Looking to the past for disease resistance

Fireblight on apples

Fireblight on apples

Traditionally, farmers have bred their crops so that, in several generations, they have a variety that has a high yield or a particular taste or texture. These days, many farmers don’t breed their own crops but buy varieties that have been specially developed to perform well. However, it turns out that sometimes it is best to rediscover old varieties that naturally already have desirable traits.

Researchers at the Swiss research centre, Agroscope, were commissioned by the Fructus Association to look at the properties of apple varieties that are no longer widely grown. This is part of the NAP-PGREL project, which aims to record the properties of approximately 300 fruit varieties a year and make this information available to fruit growers. Read more of this post

Update: New Pest & Disease Records (28 Nov 12)

Effects of PepMV on immature and mature tomato fruit © Piero Roggero

We’ve selected a few of the latest new geographic, host and species records for plant pests and diseases from CAB Abstracts. Records this fortnight include the first report of Pepino mosaic virus (PepMV) in Croatia, mites associated with soybean in Brazil, and the first report of Tomato chlorotic spot virus in the USA.

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Watermelon Genome Could Hold the Key to Improved Varieties With Fewer Pest Problems

A research team led by the Beijing Academy of Agriculture and Forestry Sciences have produced the complete genomic sequence of watermelon (Citrullus lanatus). It is hoped that the genomic data from this study will shape future research into watermelon genetics and provide a good resource for crop genetics and future plant breeding projects, resulting in improved watermelon cultivars with a greater degree of pest resistance.

Watermelons suffer large yield losses due to many pests and diseases and it is hoped that new genetic research can be used to improve varieties to make them less susceptible to pathogens ©Steve Evans via Wikimedia Commons (License CC-BY-2.0).

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Update: Plant Health News (21 Nov 12)

Mites could be used to prevent Thrip damage to citrus fruits. (Credit: Elizabeth Asteraki)

Here’s a taste of some of the latest stories about plant health, including using mites to control citrus pests, an update on counties affected by Ash dieback and the recovery plan for Cuban banana crops hit by Sandy.

Click on the link to read more of the latest plant health news!
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Plantwise Plant Clinics in Trinidad and Tobago

Trinidad and Tobago Country Coordinator Shamela Rambadan sent the photo below of a Soursop (Annona muricata) plant brought into a clinic in County Victoria in Trinidad and Tobago by farmer Ramesh Ramnanan last month. The symptoms described included yellowed, distorted leaves and visible insects on the leaves, as seen in the photo. Plant health officer Zobida Mohammed diagnosed the symptoms to be caused by mealybugs and scale insects and recommended that the farmer used a suitable insecticide on the crop to avoid further damage.

A photo of the leaves of a Soursop plant from a plant clinic in County Victoria. The insect pests are visible as white dots along the leaf veins. Image courtesy of Zobida Mohammed

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The Life Cycle of Wheat Stem Rust

Ug99 stem rust on wheat

Ug99 stem rust on wheat © CIMMYT

Here’s a video with some great animation of how wheat stem rust spreads, and how highly virulent strains develop. To find out more about wheat rust, visit the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative website. Read more of this post

More Plant Doctors for Uganda

More Plant Doctors for Uganda

More Plant Doctors for Uganda

Module 1 of the How to be a Plant Doctor has recently taken place at the Makerere University Agricultural research institute.  The training over 3 days (12th –14th Nov) was opened by Dr Robert Karyeija,  the assistant commissioner for crop protection, and was led by CABI trainers Phil Taylor from CABI UK and Joseph Mulema CABI Africa.  The training was in association with Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF).  The trainees were from 8 districts that already have Plant Clinics  (but are intending to  increase the number) and an additional 6 districts that are intending to start clinics shortly Iganga,Luwero,Kabarole, Mityana, Wakiso and  Kibale. Morris Akiri the Regional Director of CABI Africa closed the training. Read more of this post

Update: New Pest & Disease Records (14 Nov 12)

Flowers of the mango tree show abnormal growth when infected with malformation disease. (Credit: Da, CC BY-SA licence)

We’ve selected a few of the latest new geographic, host and species records for plant pests and diseases from CAB Abstracts. Records this fortnight include the first report of mango malformation disease in Senegal, report of Fusarium azukicola sp. nov. in Hokkaido, Japan and the first report of the cereal cyst nematode Heterodera filipjevi on wheat in Serbia.

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Coffee Production in Hot Water- The Impacts of Climate Change on the Future of Coffee Crops

Roasted Arabica coffee beans. Arabica coffee is highly prized as having the best flavour and quality of all coffee varieties, but the future of Arabica coffee is threatened by the impacts of climate change © Sage Ross, via Wikimedia Commons (License CC-BY-SA 3.0, 2.5, 2.0, 1.0)

Coffee (Coffea) is the one of the world’s favourite drinks and the second most traded commodity after oil, accounting for annual retail value of US$ 90 billion. The two main species used in the production of coffee are Arabica coffee (Coffea arabica), which accounts for 70% of coffee production, and Robusta coffee (Coffea canephora). The productivity of Arabica and the distribution of many coffee pests and diseases are strongly linked to climate and seasonality. A series of recent studies have forecast the predicted effects of climate change on both the present and future distribution of Arabica coffee and the effects of climate change on the distribution and lifecycle of the world’s worst coffee pest, the Coffee Berry Borer (Hypothenemus hampei).

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Research Teams and Scientists Working to Stem Ash Dieback Fungus

Diamond shaped lesions characteristic of Ash Dieback Disease, caused by the fungus Chalara fraxinea. Image courtesy of The Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera), Crown Copyright.

Researchers are working towards developing a cost effective solution to controlling  Ash Dieback fungal disease, a major threat to 80 million ash trees in the UK. As part of the plan to tackle Ash Dieback and other invasive pests and diseases, the government has formulated a team of ten internationally recognised experts in plant health, forestry and wider related disciplines as part of the Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Taskforce. The taskforce includes three entomologists, Professor Charles Godfray from Oxford University, Professor Simon Leather from Harper Adams University College and Professor John Mumford from Imperial College as well as a number of social and environmental scientists.

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