting solution for army worm infestation, adding genetically engineered (GE) plants are selectively bred and enhanced with genes to withstand common problems that confront farmers which include maize that could survive pesticides/infestation.

Gidado, a deputy director, at the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) revealed that a breakthrough recorded by scientists with the development of a maize variety called Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) which has proven to resist the attacks from army worm infestations provided a lasting solution to the infestation.

She said: The lasting solution to army worm infestation on maize is the use of genetic modification technology to develop a maize variety that would be resistant to the pest, that gives a permanent solution.

She added, There is already a variety of maize called Water Efficient Maize Variety for Africa that has proven to be resistant to army worm, it has not yet been deployed to Nigeria but we are making plans.

The WEMA project is a public-private partnership to develop royalty-free African drought-tolerant white maize varieties, it also increases yield stability, protects and promotes farmers investment in best management practices.

The project which is water conserving and insect protected conventional and transgenic maize, is expected under moderate drought, to increase yields by 20-35 percent over current varieties; it is also expected to translate into additional 2 million MT of maize during drought to feed 14 to 21 million people.

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Biotechnology, Panacea To Army Worm Maize Infestation – Leadership Newspapers

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How biotechnology can optimize agriculture in Nigeria – Vanguard … – Vanguard

Posted: August 16, 2017 at 5:50 pm

By Abdallah el-Kurebe

With the down turn in the global prices of oil, we now have to prospect our solid minerals. We have to return to agriculture, President Buhari to members of the Council of Saudi Arabian Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

According to the United Nations projections, the world population will be 9.8 billion people by 2050 and Nigeria which currently ranks seventh, will become the third most populous, replacing United States. It is currently about 200 million people.HARVEST: Women with baskets of tomatoes harvested from farmlands provided under the Restoring Agricultural Assets of IDPs, Returnees and Vulnerable Host Families in NorthEast Nigeria project, put together by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations; the UN Central Emergency Response Fund and the governments of Ireland, Japan and Belgium.

Since his assumption of office in May 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari has repeated said that the nations economy must be diversified to, especially Agriculture which must cease from being treated as development programme but be treated as business. Our goal will be to pursue government supported private sector agriculture value chain to make agriculture more productive, efficient and competitive.

The drastic fall of oil prices in the international market has directed the thinking of the Buhari administration to diversify the economy to, specifically agriculture and one possible means of doing this is the deployment of biotechnology.

It serves as a tool for sustainable development in agriculture and could boost food security in Nigeria. It is therefore appropriate for the country in order to boost the production of maize, cotton, rice, beans, wheat, cassava, etc to, not only meet up with our consumption needs but also for the purpose of commercialization.

Dr. Muhammad Lawan Umar, a plant breeder with Institute for Agricultural Research of Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Zaria observes that Biotechnology has made possible what was impossible for the traditional methods to make by use of the new techniques. This has become realisable, especially I advanced countries, where such technology has been adopted and it can work wonders for developing countries, like Nigeria.

He gives an example of the pod-borer resistant beans on which efforts had been made to discover the source of the resistance without success. So far, 15,000 different types of varieties have been assembled and screened in order to identify the cause of the resistance. Experts agreed that the only option is to use biotechnology, which has now identified the maruca-resistant beans. This was a global phenomenon from America down to Africa where the problem of maruca is more, he said.

Umar adds that tests have been conducted in West Africa (Ghana, Nigeria and Burkina Faso) where traits that were resistant to those insects have been identified.

Biotechnology been used to transfer the genes to farmer-specified varieties adapted to different ecology in these West African countries. We have realised four to five times increase in yields and we are moving towards commercialisation.

Secondly, biotechnology has shortened the time of developing and releasing a variety. This is done in three to four years if there are no regulatory agencies that may delay the process. With the use of molecular marker, you can select a plant at a tender stage in fact you can select a grain to see which one carries the gene or not. But with the conventional methods, we used to spend eight to nine years to develop and release a variety because we had to plant it, grow it and then harvest it before you can assess, he explained.

