Update: New Pest & Disease Records (26 Dec 12)

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

The invasive stink bug Bagrada hilaris © Ton Rulkens (CC BY-SA licence)

The invasive stink bug Bagrada hilaris © Ton Rulkens (CC BY-SA licence)

Records this fortnight include Fusarium chlamydosporum causing wilt disease of guava in India, a new record of stored product pest Lepinotus reticulatus from China and the first report of the invasive stink bug Bagrada hilaris from New Mexico.

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Deck The Halls With Boughs Of Holly

Holly is one of the most traditional Christmas plants, and now new research has shed light on the mechanisms determining the prickliness of holly leaves © Sugar Daze via Flickr (License CC-BY-ND 2.0)

Holly is one of the most traditional Christmas plants, and now new research has shed light on the mechanisms determining the prickliness of holly leaves © Sugar Daze via Flickr (License CC-BY-ND 2.0)

Holly leaves are a quintessential part of Christmas, whether they are hung up as decorations in boughs and wreaths, as a seasonal garnish on top of Christmas puddings or on the front of Christmas cards. Now new research published in the Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society has connected a combination of herbivore activity and epigenetics to the prickliness of holly leaves.

A number of studies have supported the idea that increased plant prickliness is a response to herbivory by large browsing animals such as deer and goats. Holly (Ilex aquifolium) is a small evergreen tree found throughout Europe and North Africa. The leaves of holly can either be smooth or with a variable number of tough spines along the margins. The production of these spiny leaves is a defence mechanism against herbivores. Holly trees sometimes only have one leaf type, but typically they have both prickly and non-prickly leaves on the same plant (known as heterophylly) with the proportion of the two types depending on plant age, size and recent browsing history.

The ability of an organism to change its characteristics in response to environmental variations is known as phenotypic plasticity and it is a key driving factor in the evolution of a species” said Dr Carlos Herrera from the National Research Council of Spain (CSIC) in Seville. Read more of this post

The Climate Reality Project- Coffee Production Hit by Climate Change


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Recently aired as part of The Climate Reality Project (founded by Al Gore), this documentary contains a 5 minute  film about climate change and smallholder coffee production in Colombia. The film featured as part of a 24 hour online stream of climate documentaries and discussions to raise awareness and explain the varying impacts of global climate change.

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Social Media Used To Facilitate Research Into UK Ash Dieback

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.

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.

This Friday scientists from The Sainsbury Laboratory in the John Innes Centre in Norwich will publish the first RNA sequence data on the ash dieback fungus Hymenoscyphus pseudoalbidus (asexual anamorphic stage Chalara fraxinea). The data will be released via the OpenAshDieback website to a system called GitHub designed for ‘social coding’ of software so that the information can be shared with scientists and experts all over the world. Dr Dan MacLean of The Sainsbury Laboratory said:  “Bringing together knowledge and data through technically-orientated social media is one of the most vital steps in beginning to understand this outbreak”

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Update: Plant Health News (19 Dec 12)

A northern corn rootworm © Eric Bégin (CC BY-NC-ND licence)

Northern corn rootworm © Eric Bégin (CC BY-NC-ND licence)

Here’s a taste of some of the latest stories about plant health, including the first harvest of seawater cucumbers, drought resistant corn increasing yields and the quantification of corn rootworm damage.

Click on the link to read more of the latest plant health news!
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Armyworms devastate crops in Zambia, threatening food security

Armyworms can devastate crop yields © Rikus Kloppers/PANNAR Seed (Pty) Ltd

Armyworms can devastate crop yields © Rikus Kloppers/PANNAR Seed (Pty) Ltd

Armyworms in Zambia are threatening food security by reducing crop yields. This was the message from former Agriculture Minister Eustarkio Kazong, speaking in an interview for Zambian radio station, QFM. Armyworms are attacking crops, causing major damage to maize, cassava, sorghum and rice. In Kabwe, the capital of the Central Province where the first cases were reported, armyworms have already been reported to have destroyed 6500 hectares of maize crop. Despite measures to prevent the spread, cases of armyworms have today been confirmed in 5 of the country’s 10 provinces. Farmers in the remaining provinces have been advised to take precautions as the pest could spread to the whole country.
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Update: New Pest & Disease Records (12 Dec 12)

