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The DAC will be responsible for coordinating all drought response interventions to save lives in the immediate-term and build climate-resilient livelihoods and agrifood systems in the longer-term. (Image source: Adobe Stock)

The El Nino Drought Action Committee (DAC) was set up by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and the Government of Zimbabwe through the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture Water, Fisheries and Rural Development (MLAFWRD), to develop mitigation strategies to combat the devastating impacts of El Nino-induced drought

To set up the DAC, a multi-stakeholder meeting was conducted in the first week of May, attended by more than 60 key stakeholders representing all provinces and sectors in Zimbabwe. The DAC will be responsible for coordinating all drought response interventions to save lives in the immediate-term and build climate-resilient livelihoods and agrifood systems in the longer-term.

The committee’s primary interventions are to develop short- and long-term mitigation measures in the agriculture sector in particular areas on crops, water, livestock, fisheries, agriculture, and irrigation. Working in close collaboration with the FAO and key stakeholders, the MLAWFRD through the Food Security and Livelihoods cluster, the sectoral response strategy is aligned to the Drought Risk Management Strategy 2017-2025 and the El Nino Response Plan (April 2024). 

During the meeting, the MLAFWRD presented the proposed Terms of Reference (ToRs) of the DAC including the expected deliverables and timelines in alignment to the Drought Response Plan. Stakeholders had the opportunity to deliberate on the proposed ToRs with the objective to formulate co-owned realistic and measurable interventions that clearly spell out roles and responsibilities of the DAC. The meeting outlined the sectors that need specific response strategies and required resources as well as the proposed resource mobilisation strategy.

Sub-committees that will spearhead implementation of the El Nino mitigation strategy, were also agreed upon during the meeting. These include wheat, crops, livestock and fisheries, horticulture, irrigation, grain mobilisation, strategic grain reserve, water and WASH, mechanisation, data and knowledge management. Each sub-committee will be responsible for developing an action plan and implementing matrix with timelines and key deliverables, the progress of which will be continuously monitored and reported to the main committee. 

“We gathered as key stakeholders in the Agriculture sector to coordinate our efforts and create synergies as we address the ongoing El Nino-induced drought that is ravaging our country," asserted chief director, Business Development, Markets and Trade in the MLAFWRD, Clemence Bwenje. "Together, we have the power to overcome the challenges posed by drought and build a more resilient and sustainable future for all. The formation of the Drought Action Committee marks a crucial step forward in our collective journey towards a drought-resilient nation.” 


The initiative's success reflects the combined efforts of partners, collaborators, and the farming community. (Image source: ICRISAT)

Powered by research and data from the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), farmers can quickly address numerous agricultural challenges by leveraging the strengths of the Plantix app's AI-driven diagnostics

Thanks to the seamless integration of technology and agricultural expertise, more than 30 million smallholder farmers in the semi-arid tropics have been empowered with real-time plant health management advice, significantly improving farming practices. 

The initiative's success reflects the combined efforts of partners, collaborators, and the farming community. CEO of Plantix, Simone Strey extended gratitude to all stakeholders involved in the decade-long initiative, while also encouraging like-minded entities to join the mission of transforming agriculture through science and technology. 

"We believe in the power of shared visions, combining science, innovation and technology to create effective solutions that truly benefit smallholder farmers,” stated director general of ICRISAT, Dr Jacqueline d’Arros Hughes. “Together, we have achieved over 30 million downloads of the Plantix app and analysed more than 100 million images, providing critical agricultural insights to millions of farmers worldwide.” 

In recognition of the 10-year milestone, ICRISAT and Plantix also unveiled a commemorative brochure, 'Sowing a Seed of Change'. According to Dr Srikanth Rupavatharam, senior Scientist-Digital Agriculture, Global Research Programme for Resilient Farm and Food Systems at ICRISAT, the brochure which is a testament to a decade of dedication and progress serves as a catalyst for conversations within agricultural networks worldwide. 

For more information, visit: 

The CHRONOS OMP-2090 B delivers maximum productivity through reliable, fully automatic operation, outstanding bagging accuracy and high product and operational safety. (Image source: Bühler)

Swiss technology group, Bühler recently announced its partnership with Canadian packaging equipment manufacturer, Premier Tech to launch the CHRONOS OMP-2090 B, a fully automatic bagging station

Developed for a wide range of powdery and other non-free-flowing products, the new bagging station delivers maximum productivity through reliable, fully automatic operation, outstanding bagging accuracy and high product and operational safety.

The CHRONOS OMP-2090 B features an innovative bag opening system that delivers maximum efficiency with highly reliable operation. Its innovation in bagging accuracy of approximately 25 kg is made possible through the incorporation of dosing and weighing technology and intelligent controls. Its uniquely robust bag handling concept delivers optimal uptime and has a capacity of up to 900 bags per hour and its hygienic design coupled with comprehensive safety features demonstrates Bühler's and Premier Tech’s dedication to high food and human safety standards. These features significantly optimise the profitability of millers without compromising the efficiency of their operations.

“At Premier Tech, we leverage our decades of expertise to deliver high-performing, food-safe, and cost-effective automated packaging solutions," said Partner Relations director at Premier Tech Systems and Automation, Alexis Michaud. "This dedication to quality and innovation ensures that businesses in emerging markets have access to the automation level they need to compete. Our solutions empower them to enhance their operational efficiency and product quality, ultimately contributing to their long-term success.” 

The product will be available in all markets, apart from the US, Canada and the European member states. 

