Bursary improves cross-CABI collaboration for more effective international development work

IPP-CAAS group discussion
CABI bursary: seconded Mariya Iqbal and Gareth Dicks from CABI UK with CABI knowledge tool users from the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences and the MARA-CABI Joint Laboratory for Biosafety in Beijing.

By Dr Stefan Toepfer, CABI

A strength of CABI is its work on a global scale addressing global and local problems in agriculture. CABI can rely on its network of experts among various CABI centres, laboratories, project offices in many countries and world regions. To maintain this strength, a CABI Development Bursary was created to aid new experts to visit other CABI centres.

This year, CABI UK-based Gareth Dicks from the Product Development team and Mariya Iqbal from the Plantwise Knowledge Bank team visited CABI East Asia as well as the MARA-CABI Joint Laboratory for Biosafety in Beijing.

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Video special: Dr Babar Bajwa talks about CABI’s work in Pakistan

Babar blog
CABI’s Central and West Asia office is working hard to help ensure greater food security and more prosperous livelihoods in Pakistan including helping farmers produce higher and more profitable cotton yields as part of the Better Cotton Initiative

In this video special Dr Babar Bajwa, CABI’s Regional Director – Central and West Asia, talks about CABI’s work towards helping partners achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals – including ‘Zero Hunger’ and ‘No Poverty’ –  in Pakistan. This includes reaching out to smallholder farmers with expert advice on integrated crop and pest management practices so they are better equipped to grow more and lose less to crop pests and diseases. This is true not only for ‘cash crops’ such as cotton but also fruit and vegetable plantations as part of a wider need to strengthen links in the food value chain.

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7,500 Years of Cheese Making in Europe

M Djuric, Dairy Science Editor

Compelling evidence of cheese-making has been uncovered in prehistoric pottery sieves found in the Kuyavia region in Poland by researchers from Great Britain, Poland and the United States. The study has just been published online in Nature journal on 12 December 2012.

DairycowAn abundance of milk fats was detected in these specialized pottery vessels, comparable in form to modern cheese strainers, suggesting that humans have been making cheese in Europe for at least 7,500 years.  There is a possibility that cheese was made even at earlier times using other materials such as cloth or wooden cheese strainers, but these materials are more perishable and difficult to detect as archeological material.

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Wallingford’s Part in the Revolution

If you walk just for a few minutes up the river from CABI’s headquarters near Wallingford, UK, you come across Jethro Tull Gardens. For people of a certain age this causes some confusion – why should the council have seen fit to commemorate Ian Anderson’s prog rock band with a street name? A little further down the street is a clue – the 17th-century house where the real Jethro Tull lived. It turns out that the band took the name from one of agriculture’s pioneers.


Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull – sometime salmon farmer

but limited contribution to agricultural mechanisation


Jethro Tull (1674-1741) was very interested in the application of scientific method to agriculture. He noticed that hand-sown wheat seeds tended to be delivered in clumps rather than spaced at a more ideal even interval. His solution was a horse-drawn machine with a rotating cylinder with grooves cut in that meant an even flow of seeds were added as the machine was moved along. The seeds landed in three channels dug by a plough at the front of the machine, and then were covered up by a harrow at the back of the machine. This meant greatly reduced wastage of seeds.


Jethro Tull – church-organ vandal but major agricultural visionary


Tull’s prototype seed drill was built from the foot pedals of a local church organ. Tull’s was not the first seed drill, in that double-tube seed drills were in existence in China 2000 years earlier, and Italian inventors had patented simpler versions of the concept, but his took the idea to a new level of practicability. It was unpopular with farm workers who feared they would lose their jobs, and it appears that it was sabotaged. He later developed a horse-drawn hoe to remove weeds, which is described along with other ideas in “Horse-Hoeing Husbandry: An Essay on the Principles of Tillage and Nutrition”. Tull is now seen as a major figure in the British Agricultural Revolution, but his ideas took a long time to gain acceptance.  Mechanised seed drills were not widely used until the 19th century.


CABI moved to Wallingford in the 1980s with the aim of centralizing its expertise in the appliance of science to agriculture. So it was a good omen that 300 years earlier, a local farmer was doing something very similar.