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Archive for the ‘International agricultural research’ Category

Strategic Foresight Conference at IFPRI

A one-day Strategic Foresight Conference took place at IFPRI Headquarters in Washington DC on November 7, 2014. Participants from leading global modeling groups, collaborating CGIAR centers and research programs, and other partners reviewed new long-term projections for global agriculture from IFPRI and other leading institutions, examined the potential impacts of climate change and other key challenges, and discussed the role of foresight work in identifying and supporting promising solutions. 

Topics included:

  • Long-term outlook and challenges for food & agriculture
  • Addressing the challenges
  • Foresight in the CGIAR

Speakers included representatives from IFPRI, GTAP & Purdue University, OECD, IIASA, CCAFS, CIMMYT and ICRISAT. Conference agenda, a webcast, as well as the presentations are available on the Global Futures & Strategic Foresight website.

Really a nontraded commodity?, part 3: Potato trade in Uganda and beyond

DSCN1115 At the end of June 2012 we visited the potato wholesale market and the offices of the market information service Farmgain Africa in Kampala, Uganda to learn about trade in potatoes (called “Irish potato” in Uganda) in the country and the Eastern Africa region. Unstructured interviews have been held with traders, representatives of Farmgain and other experts. Here is what we’ve learnt:

Potato production in Uganda

According to the information received from the persons interviewed, most of the production of potatoes in Uganda is located in the Kabale region in the South of the country and in the Mt. Elgon region in the East. Potatoes are a commercial crop in Uganda. Farmers sell up to 80% of their harvest, but also retain a small part for own-consumption and as seed for the following cropping season.

Potato trade in Uganda

For trade within Uganda, potatoes are purchased by traders directly from the farmers in the production regions and taken to the wholesale market in Kampala. Kampala serves as a hub for potatoes in the countries and inter-regional trade only takes place if an importing region is on the route from a production region to Kampala.

Traders from Kampala trade internationally. Potatoes are brought from the Kampala market year-round to South Sudan. Markets in the DRC, Kenya and Rwanda are supplied mainly seasonally (Kenya during March/April and Rwanda during September/October). These countries, however, are also supplied directly from the production regions. Potatoes are directly taken from Kabale to Rwanda and the DRC. Kenya receive potatoes from the production regions in the East. Trade to the neighboring countries is cross-border, but also goes inland, for example to the capitals Kigali and Nairobi.

Also, the markets are well connected through the flow of price information. Traders use mobile phones to transmit information on market prices within the country and from/to neighboring countries (South Sudan, Kenya). As a consequence, international trade is responsive to price signals and arbitrage appears to take place. For example, at the time of the visit potatoes from Kenya were present on the market, according to the traders a consequence of the relatively high market prices in Kampala.

Potatoes traded on the wholesale market in Kampala are differentiated according to their intended end-use as table potatoes, for chipping or for French fries. These different qualities command different prices. While there is a certain price differential between the qualities, the traders confirmed that the prices moved together, e.g. if prices of one quality rise, prices of all other qualities increase as well.

[This blog post is basically a reproduction of a short report I just found on my harddrive. It can be seen as a complement to earlier work on trade in potatoes as was presented in “A look at the international potato trade network“.]

Simulation modeling for foresight analysis and ex-ante impact assessment in potato and sweetpotato

Is it possible to use large scale agricultural simulation models for the analysis of crops like potatoes and sweetpotatoes?

Yes! The Global Futures for Agriculture and Strategic Foresight (GFSF) project, which has the objective of developing and applying an integrated simulation modeling framework for the comprehensive analysis of trends and technology impacts in the CGIAR mandate crops and systems, is doing exactly this. At least the part of this research collaboration of all in all 12 centers of the CGIAR which is taking place at the International Potato Center (CIP), as was explained in a seminar held on 24 April 2014 at the CIP Headquarters in Lima.

