Stacy Reader and Tim Motis
Leaves of tropical crops like chaya (Cnidoscolus aconitifolius) and cassava (Manihot esculenta) contain cyanogenic glycosides, toxic substances that release hydrocyanic acid (HCN; also referred to as cyanide or prussic acid) when cells are crushed. Consuming these plants without cooking them can cause cyanide poisoning, with effects that vary depending on cyanide levels and how long a person or animal has been eating that plant. ECHO Asia Technical Advisor Karis Lotze noted that in addition to chaya leaves, both petioles and green stems are also consumed in parts of Asia. She asked, “Is HCN present in the petioles and green stems? And if so, how long do these plant parts need to be boiled in order to be safely consumed?” We answer her question in this article.
For 20 years, an area in eastern India was the site of a mysterious, sudden-onset, neurological illness that affected apparently healthy young children, resulting in seizures, comas and (in 40 percent of cases) death. This pattern occurred starting in mid-May, and ended in July with the arrival of monsoon rains. The cause of the illness—extremely low blood sugar resulting from consumption of lychees (Litchi chinensis) on an empty stomach—was identified by India’s National Center for Disease Control and the India office of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. A recent article in The Lancet describes the investigation and the conclusions reached by researchers.
Sara Delaney is a Senior Program Officer of International Programs with Episcopal Relief and Development. She read the article “Women and Agriculture” in EDN 134 and shared some insights about how to promote farming as a family business.
Stacy Reader and Tim Motis
Protecting the viability of seeds during storage can be a difficult task in the tropics, which often have high temperatures and high relative humidity. In May of 2017, ECHO hosted a seed saving workshop at our Global Farm in North Fort Myers, Florida. Both in preparation for and during this workshop, we encountered many helpful ideas related to appropriate seed storage. Dr. Tim Motis, Agriculture Technical and Research Director, will share them through upcoming Research Blog posts and EDN articles. One simple idea is the use of salt and jars to estimate seed moisture content.
Clare Liptak and Dr. Timothy Motis
Insects and other pests can be a serious constraint to food production, especially where resources for pest management are scarce. For example, in EDN 133, we responded to a question about problems with tomato leaf miner (Tuta absoluta) in Nigeria. Heavy infestations of this pest alone can reduce yields by 80 to 100% (Gebremariam 2015). The following article begins an effort to strengthen our informational resources on pest monitoring and management.