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SaliCrop’s seed innovation is bearing fruits of success in tomato cultivation: More yield and flavorful tomatoes. (Image source: Guy Shery)

Leveraging its expertise in desert technology, agritech start-up, SaliCrop Ltd., recently introduced a breakthrough seed treatment innovation that is capable of transforming arid terrains into flourishing landscapes for growing food

Boosting crop cultivation in arid regions raises yields, eventually promising greater food security for the future. With a focus on crops such as onions, chili rice and broccoli, field trials are currently being carried out across Africa, India and Europe.

Tackling abiotic stress

Two main abiotic stressors that hinder crop development include saline soil and heat stress. To combat these issues, SaliCrop has developed a novel, non-GMO approach to bolster seeds' resilience to abiotic stresses. The various seed enhancement protocols that have been designed, target a plant’s internal stress-response mechanisms by intentionally exposing the plant to controlled abiotic stressors, while at the same time, ensuring to keep the plant DNA intact. In brief, SaliCrop's green solution acts as a gentle nudge to preemptively stimulate the stress responses even before the plant finds itself in salty or hot conditions.

"Under SaliCrop's treatment, plants not only thrive in poor quality, highly saline soil through enhanced nutrient absorption and improved root structures, but they also exhibit increased vigor and superior germination rates," affirmed CEO of SaliCrop, Carmit Oron. "This innovation turns marginal lands, previously considered barren, into fertile grounds capable of abundant food production. As climate change intensifies, farmers globally are in urgent need of sustainable solutions to adapt and succeed. SaliCrop is at the forefront, with leading agricultural players already integrating our technology," Oron added.

The SaliCrop solution is currently bearing fruit in tomato cultivation in multiple locations, including Spain.

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Well-timed treatments with Omex Kingfol Zn are rewarded with zinc-enriched grain. (Image source: Omex)

Dr Terry Mabbett, in conversation with Omex Agrifluid’s technical sales manager, Ben Odunlami and export sales manager, Oskar Winkler explains how zinc, the ‘make or break’ nutrient for maize, has gone foliar

Most widely grown, biggest global production, highest yield per hectare and biggest above ground biomass of all cereal crops, that’s maize. And prime target for foliar feeding with soluble nutrients, says Ben Odunlami, technical sales manager and Oskar Winkler, export sales manager, Africa at Omex Agrifluids.

Zinc is the ‘make or break’ nutrient. Odunlami and Winkler told African Farming how zinc has gone foliar. “Top of our product list is Kingfol Zn, formulated with the highest quality mineral elements, marketed as a highly concentrated liquid formulation (70% Zn w/v) and applied as a seed treatment at 0.25l/100kg seed,” says Ben. “Constituents disperse easily with no requirement for pre-mixing and ideal for correcting a specific zinc deficiency.”

“Targeted at the seedling stage is a pair of products that boost growth and establishment,” said Winkler. “Omex 3X Emulsion with a full complement of macro and micronutrients and Omex Bio 20 offering the same nutrient profile but with an added biostimulant boost from natural compounds sourced from a specific marine alga (seaweed). African maize producers can use either depending upon the availability in their country. Both are applied as foliar sprays in the early vegetative stages of the crop.” said Winkler.

“Potassium is a major requirement for fast growing maize crops,” says Odunlami, “with Omex offering two equivalent products – Omex K41 (41.00% potassium w/v) and Omex Sequential 2 (40.00% potassium w/v) and applied as foliar sprays at, respectively, 3.0-5.0 l/ha and 2.5 l/ha. Maize growers can use either depending upon availability in their country.

As the ‘make or break’ nutrient for maize, zinc is required throughout the entire period of crop growth to ensure zinc-enriched grain. Enrichment of maize grain with high levels of zinc is a growing global challenge to ensure the health and well-being of human populations who rely on maize as the main staple. Many African countries fall into this category. With soils being either inherently deficient in zinc or deficient in plant available zinc, there are major constraints on zinc moving from the soil and into the roots of the maize plant. Zinc deficiency is aggravated in soils with high organic matter, a high pH and those rich in phosphorous, which locks up zinc as insoluble zinc phosphate. An alternate way to get zinc into the maize plant, is through the leaves using soluble zinc as a foliar spray.

So I asked Oskar what Omex had to offer African maize growers to satisfy this need for zinc during active growth stages of the crop. “This essential requirement can be provided by one of our newest and most novel products. Omex Zynergy containing zinc (4.72% w/v), but also copper (2.66% w/v) and sulphur (9.10% w/v), is applied as a foliar spray at 0.5–1.0 litre of product per ha. This unique complex of copper and zinc corrects deficiencies and improves plant health and tolerance to abiotic stress,” Winkler told African Farming

Last but not least, in the Omex portfolio products for African maize is Omex Sulphomex containing nitrogen (15.00% w/v) and sulphur (87.50% w/v). Deficiencies of either nutrient are reflected in both crop yield and produce quality with deficiency symptoms featuring various forms of foliar chlorosis (leaf yellowing), and often difficult to distinguish.

The source of sulphur deficiency is the most interesting. In years gone by sulphur from industrial pollution was an important source for cereal crops including maize. But as countries across the world including those in Africa strive to clean up their industries, so sulphur deficiency has shown itself with farmers required to rectify the situation. “Omex Sulphomex is applied as a foliar spray to maize at a rate of 1.5 – 3.0 l/ha," Odunlami told African Farming.

Foliar feeding is clearly the way forward for maize. It allows farmers to rapidly treat crops with appropriate products at the right time in relation to specific stages in crop growth and development and any specific nutrient deficiency. Omex Agrifluids has a comprehensive portfolio of high quality soluble nutrient products in both liquid and water soluble suspension to meet maize farmers’ needs across the continent of Africa.

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