Update: Plant Health News (13 Mar 13)

A US$9.4 million injection aims to improve research and collaboration on cassava disease © Anne Sweetmore/NRI

A US$9.4 million injection aims to improve research and collaboration on CBSD © Anne Sweetmore/NRI

Here’s a taste of some of the latest stories about plant health, including the development of diagnostics for Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD),  a coffee pest spreading to other crops in East Africa and farmers testing wheat crops for climate change adaptation.

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Update: New Pest & Disease Records (06 Mar 13)

symptoms of Banana bunchy top virus © Malcolm Manners (CC By licence)

Symptoms of Banana bunchy top virus © Malcolm Manners (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 Banana bunchy top virus of Musa spp. in Nigeria, the first record of the leafhopper genus Igerna in China and a new Pythium species that causes severe damping off of tomato seedlings found in Tunisia, France and India.

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How Mobile Technology is Transforming Livestock Farming In Kenya

A fish farmer in Nigeria using a mobile phone to communicate to buyers in the capital © Reboot via Flickr (CC-BY-NC 2.0)

A fish farmer in Nigeria using a mobile phone to communicate to buyers in the capital © Reboot via Flickr (CC-BY-NC 2.0)

Farmers and vets across Africa are increasingly using mobile phones to issue alerts about potential pest and disease outbreaks. The recent introduction of mobile phones that use the open source Android operating system or the iPhone iOS operating system and include GPS and Google Maps have provided new opportunities for developing mobile phone applications, allowing communication between field workers and their project databases. ‘Smartphones’ offer computer like functionality and internet connectivity with built in Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers that give a detailed location reference.

Mobile phone applications can be installed on the phone to issue early warnings of pest and disease outbreaks. In Kenya, where three out of four people are reported to have a mobile phone, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has partnered with the Royal Veterinary College and local NGO VetAid to support pilot testing of a mobile phone application called EpiCollect, developed by a research team led by David Aanensen at Imperial College London. EpiCollect is a generic software developed for Android and iPhone which allows multiple data records to be entered and stored on a mobile phone and linked to a central web application that allows mapping, visualisation and analysis of data from a central database. The latitude, longitude and altitude of the current position of the user is returned from the GPS unit of the phone.

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Update: Plant Health News (27 Feb 13)

Caterpillars in China have are beginning to show signs of resistance to Bt Cotton © AgriLife Today (CC BY-NC-ND)

Pests in China are beginning to show signs of resistance to Bt Cotton © AgriLife Today (CC BY-NC-ND)

Here’s a taste of some of the latest stories about plant health, including an advance in biological control, tips to drain soil, making the land usable and a study to develop strategies against Bollworm resistance to Bt Cotton in China.

Click on the link to read more of the latest plant health news!

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How The Gates Foundation and Carlos Slim are Supporting Innovation and Crop Improvement For Farmers

Carlos Slim, Bill Gates and Mexican Dignitaries visit CIMMYT to inaugurate the new Bioscience facilities © Eruviel Avila (CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Carlos Slim, Bill Gates and Mexican Dignitaries visit CIMMYT to inaugurate the new Bioscience facilities © Eruviel Avila (CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0)

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Fundación Carlos Slim have announced a partnership in support of efforts by the Centro Internacional de Mejoramiento de Maíz y Trigo (International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center CIMMYT) in Mexico to develop and disseminate higher-yielding, more resilient wheat and maize varieties. Read more of this post

Update: New Pest & Disease Records (20 Feb 13)

Symptoms on tomato caused by Ralstonia solanacearum. Credit: Clemson University (CC BY licence)

Symptoms on tomato caused by Ralstonia solanacearum. Credit: Clemson University (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 Ralstonia solanacearum causing tomato bacterial wilt in Mexico, occurrences of a new fruit rot of peach caused by Hyphodermella rosae in northern Iran and the first report of Nigrospora sphaerica (Sacc.) Mason as a potential pathogen on date palm (Phoenix dactylifera L.).

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Spot The Difference: Decoy Beetles Created To Manage The Invasive Emerald Ash Borer

An Emerald Ash Borer (left) and a manufactured Emerald Ash Borer decoy (right) created by researchers  at Penn State University  © Penn State News via Flickr (CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0)

An Emerald Ash Borer (left) and a manufactured Emerald Ash Borer decoy (right) created by researchers at Penn State University © Penn State News via Flickr (CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis) is a beetle native to Asia which was first identified near Detroit, Michigan and Ontario in 2002. It is now a serious invasive pest of North American ash trees in the genus Fraxinus. Emerald ash borer populations are spreading rapidly in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic states of the USA, as well as adjacent regions of Ontario, Canada. “Within 25 years, practically no ash trees may remain on either side of the St. Lawrence Seaway”, said Akhlesh Lakhtakia, Charles Godfray Binder Professor of Engineering Science and Mechanics at Pennsylvania State University.

Emerald ash borer adult males locate females using visual cues, and males can be attracted by using dead male or female beetles pinned to host trees. The beetles are in the family Buprestidae, also known as Jewel Beetles as they often have metallic, iridescent colouring. Thomas Baker, Professor of Entomology at Pennslyvania State University and Michael Domingue have previously used dead female emerald ash borers for bait to trap the male beetles. The dead emerald ash borers are not ideal for trapping due to their fragility, therefore two researchers working in Lakhtakia’s laboratory have created a decoy beetle made from a mold of the female beetles body. The decoy has been coloured using a process of layering polymers with different refractive light properties to create the characteristic iridescent green colouring of the emerald ash borer. The team were able to find the right combination of polymers and number of layers in order to refract light and create a colour very similar to the beetle’s own colouring, creating a realistic visual decoy.

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New Type of Invasive Whitefly Recorded In South Africa

The whitefly Bemisia tabaci (USDA image PD USDA ARS via Wikimedia Commons)

The whitefly Bemisia tabaci (USDA image PD USDA ARS via Wikimedia Commons)

A species of whitefly that transmits cassava mosaic virus has been detected in South Africa for the first time. The whitefly, Bemisia tabaci is a cryptic species complex containing some important agricultural pests and virus vectors. The term ‘cryptic species complex’ means that Bemisia tabaci is considered to be a complex of at least 24 different species that look almost identical but are in fact genetically different.  Researchers from a range of organisations including the University of Johannesburg, the University of Witwatersrand and ARC-Vegetable and Ornamental Plant Institute conducted surveys to investigate the diversity and distribution of Bemisia tabaci species in 8 provinces in South Africa. The study aimed to update the information regarding the different Bemisia tabaci types present in the country.

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Parasitic Witchweed defeated in Kenya

Striga Weed in a rice field © AfricaRice (License CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Striga Weed in a rice field © AfricaRice (License CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Striga, a parasitic weed (also known as Witchweed,) has long been a problem in African nations; causing farmers to lose billions of dollars’ worth of crops annually. To make matters worse, the weed flourishes in conditions that characterise that of poor farming communities (small plots, mono-cropping, lack of oxen and natural manure and lack of agricultural inputs.)

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Update: Plant Health News (13 Feb 13)

Japanese beetle, a pest of corn and soyabean © David Cappaert, Michigan State University, via Bugwood.org (CC BY-NC licence)

Japanese beetle, a pest of corn and soyabean © David Cappaert, Michigan State University, via Bugwood.org (CC BY-NC)

Here’s a taste of some of the latest stories about plant health, including a decrease in PSA cases in New Zealand, the worst corn and soybean pests this year and new mobile apps bringing decision-making tools to the field.

Click on the link to read more of the latest plant health news!
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