Adebayo Olusoji, an Agriculture Extension and Rural Development Expert with the Oyo State College of Agriculture and Technology, Igboora said that biotechnology is an innovation has done well for Nigerias cassava production. Presently, we have more than twenty genetically modified improved cassava varieties with an average yield of 25-45 tonnes per hectare.

He adds that in cassava value chain, processing of improved cassava has resulted in high quality starch, which is being exported abroad. Biotechnology has not left out annual crops like maize, soybean, etc. As we have pro-vitamin A maize, Alfa toxin free soybean, etc.

A good step is Nigerias adoption of biotechnology in agriculture through the Biotechnology Policy, which led the establishment of the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA). And in order to address safety concerns, the National Bio-safety Management Agency (NBMA), a full-fledged agency that provides regulatory frameworks for sustainability has been established.

Prof. Lauwali Abubakar, the Director at the Centre for Agricultural and Pastoral Research of the Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto said that Nigerias population growth was against the low agricultural productivity. Our population is expanding while our agricultural production is low. We need biotechnology, which will bring multiple food production in a limited period.

Hamma Ali Kwajaffa is former President of the National Cotton Association of Nigeria (NACOTAN) and Director General at Nigerian Textile Manufacturers Association said that biotechnology could develop African cotton, especially now that the product is in completion in the international market.

Biotechnology has increased the tonnage of cotton per hectare in America, China and India and their farmers are happy with it. We have not been able to achieve one tonne per hectare in Nigeria while those using biotechnology are harvesting five tonnes per hectare. Generally, our farmers have been left out, he said.

He cited Burkina Faso as the number country in Africa that applied biotechnology on commercial level for cotton. When Nigeria starts full application of biotechnology after field trials, the story will be a different one. Biotechnology will boost our agricultural productivity in no small measure.

Thanks to biotechnology, India which was least known in agriculture became worlds largest producer of cotton; Argentina leads in the production and export of soybeans and Burkina Faso, in the last two years became Africas largest producer of BT cotton.

Therefore, Nigeria has no choice than to consider the deployment of agricultural biotechnology, especially if food insecurity is our concern against the projected population explosion.

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How biotechnology can optimize agriculture in Nigeria – Vanguard … – Vanguard

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Lungs in space: research project could lead to new lung therapeutics – Phys.Org

Posted: August 16, 2017 at 5:49 pm

Space travel can cause a lot of stress on the human body as the change in gravity, radiation and other factors creates a hostile environment. While much is known about how different parts of the body react in space, how lungs are affected by spaceflight has received little attention until now, say researchers at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston and Houston Methodist Research Institute.

That will change, though, once their research project, which aims to grow lungs in space, reaches the International Space Station. UTMB and HMRI researchers say what they learn from the study could have real implications for astronauts, as well as those still on Earth, and could lead to future therapeutics.

“We know a lot about what happens in space to bones, muscle, the heart and the immune system, but nobody knows much about what happens to the lungs,” said Joan Nichols, a professor of Internal Medicine and Microbiology and Immunology, and associate director for research and operations for the Galveston National Laboratory at UTMB. “We know that there are some problems with lungs in space flight, but that hasn’t been closely looked into. We hope to find out how lung cells react to the change in gravity and the extreme space environment, and then that can help us protect astronauts in space, as well as the lungs of regular people here on Earth.”

This investigation represents the third of four collaborative projects currently active at the HMRI’s Center for Space Nanomedicine. The center, directed by Alessandro Grattoni, chairman and associate professor of the Department of Nanomedicine at HMRI, focuses on the investigation of nanotechnology-based strategies for medicine on Earth and in space. The research is supported by the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, NASA and HMRI.

Scientists from UTMB and HMRI prepared bioreactor pouches that include lung progenitor and stem cells and pieces of lung scaffolding. The scaffolding is the collagen and elastin frame on which lung cells grow. Space X successfully launched the payload containing these pouches Aug. 14 on its 12th Commercial Resupply Services mission (CRS-12) from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida and is expected to arrive at the International Space Station Aug. 16. Once on the ISS, the cells are expected to grow on the scaffold in a retrofitted bioreactor.

