First Global Conference on Biofortification

In a few moments, talks at the First Global Conference on Biofortification will begin. Up first: the keynote address The Future of Food by William J. Garvelink, the US Government Deputy Coordinator for Development Feed the Future: Global Hunger and Food Security Initiative. Then, a panel discussion on the Importance of agriculture for addressing malnutrition. If you have any questions regarding biofortification, let me know in the comments and I’ll try to find the answer and address it in a later post. Follow the conference on Twitter #biofortconf.

Even before the talks get started, the posters here display some exciting research. For example, B.B. Singh, an agronomist who splits his time between Texas A&M and an Indian university, has developed 60 day cowpea.The short maturation time of these special legumes means that they can be integrated into existing rotations in India, the US, and Africa, without the loss of any of the staple grain crops. They can be planted right into the stubble of the previous crop, provide about 1.5-2.5 tons of high-protein beans that can be cooked into a variety of traditional dishes as a substitute for beans such as chickpeas, soybeans, or lentils. They have a mild taste and high levels of iron and zinc. The bean plants can be used as fodder for animals and the plants fix nitrogen so less fertilizer is needed for the next crop. Other benefits include disease resistance and low water requirements.

Dr. Singh has been successful in his work to help Indian farmers integrate the cowpea into their wheat and rice rotations, and hopes to get farmers in Texas and the American south using cowpea as well. This work is particularly important for two reasons. First, in India, while legumes are an important part of the diet, increased demand for rice and wheat has decreased the number of acres where legumes are planted, causing an increase in price and reduction of protein in the diets of many Indians.  Second, soybeans do require a reasonable amount of water, and as rainfall becomes more variable, the US supply of the legume will decrease.