The life and travels of Tuta absoluta, the tomato leaf miner

The pesky tomato pest, Tuta absoluta, has decided in recent years that it wants to see a little more of the world. This moth is native to Peru and is probably widespread in all countries in South America, but in the last 5 years the pest has also been found in the Mediterranean, spreading at a rapid pace. T. absoluta seems to have found the Mediterranean a perfect new home where it can breed 10-12 generations per year and each female can lay 250-300 eggs in its lifetime. The pest is crossing boarders and devastating tomato production in both protected and open fields. Just in 2010 the Reporting Service from the European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organisation (EPPO) reported first records in Bulgaria, Cyprus, Germany, Israel, Hungary, Kosovo, Guernsey and Turkey and in 2011 in Greece, Lithuania and Iraq. The Tuta absoluta information network also reports the pest in Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Sudan and most recently in glasshouses in Russia, although these reports have not been confirmed officially by NPPOs.
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Update: New Pest & Disease Records (28 July 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.

Do you like your coffee wilted?

According to CABI’s Peter Baker at the recent ISEAL Conference the International coffee community may be failing farmers in providing them with support in adapting to upcoming climate risks.

Changes in the climate can have dire consequences for farmers within developing countries. They can change the distribution ranges of insect pests, causing pests to migrate into new areas which are not prepared for them. Farmers may not have the knowledge to identify these new insect pests and take appropriate action to reduce the harm that they can cause to their crops.

As part of the Plantwise initiative CABI is increasing support to farmers face-to-face via a network of plant clinics in the developing world and also via a comprehensive global knowledge bank. Specially trained ‘plant doctors’ help farmers identify problems affecting their crops. Advice and treatment recommendations are offered along with information on the disease in local languages in the form of factsheets, leaflets and posters, an example being Coffee wilt disease.

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New global plant health resource to improve food security

From the devastating Coffee Wilt Disease to the infectious Wheat Stripe Rust: for the first time ever, distribution maps, diagnostic support and treatment advice for thousands of the world’s most damaging pests and diseases of plants and crops are being made available free of charge on the new Plantwise website,, launched today.

The Plantwise website contains a fully working prototype of the world’s only global “knowledge bank” of information about plant health. Users will be able to find out more about the Plantwise network of plant clinics and the farmers they are helping, use the online diagnostic support tool and view distribution maps of more than 2500 pests and diseases.

The website is part of a major programme led by CABI to improve food security and the lives of the rural poor by linking scientific research about plant health directly with farmers in the field. The aim is to deliver actionable knowledge that will enable farmers to reduce their losses and increase their yields. Plantwise has already received funding of $11 million from the UK and Swiss governments and is accelerating the establishment of networks of plant clinics, which are the means both of delivering plant health knowledge to farmers, and of collecting intelligence about the occurrence of new pests and diseases.  There are now plant clinic programmes running in 14 countries and pilots running in 5 more.

“It is estimated that as much as 40% of what we grow is lost to pests and diseases,” said Dr Shaun Hobbs, Director, Plantwise Knowledge Bank, CABI. “New threats are constantly emerging, and everyone involved with plant health, from scientists and policymakers to the farmers on the ground, needs to have access to the best information on plant pests and diseases, so that we can stay on top of their control and eradication. We hope that as many people as possible who are involved with plant health will review the resources on and let us know if anything is missing and what we can improve. If we all work together, we believe that Plantwise can have a huge impact on the lives of some of the poorest farmers in the world, and those working to help them.”

Update: Plant Health News (22 Jul 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.

Predicting the effects of global warming on insect pests

It has been estimated that presently pests cause 30-50% of yield losses to agricultural crops in developing countries and these rates are likely to increase with climate change. Although much attention has been given to the impacts of climate change on insect abundance and severity in temperate regions, little is known about potential impacts in tropical regions. Furthermore, recent studies suggest that climate change may favour pests over their natural predators, disrupting classical biocontrol of insect pests.

To address this gap, a new software, Insect Life Cycle Modelling (ILCYM),  was developed by The International Potato Center (CIP) to better estimate and to help mitigate the impacts of global warming on pest risk to food crops.

How is ILCYM used?

The “model builder” software supports the development of insect phenology models based on experimental temperature data of a specific insect, explained the model developers in a report, published in the CGIAR page. The module also provides tools to analyse an insect’s life-table and to validate existing models. The second module implements the CIP-developed temperature-driven phenology model in a GIS environment and allows for regional as well as global spatial simulation of insect activities (“pest risk mapping”). In its present version the software uses the phenology model of the potato tuber moth, Phthorimaea operculela, as an example, but can also be applied to other insect species.

The  effects of the 1997 El Niño event on Peru provided a preview of what global warming may bring.  Temperatures on the Peruvian coast were about 5°C higher than average and insect pest populations flourished, which prompted farmers to respond by applying high doses of pesticides every 2-3 days.

The ILCYM software is a new tool, which, it is hoped, will facilitate the development of insect phenology models and mapping of risk scenarios, highlighting places where training and adaptation efforts can be most effective.

CIP is coordinating further development of ILCYM and  its application to a wider range of insects in a new project. Collaborators include the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), the University of Hohenheim, Germany, under the CGIAR System-wide Program on Integrated Pest management, and partners at national agricultural research institutes and universities in Africa.

Link to CIP webpage.

Link to CGIAR System-wide Program on Integrated Pest Management (SP-IPM) report page.

Link to CGIAR’s climate change page.

Link to datasheet on potato tuber moth in the Plantwise knowledge bank.

Update: New Pest & Disease Records (13 July 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.


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