Work Package 3

Improvement of crop and food protection

Objective

The overall objective of WP3 is to introduce, in the target areas of both regions, the use of economically-affordable, socially-acceptable and environmentally-friendly IPDM packages for key crops through the adaptation and implementation of innovative technologies and collaborative research. This goal will be achieved through a participatory identification, prioritisation and characterisation of major pests and diseases affecting crops and the identification of present pest and disease control practices. Locally available ecological resources, such as endemic insect natural enemies, biocontrol agents, or indigenous repellent or pesticidal plants, will be explored, hence providing new keys to perceive alternative approaches to achieve pest and pathogen control by adding value to the ecological knowledge of local communities. New ICT-based diagnostic tools will be developed and implemented through a remote diagnostic network aiming to promote real time diagnosis. Effective solar drying systems, novel permeable membranes, innovative storage bags releasing environmentally-friendly antifungal compounds will be tested to minimise the risk of mycotoxin contamination during storage in target commodities. Biocontrol options will be explored through the utilisation of entomopathogenic fungi to control pests and biocontrol agents for control of mycotoxins (e.g. atoxigenic strains of Aspergillus flavus) to control pest damage in stored durable commodities and minimise mycotoxin contamination. Decision Support Systems (DSS) will be based on real time monitoring in grain silos using CO2 production as the major parameter for determining when there is a risk of mycotoxin contamination. The activities will be carried out in conjunction with those foreseen in WP2, WP4, WP5 and WP6.

Tasks and role of partners

Partners involved: UoN, UNISS, ACRA, CRAN, UNB, INERA , UNIMAK, CSIR-SARI, KDC, KALRO, NM-AIST, TARI, HU, JU, ST-I, OCCAM

WP Leader: Sheila Okoth

WP Co-Leader: Quirico Migheli

 

Task 3.1: Establishing a Remote PLANT HEAlth Diagnostic (PLANTHEAD) network in Eastern and Western Africa (M2-M48)

Lead partner: OCCAM; Participants: UNISS, ACRA, ST, UNB, INERA, UNIMAK, CSIR-SARI, KDC, KALRO, UoN, NM-AIST, TARI, HU, JU

The present Task aims at implementing a remote PLANT HEAlth Diagnostic (PLANTHEAD) network in Africa to promote real time diagnosis and environment-friendly crop protection approaches in resource-constrained environments lacking the organizational and/or the sociotechnical system resources to cope with food insecurity issues. The PLANTHEAD network will be based on Internet of Things (IoT), wearable technologies and mobile devices and consists of three main elements: Service (End) Users; Service Providers, and a Digital Platform. Service Users in the partner countries would be able to benefit from the skills achieved by the Service Providers, in order to transfer knowledge, solutions and enable faster skills development in the field of disease diagnosis and crop protection. The Digital Platform, which will be realized within the Project, will be also used for the activities to be implemented in the other WPs. The shared database will represent an extremely valuable tool for epidemiological studies, as it generates interactive georeferenced maps, hence allowing real time monitoring, modelling, and forecasting the progression of a pathogen or any pest that may raise serious food security/ safety concern.

 

Task 3.2: Developing and adopting simple, rapid and inexpensive new ICT-based tools for detection and quantification of plant pests and pathogens (M2-M48)

Lead partner: ST; Participants: UNISS, ACRA, OCCAM, INERA, UNIMAK, CSIR-SARI, KALRO, UoN, TARI, HU

Task 3.2 aims to adapt and develop rapid and innovative ICT-based diagnostic tools for the early detection of plant pests and pathogens in crops, food and feed commodities. The most suitable diagnostic tools will be adopted and implemented in the PLANTHEAD network set up in Task 3.1. The first validation testing of PLANTHEAD shall be based on diagnostic images (such as disease symptoms, pest larval or adult stages, plant structures in case of parasitic plants). Further on, during the project implementation, progressively advanced ICT-based innovative tools shall be adopted and tested for field feasibility. These shall include, not exclusively:

  • Foldscope® , a low cost (one dollar) paper microscope designed to be extremely portable, durable, and to give optical quality similar to conventional research microscopes, which is easily combined to mobile cameras;

  • Depending on the conditions offered by the producing company, high throughput sequencing technologies, such as the Oxford MinION® Nanopore sequencing technology shall also be tested;

  • The real-time PCR BIO2BIT® (produced by ST), including a disposable silicon-based cartridge “lab-on-chip”, the Q3 Platform and a customized software package (Q3 software), allowing to perform fast and reliable real time PCR in small scale laboratory conditions.

ST will develop a software dedicated to EWA-BELT project, integrating the developed algorithm for automatic interpretation of results so that the operator will not have to be expert in interpreting qPCR results.

 

Task 3.3: Retrieving plant protection traditional knowledge (M4-M48)

Lead partner: ACRA; Participants: UNISS, INERA, UNIMAK, CSIR-SARI, KDC, UoN, TARI, HU

Task 3.3 aims to identify and synthesize a range of best practices involved in building innovative knowledge transfer systems based on an enhanced use of Indigenous Traditional Knowledge (ITK) and resulting from a synergic integration of practical and scientific knowledge related to IPDM and resources management. A deep understanding of Indigenous Traditional Knowledge (ITK) and practices would provide new keys to perceive local resources, alternative strategies to achieve pest and pathogen control by adding value to the ecological knowledge of local communities. Providing an added value to ethnoecological knowledge in the context of natural capital providing valuable ecosystem services (such as plant protection), will boost full recognition of their true economic and societal value. Therefore, the knowledge emerging from this Task will be communicated in a way that will be easily accessible to farmers’ networks, in particular in WP2 and, WP6. After a full validation by farmers and researchers, a printed book on relevant case studies will be produced.

 

Task 3.4: Developing effective pre- and post-harvest management strategies to avoid mycotoxin contamination in stored food and feed (M4-M48)

Lead partner: CRAN; Participants: UNISS, INERA, UNIMAK, CSIR-SARI, KDC, KALRO, UoN, TARI, HU

Task 3.4 addresses one of the most relevant biosafety issues in Sub-Saharan agricultural systems: safe storage of harvested staple cereals, legumes and groundnuts to avoid mould spoilage or pest damage. Pre- and post-harvest management strategies include:

  • Effective solar drying systems will be developed for cereals and groundnuts, hence minimising the potential for mycotoxin contamination;

  • Innovative storage bags will be tested for on-farm storage of different cereals and groundnuts containing an internal layer of material which allows the slow release of different concentrations of food grade preservatives. This will contribute to waste minimisation from damaged grain and reduce the contamination with mycotoxins, by developing resilient post-harvest systems which can reduce the exposure of rural communities to mycotoxins and improve their health, especially of infants and children;

  • Decision Support Systems (DSS) will be adopted for the implementation of real time monitoring in grain silos using CO2 production as the major parameter for determining when there is a risk of mycotoxin contamination.

 

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 862848

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