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[en] We would like to confirm our commitment to support our Member States in improving nutrition in these difficult times. Have a look at the suggestions for conducting IAEA nutrition studies during the COVID-19 pandemic. Mainly working from home, we continued with our activities in the second half of 2020 and conducted meetings and training workshops in a virtual format. We have discussed progress of research projects, identified new research agendas, strengthened expertise in deuterium-based isotope techniques and established new collaborations with nutrition societies. We contributed to the Micronutrient Forum 5th Global Conference CONNECTED 2020 and to the 11th Africa Day for Food and Nutrition Security. Check out new publications presenting results from different IAEA-supported projects.
[en] The main objectives of this meeting/workshop are to: Discuss the development of the draft GIF report provisionally entitled Safety Design Guidelines on Key Structures, Systems and Components; Discuss the review comments of external stakeholders on GIF report on Safety Design Guidelines on Key Structures, Systems and Components; Discuss the development of the Safety Design Criteria and Safety Design Guidelines for lead and lead-bismuth cooled fast reactors; and Share information on the implementation of SDG for SFRs and SDC for LFRs by the designers of the innovative LMFR concepts.
[en] We started off a new Coordinated Research Project (CRP) on data evaluation of Fission Yields, which aims to produce high quality evaluated data for many actinide targets including the major actinides at different neutron incident energies. There were 51 participants in the meeting, which shows a rather large interest in this very specialized field. Detailed nuclear reaction evaluation methodology and ongoing evaluations were discussed in the yearly INDEN meetings on actinides and structural materials. In addition, we hosted meetings on neutron standards and nuclear data for the back end of the fuel cycle. Our Atomic and Molecular Data Unit held two virtual Research Coordination Meetings for their Coordinated Research Projects on atomic data for fusion design. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are now rapidly invading all branches of science, and nuclear data is no exception to that. In this Newsletter you will find a short summary on a Consultancy Meeting we held recently. As always, all presentations can be found on our website.
[en] PBG provided technical support for the development and release of 25 mutant varieties during the year, most of these in the Asia Pacific Region. An informal virtual meeting of the Mutation Breeding Network of the Asia Pacific Region was held in Nov 2020 where PBG led discussions with participant Member States on (a) the development of improved mutant lines, populations and new mutant varieties; b) the use and implications of heavy ion beam for DNA modification and faster development of new varieties; and (c) the use of genomics technologies to understand the molecular variants underlying mutations. The meeting was attended, and technical presentations made, by representatives of 14 of the current 16 participant Member States. PBG received approval for a new CRP on ‘Development of Integrated Techniques for Induced Genetic Diversity and Improvement of Vegetatively Propagated and Horticultural Tree Crops (D24014)’. The CRP aims to develop new genetic resources and technologies for accelerated breeding in cassava, other roots and tubers, and olive through induced genetic diversity, chimera-free regeneration and functional genomics. The CRP was the result of discussions during a virtual Consultation Meeting and subsequent feedback received during the presentation of the concept note for approval. Call for proposals for the CRP is currently open, with the expectation of having contracts signed by April 2021, and the first Research Coordination Meeting to be held soon thereafter. R&D activities implemented by contract holders in the five ongoing CRPs have been on track in most instances, although in a few cases, delays imposed by the pandemic were experienced. First-year activities of a two-year, singlecontract CRP on impact assessment of mutant rice varieties released by the Bangladesh Institute of Nuclear Agriculture were completed successfully. Research Coordination Meetings of two CRPs have been postponed to 2021. PBG provided technical support to the implementation of 47 Technical Cooperation Projects (TCPs), of which 35 began in 2020, and to the design of 35 new TCPs planned for the 2022–23 cycle. Emphasis was placed on procurement during this pandemic year, while two planned group training courses at the PBG Laboratory (PBGL) have been postponed to 2021. Similarly, most capacity building activities of ongoing TCPs have been delayed, including regional training courses, fellowships and scientific visits. The PBGL adapted a protocol for the verification and screening for resistance to the disease, Fusarium Wilt TR4 in Cavendish banana, which enables the screening of mutant populations and verification of putative mutants of banana with resistance to TR4. The disease has been devastating banana plantations in Asia, and its appearance in Africa was reported in 2013 and in Latin America in 2019. The protocol was optimized using a TR4 susceptible Cavendish banana under contained, environmentally controlled conditions, and will now be applied to known TR4 resistant cultivars and for verification purposes. Further, a new pilot project was initiated under the Functional Genomics for Trait Utilisation initiative for the targeted selection of mutations in specific genes in sorghum. A first batch of 6 000 M1 seed was irradiated, planted and M2 seed is now harvested. Also, to address the need for user-friendly bioinformatics tools to analyse large volumes of DNA sequence data, a software workflow has been developed to simplify the handling and primary analysis of Illumina sequence data, including streamlined quality control and identification of DNA sequence variants from whole genome sequence data. Finally, the PBGL has recently acquired and operationalized a robotics station for automated molecular biology protocols to support genomics research. Additional equipment investments were also made in specialized polymerase chain reaction technologies for higher throughput marker-assisted breeding and for targeted, genotypic selection of mutations in large-scale mutation breeding programmes. Most importantly, I want to announce the call for nominations for Outstanding Achievement Awards, Women in Plant Mutation Breeding Awards, and Young Scientist Awards, in the science, application and impact of induced genetic variation and plant mutation breeding. The Awards will take the form of a certificate and will be officially announced during the 65th regular session of the IAEA General Conference, which will be held at the IAEA Headquarters in Vienna, Austria, from 20 to 24 September 2021.