The core component of the modeling framework developed in the project is the International Model for Policy Analysis of Agricultural Commodities and Trade (IMPACT), an economic partial equilibrium model of the world agricultural sector. IMPACT has the capability of generating forward looking global analyses of supply, demand, prices and trade of 56 agricultural commodities in 320 geographic regions, taking into account major drivers like

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Virtual potato crop modeling: A comparison of genetic coefficients of the DSSAT-SUBSTOR potato model with breeding goals for developing countries

ReportVirtual crop modeling is the representation of future genetic improvements from plant breeding in crop growth simulation models through changes in genetic coefficients or other crop model parameters with the objective of analyzing ex-ante the impacts of improved traits on crop yields and assisting breeders in their breeding efforts.

As a first step towards virtual crop modeling for the potato crop, a new working paper provides a comparison of priority breeding targets for developing country regions with genetic coefficients and other parameters of the SUBSTOR-potato model, thereby showing the potential uses of the model for that purpose.

It is shown that SUBSTOR provides scope for virtual crop modeling. Out of nine priority target traits, five can currently be dealt with in model. Adaptation to long day conditions and heat tolerance can directly be represented by adjusting the genetic coefficients of the model. High yields and drought tolerance would require changes in parameters that are currently included in the model code. Earliness would require the implementation of a new parameter in the code. Additional traits related to crop quality and resistance to biotic stress factors will require more profound changes in either the model structure or the coupling of the crop growth model with disease models.

The full working paper Virtual potato crop modeling: A comparison of genetic coefficients of the DSSAT-SUBSTOR potato model with breeding goals for developing countries is available on ZENODO. The paper is intended as an entry point for discussions and further about how to best carry out virtual crop modeling for the potato crop.

Livestock and global change: Special feature in PNAS

Tropentag 2013 “Agricultural development within the rural-urban continuum” starts today

TT logoToday starts the Tropentag 2013 conference “Agricultural development within the rural-urban continuum”.

Througout the conference there will be a conference blog and continous reporting will come via @tropentag on Twitter.

What is (agricultural) economics worth?

The philosophers Alex Rosenberg and Tyler Curtain inquire in the New York Times about the possible contributions of economics, in spite of it’s poor track record of making reliable predictions:

[…] economics has never been able to show the record of improvement in predictive successes that physical science has shown through its use of harmless idealizations. In fact, when it comes to economic theory’s track record, there isn’t much predictive success to speak of at all. [..]

The point they make is that economic theory can make a big contribution to

[…] the design and management of institutions that will protect us from […] those parts of our selves tempted to opportunism, free riding and generally avoiding the costs of civil life while securing its benefits. […] Fixing bad economic and political institutions (concentrations of power, collusions and monopolies), improving good ones (like the Fed’s open-market operations), designing new ones (like electromagnetic bandwidth auctions), in the private and public sectors, are all attainable tasks of economic theory.

A good point, indeed.

From the perspective of an agricultural economist working on the impact assessment of agricultural research, there is another example for the worth of economics:

Even when applying only simple and stylized models, the exchange with scientists from other disciplines (i.e., those who typically develop new agricultural technologies) and decision makers (research managers and donors) about the assumptions made in these models and the results they generate adds an important — the economic — dimension to the work of these colleagues. Thereby, they become informed about aspects of their work they otherwise would neglect. This enables them to better judge the value of their work and make better decisions about the design and future directions of their research programs.

As an example, economists would apply a simple model to estimate the economic surplus effects of a given new agricultural technology. A crucial parameter in such a model is the expected adoption rate of the new technologies. In order to arrive at an estimate about this parameter, economists would discuss with crop scientists the expected magnitude of adoption. Being the suppliers and “owners” of the technology, crop scientists would tend to be rather optimistic. Economists, in contrast, would seek to factor in aspects like cost changes associated with the technology or market demand that may act as drivers or impediments to technology diffusion, and possibly arrive at more cautious estimates.

Such a discussion process will provide crop scientists with a clearer picture about the likelihood of success of their research outputs and, in particular if done for several alternative options for research and technology development, lead to better decisions about the design of a research portfolio.