Once the lung cells have returned to Earth, researchers will look for the development of fibrosis, the structure of the tissues and the response of immune cells, among other changes and damage that could occur to the lung cells. Lung injuries have been found to accelerate in space, and it is through close study of those cells that therapeutics hopefully could be developed.

Nichols and Dr. Joaquin Cortiella, a professor and director of the Lab of Tissue Engineering and Organ Regeneration at UTMB, have successfully grown lungs in their lab in Galveston, but now they will see if astronauts can do the same in zero gravity. Jason Sakamoto, affiliate professor and former co-chair of the Department of Nanomedicine at HMRI, has applied his novel organ decellularization process and nanotechnology-based delivery systems to support this overall lung regeneration effort.

“We have experience working with the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space to study our nanotechnologies in action on the International Space Station,” Grattoni said. “However, we are extremely excited to be a part of this clinical study, since it may play a pivotal role in how we approach future space travel in terms of preserving astronaut health. What we learn during this fundamental experiment could lead to science-fiction-like medical advancements, where organ regeneration becomes a reality in both deep space and here on Earth.”

Researchers at HMRI will take the results from UTMB and work on developing therapeutics that could help astronauts, as well as people on Earth.

“This exploration will provide fundamental insight for the collaborative development of cell-based therapies for autoimmune diseases, hormone deficiencies and other issues,” Grattoni said.

Explore further: Image: Testing astronauts’ lung health

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Lungs in space: research project could lead to new lung therapeutics – Phys.Org

Recommendation and review posted by Guinevere Smith

EPA Rule on Nanotechnology Reporting Is Good News – Natural Resources Defense Council

Posted: August 16, 2017 at 5:49 pm

Some good news from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency!

EPA issued a Working Guidance for its Final Nanotechnology Reporting and Record-keeping Requirements Rule, which become effective this week, on August 14, 2017. This important rule establishes one-time reporting and record-keeping requirements for certain chemical substances when they are manufactured or processed at the nanoscale.

In early January 2017 EPA issued the Final Rule with many improvements that we had asked for in our public comments to the EPA docket (see my earlier blog for a summary).

EPA closed the loophole in the proposed rule that would have exempted nanoclays, zinc oxide, and nanocellulose from reporting requirements. This means EPA and the public will now have more information to make informed regulatory decisions about these materials.

EPA rejected industry arguments for a volume cut off below which no reporting would have been required. Such a threshold may have exempted many nanomaterials which are, of course, notoriously low volume due to their extremely small size.

EPA rejected industrys request to exempt naturally occurring nanomaterials from reporting requirements.

EPA closed the loophole that would have exempted chemical substances manufactured as part of a film on a surface.

Maybe most importantly, EPA rejected all industry argument that EPA does not have the authority to issue this rule. EPA asserted its authority under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) section 8(a).

This ruleparticularly with the above improvementsis a win for scientific transparency and public disclosure. However, it is not regulations or restrictions. Therefore, EPA must use the information it collects under this rule to inform policies that will protect human health and the environment from harmful exposures to these small-sized chemicals.

More about the rule is on EPAs website. See my earlier blog on the loopholes.

EPA first started working on this rule in 2009, and, although the Rule has moved slowly through the regulatory process, nanotechnology has not. In the last decade (since 2005) EPA has received and reviewed over160 applicationsfor new nanomaterials, including the carbon nanotubes that look and act much like asbestos (seereportby U Mass Lowell, 2014).

