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Cycle 5 (2015 Deadline)

More rice for Africa: enhancing smallholder farmers’ rice yields in Africa through the use of efficient and low cost endophytic Actinomycetes biopesticide

PI: Amadou Hamadoun Babana (, University of Sciences, Techniques and Technologies of Bamako (USTTB)
U.S. Partner: David Weller, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Wheat Health, Genetics, and Quality Research Unit
Project Dates: December 2016 - November 2019

Project Overview:

Rice is a crucial and strategic cereal crop for more than half of the population in sub-Saharan Africa, particularly in Mali. Unfortunately, diseases, primarily bacterial leaf blight and rice yellow mottle virus disease, cause the average rice yield to be below the global average. This contributes to economic losses and undermines food security. Chemical pesticides can control pathogen growth and dispersal and improve rice yield, but their high cost and harmful effects on human health and the environment limit their use in smallholder rice farms. Endophytic bacteria, which have been shown to be plant growth-promoting or pathogen-suppressing or to activate plant defense systems, can benefit plants through enhanced resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses and plant growth promotion. The use of these bacteria for disease management has great potential in the agricultural systems of West Africa. However, production and use of endophytic bacteria biopesticides has not yet been scaled up for use by farmers in West Africa.

The primary goal of this study is to increase food security in Mali. The specific objective is to improve rice productivity and competitiveness in Mali through the production and integration of endophytic bacterial biopesticides into rice production systems. The main result expected for this project is a the production of effective and low-cost biopesticides and a strategy for long-term sustainable rice pathogen biocontrol technology, which will be tested by smallholder rice farmers in Africa. By producing biopesticides at home and using local microbes and materials, the nations could save as much as $7.2 million per year in scarce foreign exchange money that could be used for government development priorities such as health and education. The project will also provide a much-needed boost to rice and biopesticide sectors, which are currently ailing segments of the economy. By improving rice yield while diminishing pesticide expenses, this project should help to alleviate smallholder poverty in Africa.

Summary of Recent Activities

In this reporting period, Dr. Babana started the project activities with a two-week visit to his partner Dr. Kinkel at the Plant Pathology Department of the University of Minnesota. During the visit, he, a researcher from his lab, and his postdoc made two presentations for researchers based at the department. The presentation was well received and follow-up meetings were held to discuss collaboration with interested researchers. Consequently, Dr. Amadou Hamadoun Dicko, the postdoc working on this project, presented the results he obtained on the use of Actinomycetes in biocontrol.

Once the team returned to Mali, they prepared to host a workshop led by Dr. Stephen Machado, a professor at Oregon State University who is another co-partner on this project. This meeting was originally planned for at least 100 participants, but 180 people turned out. Dr. Machado carried out a workshop on biochar and its utility as a carrier for biopesticide formulations. This meeting was attended by professors and researchers from the University of Sciences, Techniques and Technologies of Bamako (USTTB), the Malian Agricultural Department, agricultural input dealers, and staff members from NGOs working in agriculture and rural development. After the workshop, Dr. Machado trained farmers and other participants from the rice value chain in developing a business plan for biopesticide production and marketing. This training, which lasted for two weeks, was done in two parts. In the first, participants were trained in conducting a pre-market survey, a critical tool to initiate the microenterprise and a key element of the business plan. In the second, farmers were trained on how to record financial transactions; post debits and credits; produce invoices; complete payroll; and maintain and balance subsidiaries, general ledgers, and historical accounts. Farmers learned basic accounting skills to enable them to prepare simple financial statements, analyze costs of operations, and complete income tax returns.

The farmers also invited Dr. Machado to visit their farms to see the extent of the damage caused by various diseases impacting rice, maize, and tomato fields.

Lastly, the PI and his team have developed a new biopesticide formulation efficient against rice pathogens and insect pests. This formulation has shown high efficacy in farmers’ fields. The team reports that they have been approached by the Nantoumé Agroindustry, which is the largest fertilizer and pesticide provider in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger. The company is interested in collaborating with the PEER team to test the product with the aim of providing it on a large scale in Mali and other West African countries.

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