Soybeans infected with C. rosea have been reported in the USA © Howard F. Schwartz (CC BY licence)

Soybeans infected with C. rosea have been reported in the USA © Howard F. Schwartz (CC BY 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 Clonostachys rosea causing root rot of soybean in the USA, Groundnut bud necrosis virus and Okra yellow vein mosaic virus infecting okra in India, and the first report of Cucurbit chlorotic yellows virus on cucumber in Lebanon.

 

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Research Projects Into Improving Crop Plants Receive Major Funding

The University of Illinois has received a five year, $25 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to improve the photosynthetic properties of key food crops, such as rice and cassava. The project, entitled ‘RIPE- Realising Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency’ has the potential to benefit farmers by improving the productivity of staple food crops. Increasing photosynthetic efficiency has the potential to increase yields and reduce the use of irrigation and fertilisation, however to date there has been limited research on photosynthetic properties of crop plants. The University of Illinois research team will apply recent advances in photosynthetic research, model simulations and crop bioengineering to the RIPE project. Stephen Long, the Project Director and Professor of Crop Sciences and Plant Biology at Illinois said:

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation predict that the world will need to increase staple crop yields by 20% by 2050. Photosynthesis promises a new area, ripe for exploitation that will provide part of the yield jump the world needs to maintain food security”

Women oversea cassava harvesting in Nigeria, the largest producer of cassava © IFDC Photography, via Flickr (License CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Women over look cassava harvesting in Nigeria, the largest producer of cassava © IFDC Photography, via Flickr (License CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0)

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Plantwise news update December 2012

PlantwiseLeaves150x150The latest Plantwise newsletter is here. Click ‘Read more’ to find out about plant clinics being set up in Rwanda, the experiences of a plant doctor in DRC, and what plant doctor training really entails.

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Typhoon Devastates 10,000 ha of Banana Plantation In the Philippines

A NASA image from 3rd December 2012 of Typhoon Bopha (locally known as Typhoon Pablo) making land fall in the Phillipine island of Mindanao © NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre

A NASA image from 3rd December 2012 of Typhoon Bopha (locally known as Typhoon Pablo) making land fall in the Phillipine island of Mindanao © NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre via Flickr (License CC-BY 2.0)

The Philippines, the world’s third largest exporter of bananas, has lost up to a quarter of its banana plantations after typhoon Pablo, also known as typhoon Bopha, struck. The typhoon is one of the most powerful ever recorded in the island of Mindanao and has caused the deaths of over 400 people as well as destroying huge areas of agricultural regions. Stephen Antig, the executive director of the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association has said that while analysis is still in progress the damage to the banana industry is likely to be in excess of US$ 318 million after around 10,000 ha of banana plantations in the badly affected areas of Compostela Valley and Davao del Norte were destroyed. The impact of the typhoon on Philippino banana production  has huge implications for many farmers and businesses since bananas are one of the key export industries in the country. Approximately 150,000 people depend on the banana industry in Compostela Valley alone. There are further concerns that the storm may encourage the spread of Panama disease in the region, a disease caused by Fusarium oxysporum which severely affects banana plant yields.

Recovery and replanting will be a slow process, since once planted bananas take a further 9 months to mature until they can be harvested, but it is hoped the Department of Agriculture will be able to provide an assistance program.

Bananas are a key export industry in the Phillipines © Marlith via Wikimedia Commons (License CC-BY-SA 3.0)

Bananas are a key export industry in the Phillipines © Marlith via Wikimedia Commons (License CC-BY-SA 3.0)

References

‘Typhoon Affects Phillipine Banana Export’  6th December 2012, Manila Bulletin

‘Phillipines Buries It’s Dead As Typhoon Bopha Death Toll Rises’, 7th Decemeber 2012, The Guardian 

‘Phillipines: Pablo Destroys 1/4 of Banana Plantations, 6th December 2012, Fresh Plaza

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