[en] Since our last newsletter in July 2020, which reported on the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic to the work of the Food and Environmental Protection (FEP), the Section has continued to support more than 70 technical cooperation projects (TCPs) and six coordinated research projects (CRPs). A couple of additional new CRPs are in the pipeline. Please see selected highlights in related articles in this newsletter. For the TCPs, greater focus was placed on implementing procurement of equipment and laboratory supplies, which has been quite successful. Where supply and delivery of procurements has been prompt, this has greatly facilitated food safety testing activities in Member States. Food safety and quality laboratories have generally remained active in Member States to ensure that consumers receive safe and quality food. Laboratory supplies have therefore been very critical during these times. While coordination meetings and capacity building activities through physical interactions have not been possible and several have been postponed to 2021, a number of virtual activities have been implemented. For example, an ad-hoc, one-day (2 July 2020) coordination meeting for the regional (Latin America and the Caribbean) food safety project on “Improving Regional Testing Capabilities and Monitoring Programmes for Residues/Contaminants in Foods Using Nuclear/Isotopic and Complementary Techniques” (RLA5081) was organized to finetune workplans and address urgent needs. Another two-day virtual meeting held 27 and 29 October on “The Future of Data in Food Safety, Sharing Experiences and Lessons Learned with the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA)” was organized under a related regional project “Strengthening the Regional Collaboration of Official Laboratories to Address Emerging Challenges for Food Safety” (RLA5080). A two-day (21–22 September 2020) collaborative Global Minor Use Priority Setting Workshop was also held in collaboration with the Minor Use Foundation. More than 180 participants from Asia, Africa as well as Latin America and the Caribbean, among others, attended. Such events helped to enhance global efforts to establish collaboration among food safety partners in identifying priority crops/compounds and planning for generation of residue data needed to set up maximum residue limits and promote fair trade. Another virtual meeting attended by 29 participants in 18 countries of the Asia and Pacific region was held from 3 to 4 September 2020, to initiate a TC project on promoting food irradiation by electron beam and X ray technologies. Furthermore, an online food irradiation network (FInet) was initiated with specialists in Asia and Pacific countries taking part virtually. FEP also participated in the 11th meeting of the Emergency Preparedness and Response Standards Committee (EPReSC) held virtually between 2 and 4 November 2020 to consider and approve a range of radiation safety standards and guidelines. We also participated in the review and assessment of food products in Japan as part of the Agency’s review of Comprehensive Fukushima reports from Japan (June and October). On the global scene, FEP joined Member States to commemorate the World Food Safety Day1 and the World Food Day2 . FEP also supported Indonesia’s commemoration of World Food Day by participating in an international webinar on 22 October 2020 in Jakarta, during which FEP delivered a presentation on “Achieving quality/Safety of Food/Agriculture and Environment to Meet the Needs of People During COVID-19 – A system’s perspective”. Undeterred by the COVID-19 challenges, the Food and Environmental Protection Laboratory (FEPL) continued to perform its R&D activities and provide outreach services as well as technical guidance to Member States. This newsletter presents details of the work done including but not limited to: (1) “Chemometrics Add-in for Excel” E-learning course under a regional project RAS5081 for Asia-Pacific (16–20 November 2020); (2) regional project support; (3) webinars; (4) state-of-the-art analytical instrumentation; (5) analytical method development and innovative sample preparation; (6) collaborating centre(s); (7) training courses; and (8) laboratory networking. FEP has continued to support laboratory and food safety networking initiatives in Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa and Asia. Some highlights are presented in this Newsletter. This newsletter also presents a feature article focussing on food irradiation and our collaboration with Member States including the IAEA Collaborating Centre framework. Collaborating Centres help the Agency in the implementation of targeted IAEA programmatic activities.
