Update: New Pest & Disease Records (29 June 11)

We’ve selected a few of the latest new geographic, host and species records for plant pests and diseases from CAB Abstracts. Click on the links to view the abstracts.

To view all search results for new geographic, host and species records for plant pests and diseases, click here (>29,000 results)

If there’s another new record you’d like to highlight, please post a Comment.

Update: Plant Health News (22 Jun 11)

Here’s a taste of some of the latest news stories about plant health:

If there’s another news story you’d like to highlight, please post a comment.

Animal and Human Pathogens Can Cross from Manure into Food Crops

Following the recent outbreak of E. coli food poisoning in Germany that claimed at least 39 lives as of 16 June 2011 and still counting, numerous articles have been written, but many fundamental questions still remain unanswered.

As you will remember, contaminated Spanish cucumbers were initially blamed for the outbreak of E. coli infection, which prompted the Spanish government and farmers to vehemently deny this claim (justifiably, as it turned out) and demand compensation.

As soon as “the Spanish cucumber story” was shown to be a false alarm, tomatoes, salad and vegetable sprouts (grown in Germany) were declared as potential culprits. It is unclear why other vegetables, such as peppers and courgettes to list but a few, or even mushrooms, were kept off the list of suspects. However, last week, German investigators finally said that they had determined that vegetable sprouts from a farm in the north of the country were the source of the E. coli. However, identifying the pathway of contamination is still proving difficult.

While looking for potential sources of vegetable contamination with pathogenic microorganisms, I searched CAB Direct database and came across a very interesting review published 20 years ago by German Professor Strauch of the Institute of Animal Medicine and Hygiene, University of Hohenheim, which explains how pathogens may contaminate food crops. He warned about the potential of pathogenic organisms to cross from manure or sewage into food crops and suggested that “the agricultural utilization of hygienically dubious sewage or sludge poses a risk for the whole national economy.”

In his 1991 review “Survival of pathogenic microorganisms and parasites in excreta, manure and sewage sludge” (Rev Sci Tech. 1991 Sep;10(3):813-46), Strauch also reported that two groups of researchers had found that pathogenic organisms can be taken up by crops that are used in human and animal nutrition.

Once pathogenic microorganisms are incorporated into crops (including vegetables), washing the outside of fresh vegetables is of little benefit, because all the pathogens from the sludge (bacteria, viruses and parasites) are inside the plant. Therefore, such crops would be unfit for human or animal consumption.

Update: New Pest & Disease Records (15 June 11)

We’ve selected a few of the latest new geographic, host and species records for plant pests and diseases from CAB Abstracts. Click on the links to view the abstracts.

To view all search results for new geographic, host and species records for plant pests and diseases, click here (>29,000 results)

If there’s another new record you’d like to highlight, please post a Comment.

Call for support for sustainable smallholder agriculture

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), last week called for a dramatic increase in support for sustainable agriculture, including smallholder farmers, as a way to drive green growth and reduce poverty.

This is something we feel strongly about at CABI, where we work closely with farmers in developing countries to provide practical advice for sustainable control of crop pests and diseases. Our Plant Clinics take place weekly in a prominent local meeting place, such as a market, so that any local farmers can bring their plant samples along for treatment advice. Better management of crop pests and diseases results in higher yields – in Bangladesh, for example, farmers benefitted from a 9% increase in crop yields (read study summary).

“Well managed, sustainable agriculture can not only overcome hunger and poverty, but can address other challenges from climate change to the loss of biodiversity. Its value and its contribution to multiple economic, environmental and societal goals needs to be recognized in the income and employment prospects for the half a million smallholdings across the globe,” said Mr. Steiner.

Read more of this post

Update: Plant Health News (8 Jun 11)

Here’s another taste of some of the latest news stories about plant health:

If there’s another news story you’d like to highlight, please post a comment.

Plant clinic planning underway

Putting Plant Clinics to work

group snow edit

Delegates enjoying the (May) snow in Engelberg.

Plantwise is already looking towards 2012 and is organising its resources in preparation to expand the numbers of plant clinics and countries in which they operate.  Delegates made up of CABI staff from all over the globe met up at the Swiss ski resort of Engelberg (23rd-28th May) to discuss how the planned expansion of plant clinic activities is to proceed.

We heard reports on progress from existing schemes in Uganda, Sierra Leone, Kenya, Bangladesh and India as well as information from previous IPM projects and related activities. It is clear from the presentations that low-income farmers are benefitting from the advice that CABI and Plant Doctors give out.

Although successful throughout the world the Plant Clinic model has been evolving since its inception in 2003. Engelberg allowed us to take stock of the progress and discuss what the salient features of the Plant Clinic model are and how they should be preserved and reproduced in new countries. However Plantwise is not just about helping farmers on the ground with immediate issues, it is also about stepping back and taking a much broader view of the plant pest distribution around the world and this is where the Plantwise Knowledge bank comes into its own.

Delegates were shown a preview of the Plantwise Knowledge Bank, a vast repository of plant health information. The disease management section was demonstrated in detail, including pest and disease mapping facilities. Individual incidents of each disease are being plotted on country maps on a scale never seen before and will give excellent resolution of disease occurrence. In its final form the knowledge bank will include the ability to superimpose maps of weather patterns and soil type over the high resolution disease maps and links to fact sheets will provide advice on how to manage the disease in question. This is to be achieved by scanning and sending (electronically) the diagnosis and recommendation given to the farmer by the plant doctor to a central hub. At the hub the prescription will be read by computer and after validation uploaded onto the database increasing the resolution of the maps. 

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