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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What CABI Is Doing To Tackle Major Coffee Rust Outbreaks In Central America

Guatemala has declared a state of agricultural emergency after coffee rust fungus has affected approximately 193,000ha of coffee, equating to 70% of the national crop. As a result of the outbreak, Guatemala is releasing $13.7m (£8.7m) in emergency aid to help farmers buy pesticides and to inform farmers on ways to manage the disease. Honduras and Costa Rica have already declared national emergency and El Salvador and Panama are also affected.

Coffee is a major export crop in many Central American countries and it is thought that this disease outbreak, which has been called “the worst seen in Central America and Mexico” by John Vandermeer, ecologist at the University of Michigan, will lead to big job losses. The Institute of Coffee in Costa Rica has estimated that the latest coffee rust outbreak may reduce the 2013-2014 harvest by 50% or more in the worst affected areas.

To find out more information about coffee rust view our Plantwise Knowledge Bank- Coffee Leaf Rust PDF booklet.

Symptoms of Coffee Rust (Hemileia vastatrix) © Carlos Roberto Carvalho, Ronaldo C. Fernandes, Guilherme Mendes Almeida Carvalho, Robert W. Barreto, Harry C. Evans (2011): Cryptosexuality and the Genetic Diversity Paradox in Coffee Rust, Hemileia vastatrix. PLoS ONE 6(11): e26387. {{doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0026387}} (CC-BY 2.5)

Symptoms of Coffee Rust (Hemileia vastatrix) © Carlos Roberto Carvalho, Ronaldo C. Fernandes, Guilherme Mendes Almeida Carvalho, Robert W. Barreto, Harry C. Evans (2011): Cryptosexuality and the Genetic Diversity Paradox in Coffee Rust, Hemileia vastatrix. PLoS ONE 6(11): e26387. {{doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0026387}} (CC-BY 2.5)

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Banana bacterial wilt leaves thousands hungry in Tanzania

Use a fork shaped stick to twist and break the male flower bud off of the banana plant. © CABI

Use a fork shaped stick to twist and break the male flower bud off of the banana plant. © CABI

According to IPP Media, over 8,000 people in 15 villages in Kagera region of Tanzania are in dire need of food relief following an outbreak of banana bacterial disease that has destroyed 90% of the banana crop. Bananas are the staple food for people in the region. Adam Malima, Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Food and Cooperatives, told the National Assembly earlier this week that the government has allocated 300 tonnes of maize to be distributed to people in the area.

Banana bacterial wilt (or “banana slim”) is easily spread through pollinating insects, tools and planting material. Disease management is notoriously difficult, often involving cultural methods that can be impractical for smallholders. One easy method of prevention involves breaking off the male flower bud using a fork-shaped stick.

The male flower bud is often where the bacteria enters the plant. Pollinating insects collect nectar from the bud and carry nectar from plant to plant, transferring the bacteria at the same time. Removing the male bud soon after formation of the last cluster stops insects from spreading the disease. A forked stick can be used to twist and break the bud. This is better than cutting the bud off with a knife which might spread the bacteria.

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Genetic Engineering in Barbados

Agrobacterium on Sorrel

 

The Sorrel plant (left) was one of those found by the trainees during the recent training in Module 1 of how to be a plant doctor. The plant doctor training uses live plant material as well we photographs to lead the trainees through the process of field diagnosis.

The large and hard beige lump at the base of the stem is a gall caused by the bacterium  Agrobacterium tumefaciens.  The unique thing about this host/ pathogen interaction is the fact that DNA from the bacterium is inserted into the plant where it remains even long after the bacteria have been removed. This is the only natural example of DNA transfer of this kind; a natural genetic engineer.

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

Sorghum halepense in soyabean crop © Chris Parker/CABI

Sorghum halepense in a soyabean crop © Chris Parker/CABI

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 identification and characterisation of Citrus yellow vein clearing virus, the spread dynamics and agricultural impact of Sorghum halepense and the first report of black scurf on carrot caused by binucleate Rhizoctonia AG-U.

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