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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. 

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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.

Representatives of the African Development Bank, African Fertilizer Financing Mechanism, the Government of Norway and Apollo Agriculture at the Nairobi launch of the Financing for Sustainable Agriculture Management Project. (Image source: AfDB)

As part of its recently launched ‘Fertiliser Financing for Sustainable Agriculture Management Project,’ the Africa Fertiliser Financing Mechanism will provide a US$2mn partial trade credit guarantee and a grant of US$219,000 to Kenyan corporation, Apollo Agriculture Limited to facilitate the company’s fertiliser sales

The two-year-long project aligns with Kenya's Vision 2030, which identifies agriculture as a key driver of the country’s economic growth and food security. Using Apollo's digital platform, the project will connect farmers seeking fertiliser and other inputs on credit with a network of 150 retail agro-dealers and 800 village-based agents. This will help deliver nearly 8,000 tonnes of fertilisers to 100,000 smallholder farmers, boosting harvests and incomes.

The launch event of the project was held on 8 April in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. Representatives of the African Development Bank (AfDB) which manages the Mechanism; Apollo Agriculture and the Kenyan and Norwegian governments attended the launch event. The Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, is also supporting the project through its contribution of US$10.15mn to the Africa Fertiliser Financing Mechanism. 

During the launch, Nnenna Nwabufo, director general of the AfDB’s East Africa regional office, said, "This support is in line with the Bank's Feed Africa Strategy. It will ensure long-term private sector engagement in financing fertiliser, ultimately increasing food production and security in Kenya." 

Benjamin Njenga, co-founder of Apollo Agriculture, explained that farmers can obtain high-quality farming supplies by paying a small deposit upfront, with the full loan being due when the farmer has harvested and sold the produce.  

Targeting maize production, Apollo Agriculture has already begun implementing the project in Kenya’s Bungoma and Uasin Gishu counties. There are high expectations that yields will increase for the harvest season starting in September 2024.

The new bioinsecticide from Bayer can be used in oilseed rape and cereals. (Image source: Bayer)

Global healthcare and nutrition company, Bayer announces its signing of an agreement with leader of crop protection solutions, AlphaBio Control, to secure a license for a new biological insecticide, targeted towards arable crops

Infestation by insects like the cabbage stem flea beetle (CSFB), can be devastating for oilseed rape crops throughout the growing season and even cause seedling death. Keeping this in mind, the new bioinsecticide has been designed for use against coleoptera insects like these. 

Moreover, by including it in a digitally-supported integrated pest management system, Bayer’s systems approach—which combines various solutions—will help to maximise the cost efficiencies of this new product. 

“We are delighted to license Bayer exclusive rights to our latest bioinsecticide which will significantly improve the choices available to arable farmers wishing to reduce the environmental impact of food production,” said general manager for AlphaBio Control, Marta Ruiz.

Moreover, the new insecticide also aligns with Bayer's commitment to help reduce the environmental impact of crop protection products by 30% by 2030. The initial launch of the product is planned for 2028. 

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