Several scientists from the National Forestry Resources Research Institute (NaFORRI) showcased innovative research contributions towards the agro-industrialization agenda during the 3rd joint NARO-Mak conference, held on 14th-16th March 2023. With particular focus on managing interactions among agriculture, fragile ecosystems and the changing environment, nine scientists presented papers to over 300 local and international participants that graced the scientific conference held at Speke Resort Munyonyo in Kampala.
One of the notable presentations came from Dr. Judith Nantongo, who discussed harnessing natural defenses to maximize the productivity of trees and forests, with a focus on lessons learned from Pinus species. The study revealed that selecting and cultivating trees with high levels of specific defensive biocompounds can effectively reduce the occurrence and severity of pests and diseases.
Dr. Bernard Fungo shared valuable insights from his research on addressing the effects of climate change on Robusta coffee through enhancing soil health using agroforestry practices. Ronald Kisekka presented a paper on the detection and management of soil-borne pathogens in citrus, demonstrating that non-inorganic control practices integrated with soil solarization can effectively control common soil pathogens like Aspergillus niger and improve the production of disease-free citrus seedlings.
Dr. Joel Buyinza emphasized the importance of agroforestry tree canopy pruning in regulating competition for water and light in smallholder farming systems. This practice also extended the intercropping period in intensive coffee agroforestry systems. Mr. Charles Galabuzi highlighted the value chain of woody trees on farms around Mount Elgon, Uganda, revealing that farmers prefer trees that germinate and grow quickly because of easy accessibility to planting materials.
Dr. Fred Kalanzi’s presentation focused on the diversity and utilization of trees for food security in smallholder farming systems in Uganda’s Mt. Elgon region. The study found that tree species diversity plays a crucial role in ensuring food security, especially among subsistence smallholders. Violet Namuyanja offered hope for eucalyptus farmers by confirming that a host-specific parasitic wasp, Psyllaephagus bliteus Riek, effectively controls the Red gum lerp psyllid, a devastating pest in eucalyptus plantations in Uganda.
Other noteworthy papers presented by the NaFORRI team included Gerald Ongodia’s study on the effect of Metarhizium anisopliae on non-target arthropods in farmland and Juventine Boaz Odoi’s research on kernel morphometric characteristics and oil content among selected shea tree (Vitellaria paradoxa) genotypes in Uganda.
The 3rd joint NARO-Mak conference revolved around the theme of “Innovations for enhancing productivity and agro-industrialization” and provided a platform for discussing strategies to overcome challenges that have hindered the agricultural sector in Uganda. These challenges include climate change, inappropriate seed systems, poor production practices, post-harvest management, and pests and diseases. Aligned with the National Development Plan III: Agro-industrialization program, the conference aimed to enhance value addition in key growth opportunities and served as a valuable opportunity for stakeholders to showcase research and innovation efforts toward achieving this objective. Participants, including researchers from NARO, Makerere University, and representatives from the public and private sectors, engaged in fruitful discussions on various topics such as mechanization and agro-industrialization, modernizing post-harvest management and food safety systems, intensifying crop productivity and seed systems, developing the livestock-based industry, managing interactions between agriculture and fragile ecosystems in the face of a changing environment, and embracing ICT-based innovations for agricultural transformation.