[en] With the year ending, we take this opportunity to reflect on the achievements and activities of the Soil and Water Management and Crop Nutrition (SWMCN) Subprogramme carried out in 2020 and highlight activities planned for 2021. The SWMCN Laboratory in Seibersdorf has recently moved into the new, modern Yukiya Amano Laboratories (YAL), which also hosts the Animal Production and Health, Food and Environmental Protection laboratories. You can read more on this in the Announcement section. The work of the SWMCN Laboratory continues in the laboratory, glasshouse and in the field. Many interesting activities are reported in this issue of the newsletter below. On the work on nuclear emergency affecting food and agriculture and remediation of radioactive contamination in agriculture, a new development has been made on the online decision support system DSS4NAFA, i.e. when coupled with external modelling tools, it can help with the specific decision of where/when/how to remediate, based on expert judgements and multiple stakeholders’ preferences (e.g. decision makers, farmers). In terms of remediation, some progress was also made on using midinfrared spectroscopy-based soil property prediction in combination with artificial intelligence methods. Similarly, further progress was made on the use of zeolite amendments and potassium addition for remediating radioactive contamination in agriculture. Studies carried out in the Laboratory showed that it is possible to combine the cosmic ray neutron sensing (CRNS) data with satellite imagery to provide a high resolution soil moisture map. This was tested for both temperate and semi-arid environments. In addition, a new nuclear technology, Gamma Ray Spectrometer (GRS) was also being tested for soil moisture monitoring. The GRS has a smaller footprint of about 25 m radius, is lighter and can be mounted on a drone, facilitating suitability for small scale irrigation schemes. Two studies carried out this year by the Laboratory relating to greenhouse gas emission were on the influence of different nitrogen process inhibitors on crop production and the influence of biochar on nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide emissions from vermicompost. The Laboratory was able to conduct one in-person training course, which was FAO-funded, on mathematical processing of Mid-Infrared Spectral datasets. The training was successfully held in the Seibersdorf YAL and attended by staff from all FAO/IAEA Laboratories in Seibersdorf. We are grateful to FAO in Rome HQ for having funded this annual training event. In the meantime, the Peaceful Uses Initiative (PUI) project on ‘Enhancing climate change adaptation and disease resilience in banana-coffee cropping systems in East Africa’ (started in 2019) has been extended for three years, during which two additional PhD studies will focus on coffee. PhD work will be on drought stress - to build on results already obtained - as well as coffee diseases. Both drought and diseases are predicted to become major issues in the East African region in light of climate change. This PUI project, funded by the Belgian Government, continues to address the urgent need for an improved resilience towards climate change and contributes to creating food security in a changing world. I would like to inform readers who are analysing 15N and 13C isotopic abundance in plant materials that the SWMCN Laboratory provides free External Quality Assurance Proficiency Test. Please get in contact with us if you would like to join this annual proficiency test. This issue’s feature article came from Gabriele Baroni, our CRP D1.20.14 counterpart. The work on ‘Boosting cosmic ray neutron sensing (CRNS) method for soil moisture estimation by means of new detectors and interdisciplinary collaborations’ provides a historical account of cosmic ray neutron sensing (CRNS) plus the need for new alternative detectors. The SWMCN will be involved through the Laboratory in field testing and through CRP D1.20.14. Five Research Coordination Meetings (RCMs) are scheduled for 2021. Two of them, which were postponed from 2020, will be held virtually: 1st RCM of the new CRP D1.50.20 ‘Developing Climate Smart Agricultural Practices for Mitigation of Greenhouse Gases’ and 2nd RCM of D1.50.18 ‘Multiple Isotope Fingerprints to Identify Sources and Transport of Agro-Contaminants’. The other three RCMs for CRPs D1.20.14, D1.50.17 and D1.50.19 are scheduled for later in 2021. All professional staff continued implementing new and ongoing TC projects. With travel not possible, all meetings, training and discussions were organized virtually to ensure timely implementation of activities. Despite all the restrictions, more success stories were published in the last six months, including one story to celebrate World Soil Day on 5 December. During 2020, the Subprogramme continued to be very active in its publication activities; this includes the Springer open access book on ‘Measuring Emission of Agricultural Greenhouse Gases and Developing Mitigation Options using Nuclear and Related Techniques’ and a number of publications on sampling, analysis and modelling technologies for large scale nuclear emergencies affecting food and agriculture in the Journal of Environmental Radioactivity. I would like to make a preliminary announcement that our decennial event, the FAO/IAEA International Symposium, will be held in July 2022, in Vienna, Austria, focusing on land and water management for climate smart agriculture. It will be held a week before the World Congress of Soil Science, in Glasgow, UK. More information will follow in the next newsletter.