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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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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Sweet Like Chocolate: Breeding Programs Combating Fungal Diseases of Cocoa in Ecuador

Chocolate, a popular product of Cocoa © Andre Karwath (Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 2.5 license)

Cocoa, Theobroma cacao L. is the third most important export product in Ecuador; a country which produces 70% of the world’s highly prized Arriba cocoa. However, the sustainability of this crop is threatened by a number of devastating pest species including fungal diseases and insect pests. Among the most severe are the closely related fungal diseases Witches’ Broom Disease Moniliophthora perniciosa and Frosty Pod Rot Moniliophthora roreri, both of which occur in Ecuador. Frosty Pod Rot is an invasive disease which was originally identified in Ecuador in 1917 and has since spread rapidly to other Latin American countries. The fungal pathogen that causes Witches’ Broom Disease is a close relative of Frosty Pod Rot in the same Moniliophthora genus. In addition to the Moniliophthora diseases, Phytophthora spp. can lead to Black Rot of cocoa.These fungal diseases are a principle constraint on world cocoa production and affect the pods, flowers, leaves and stems, causing a decline in production and reduction in bean quality with infested plantations suffering dramatic yield losses and in some cases total loss of production. Breeding for disease resistance in cocoa is a key factor in maintaining sustainability of cocoa, since there is widespread concern over fungicide resistance, the safety and effectiveness of widespread pesticide use and recent tightening of regulations regarding pesticide residues on cocoa. The INIAP, national research institute of Ecuador, in collaboration with Mars Chocolate and the USDA is investing in substantial cocoa breeding programs with the aim of developing more productive, disease resistant, high yielding cocoa plants for Ecuadorian cocoa farmers.  Read more of this post

Which is the most important plant-pathogenic fungus?

Stem rust on wheat - one of the Top 10 plant-pathogenic fungi © Yue Jin (USDA ARS)

A survey by the journal, Molecular Plant Pathology, had 495 responses from international fungal pathologists on what they thought the most scientifically and economically important fungal plant pathogens were. Several of the ‘top 10′ fungi from these results are those that infect cereal crops, which isn’t surprising as cereals such as wheat and rice are some of the most highly produced crops worldwide. Read more of this post

Where did black sigatoka come from?

Effects of black sigatoka on plantain leaves in Colombia © Neil Palmer (CIAT)

Black sigatoka, or black leaf streak disease, a disease of bananas and plantains caused by the fungus Mycosphaerella fijiensis, has caused widespread losses to banana crops over the past 50 years. A new study of the phylogeography of black sigatoka on banana leaves from around the world has helped to elucidate the recent origins of this fungal disease. Read more of this post

Bad date?

Date palm with Bayoud disease,
Image from J. Louvet, Bugwood.org

A bad date usually involves awkward conversation or an unfortunate incident with a hot cup of coffee, but for Algerian and Moroccan farmers there is a much fruitier issue at hand. Date palms (Phoenix dactylifera) have long-suffered the effects of the Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. albedinis fungus, which causes Bayoud (or Bayoudh) disease, but a new natural fungicide could now provide the answer.

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New plant disease records from CABI scientists in 2011

Pustules of the potato deforming rust, Aecidium cantense, on an African eggplant leaf © Fen Beed, CGIAR

In 2011, CABI scientists helped to discover new occurrences of disease-causing phytoplasmas and fungi in Africa, Asia and Oceania. Our scientists, based in Egham in southeast England, provide the Plantwise diagnostic service free of charge to developing countries to support the plant clinics, which give advice to farmers with plant health problems. They work in collaboration with scientists from other institutions around the world to diagnose diseases that can’t be identified in the country that the diseases are found.

As farmers monitor their crops for pests and diseases, new discoveries are being made all the time. New species of pest are found, known pests pop up in a new place or find homes on new plant species. Increased globalisation has facilitated the spread of many pests; more complex trade and travel networks have led to more opportunities for pests to hitch a ride to a new place. Changes in climate can also change the suitability of regions to pests, leading to a spread to locations not previously threatened. When it has been confirmed that a pest has been found in a new place or on a new plant host, our scientists publish their report in a peer-reviewed journal such as New Disease Reports to communicate their findings to the wider scientific community. The following records are those co-authored by CABI scientists in 2011. Read more of this post

Deck the halls with boughs of…Vascular-Streak Dieback?

As the supermarkets fill their shelves with an abundance of chocolate in anticipation of the festive season, the supply appears plentiful. For Indonesian cocoa farmers, however, the story is a very different one. 10% of global cocoa output comes from Indonesia, but this year the Indonesian cocoa industry has suffered from outbreaks of Vascular-Streak Dieback (VSD) disease (Oncobasidium theobromae). This has affected crop productivity, and cocoa output is expected to dive to just 400,000 tonnes this year.

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