Long-horn beetles take a liking to frankincense

Frankincense – Image from Wikimedia

While we have been filling our homes with traditional Christmas trees, the long-horn beetle has instead decided to go for a more up-market décor. Boswellia trees, which produce the resin used to make frankincense, have recently suffered from a worrying decline in numbers, with experts predicting that we have limited years left to take action to save them. Part of this has been attributed to long-horn beetle larvae setting up home inside them, and eventually leading to the death of the individual.

Update: Plant Health News (21 Dec 11)

Here’s a taste of some of the latest news stories about plant health:

If there’s another news story you’d like to highlight, please post a comment.

Remote microscope networks enable long distance pest diagnoses

A remote microscope network enables people to get rapid identifications of plant pests from experts on the other side of the world © Johnny Greig / JISC

The Cooperative Research Centre for National Plant Biosecurity (CRCNPB) in Australia is developing a new way to share information on crop pests and diseases. In addition to providing diagnostic tools in the form of a database on plant pests similar to Plantwise’s Knowledge Bank, they have created an online remote microscope network, which “allows species experts to view and identify specimens in real time”. The network already extends to most Australian states, New Zealand, Indonesia and other parts of south-east Asia. The simplicity of the scheme means that many other countries could soon be involved too.

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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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Update: New Pest & Disease Records (15 Dec 11)

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

To view all search results for new geographic, host and species records for plant pests and diseases, click here (>30,000 results)

If there’s another new record you’d like to highlight, please post a Comment.

RIDL baffles Pink Bollworms

Pink bollworm larvae, photo by Peggy Greb, USDA Agricultural
Research Service, Bugwood.org

It was love at first sight for many pink bollworms this year, but as their eyes met across the cotton field all was not as it seemed…

Oxitec (a company based not far from the Plantwise Knowledge Bank team), have managed to genetically engineer a strain of pink bollworm (Pectinophora gossypiella) which greatly advances the already used sterile insect technique (SIT). The new strain (affectionately known as Pink Bollworm OX3402) has been genetically engineered to include bisex RIDL technology, which means that they have a RIDL gene that effectively makes them sterile (offspring cannot survive without additional dietary supplements). OX3402 also has Oxitec’s heritable fluorescent marker technology (DsRed), which allows populations of released strains to be monitored more accurately.

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Creating super banana plants in the fight against nematode worms

Many banana plants cultivated in Africa are damaged by root nematodes © IITA

Scientists in the UK and Uganda are developing a genetically modified (GM) variety of banana that is resistant to nematode worms, which account for a high percentage of banana crop losses in Africa. It is estimated that the losses of crops due to nematodes amounts to $125 billion a year. Currently, nematodes are controlled using pesticides that can be toxic to humans and other organisms. The project, run by the Africa College at the University of Leeds and funded by BBSRC and DfID, has provided training to African-based scientists and aims to conduct trials of the banana plants in several African countries. Continue reading