Nanoscale chemicals (nanomaterials) are in products from all commercial sectors ranging from sports equipment to agrochemicals to clothing. Increased concern for potential health and environmental impacts of chemicals, including nanomaterials, in consumer products is driving demand for greater transparency regarding potential risks. To that end, we published the results of our research using the GreenScreen hazard assessment method to show both hazards and data gaps for conventional silver and nanosilver approved by EPA for commercial uses (Sass et al 2016). The ability to conduct hazard assessments like the GreenScreens we published depends on reliable and publicly available information. EPAs Rule is an important tool to gather relevant data on nanomaterials to inform hazard assessment, regulatory decisions, and industrial product design and development.

NCI National Cancer Institute

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EPA Rule on Nanotechnology Reporting Is Good News – Natural Resources Defense Council

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Nanotechnology | Future of Everything With Jason Silva (Part 5) – Singularity Hub

Posted: August 16, 2017 at 5:49 pm

In the latest installment ofSingularity Universitys newweb series, Future of Everything With Jason Silva, Silva discusses how nanotechnology will transform the world in ways we can hardly fathom.

Nanotech allows us to pattern atoms, allowing us to manipulate the building blocks of the physical world. We can move beyond scarcity because everything is made of atoms, moving us into a future of abundance.

It essentially makes the physical world a programmable medium.

Image Credit: Singularity University via YouTube

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Nanotechnology | Future of Everything With Jason Silva (Part 5) – Singularity Hub

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Nanotechnology Gives Green Energy a Green Color – Futurism

Posted: August 16, 2017 at 5:49 pm

Green Panels

Solar panels have tremendous potential to provide affordable renewable energy, but many people see traditional black and blue panels as an eyesore. Architects, homeowners and city planners may be more open to the technology if they could install green panels that melt into the landscape, red panels on rooftops and white ones camouflaged as walls.

A new study published this week inApplied Physics Lettersbrings us one step closer to a future of colorful, efficientsolar panels. Researchers have developed a method for imprinting existing solar panels with silicon nanopatterns that scatter green light back toward an observer. The panels have a green appearance from most angles yet only show about a 10 percent power reduction due to the loss of absorbed green light.

Some people say why would you make solar cells less efficient? But we can make solar cells beautiful without losing too much efficiency, said Verena Neder, a researcher at AMOLF and lead author of the paper. The new method to change the color of the panels is not only easy to apply but also attractive as an architectural design element and has the potential to widen their use.

Most research on solarcellshas focused on increasing efficiency and reducing cost. Currently, the solar panels sold to consumers can ideally turn up to 22 percent of the suns light into usable energy. Colored solar panels are already on the market, but the dyes and reflective coatings that give them their color greatly reduce efficiency.

Neder and colleagues created their efficient, green solar panels through soft-imprint lithography, which works somewhat like an optical rubber stamp to imprint a dense array of silicon nanocylinders onto the cell surfaces. Each nanocylinder is about 100 nanometers wide and exhibits an electromagnetic resonance that scatters a particular wavelength of light. The geometry of the nanocylinder determines which wavelength it scatters and can be fine-tuned to change the color of the solar cell. The imprint reduces the solar panelsefficiencyby about 2 percent.

In principle, this technique is easily scalable for fabrication technology, said Albert Polman, a scientific group leader at AMOLF and senior author on the paper. You can use a rubber stamp the size of a solar panel that in one step, can print the whole panel full of these little, exactly defined nanoparticles.

Unlike existing colored solar panels, the nanopatterns give a consistent appearance from different angles. The structure we made is not very sensitive to the angle of observation, so even if you look at it from a wide angle, it still appears green, Neder said.

The nanopatterns also could be useful in makingtandem solar cells, which stack several layers, each designed to absorb certain parts of the spectrum, to achieve efficiencies of greater than 30 percent.

Next, the researchers are designing imprints to create red and bluesolar cells. Once they master these three colors, the primary colors oflight, they can create any color, potentially even white. You have to combine different nanoparticles, and if they get very close to each other they can interact and that will affect thecolor, Polman said. Going to white is a really big step.

This article was provided by American Institute of Physics. Materials may have been edited for clarity and brevity.

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Nanotechnology Gives Green Energy a Green Color – Futurism

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