Update: New Pest & Disease Records (31 Oct 12)

Bean crops are being affected by a new pest (Credit: ARS, USDA)

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 new pest (Duponchelia fovealis) recorded in a peanut field, the first record of Teratopactus nodicollis in dry bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) and a new distributional record of buff coconut mealybug in Kerala.

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Colorado Potato Beetles Left With A Sour Taste As Clover Is Found To Be As Effective As Pesticides

An adult Colorado Potato Beetle (License CC-BY-NC 2.0. via Flickr)

Eggplant or aubergine (Solanum melongena) is a crop often attacked by the Colorado Potato Beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata), a major insect pest of  plants from the Solanaceae family including potato, tomato and eggplant throughout North America, Europe and Asia. This insect pest is exceptionally destructive to crops and readily develops resistance to a wide variety of chemical insecticides, making research into alternative control methods vital. Now new research has revealed that the use of clover cover crops in agricultural fields of eggplants may provide an economically and ecologically viable method of Colorado Potato Beetle management that is as effective as chemical insecticides in regulating the beetle populations.

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Knowledge Bank interview with Agfax radio in Africa

Plantwise factsheet Tanzania
Plantwise factsheets for farmers are freely available on the Knowledge Bank © CABI

Access to agricultural information especially crop pest information, e.g pest identity and practical control options, is an essential ingredient in increasing agricultural production in developing countries. Where available, such information is always inaccessible and poorly developed and farmers hardly understand the contents. The Knowledge Bank, which was launched in July 2012, is part of the wider Plantwise programme, an initiative led by CABI, to help smallholder farmers lose less of what they grow to insect pests and diseases. The Knowledge Bank is an online open-access resource and plays a key role in the access to a wide range of information on crop pests from international scientific literature to simple, actionable factsheets that the farmers can use to solve key pests problems they encounter. This connects both agricultural researchers, extension agents and the farmers in developing countries to reliable and appropriate plant health information wherever they may be.  Visitors to the website are advised to sign up for new crop pest and plant health new alerts which are sent directly to their e-mails.

Agfax, a media based organization with millions of listeners throughout Africa who include farmers, traders, entrepreneurs, field workers – as well as research and development organizations, conducted an interview with me to broadcast on the website to enable wider reach to potential users of the Knowledge Bank. Continue reading

Update: Plant Health News (24 Oct 12)

Oil seed rape is susceptible to a number of diseases (Credit: Andrew Smith, CC BY-SA licence)

Here’s a taste of some of the latest stories about plant health, including reports of Aster yellows infecting 60% of Canadian Canola, the identification of a recent maize virus in Kenya and the development of dual disease resistant Cassava.

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Plant Pest Interactions: How Soybean Aphids Trick Soybean Plant Defences

An Adult Soybean Aphid © Ho Jung Yoo, Purdue University (via Wikimedia Commons)

Following on from a previous blog on the interactions between soybean plants and soybean pests,  new research on soybean (Glycine max) responses to the soybean aphid (Aphis glycines) published in Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions has revealed some of the complex and fascinating interactions between pests and their plant hosts.  This recent research led by Dr Gustavo Macintosh and Matthew Studham from Iowa State University has shown that soybean aphids can suppress the natural plant defense response of soybean plants to the aphids through the activation of what is known as an antagonistic decoy response. For example, the aphid will induce a plant defense that is not particularly effective against the pest (the ‘decoy’ defense) while suppressing the effective defense in order for it to continue feeding on the plant.  It has further been found that aphids can actively suppress the effective defence responses of the plant while at the same time ‘hijacking’ the plant metabolism to improve the nutritional value of the plant for their own benefit. Soybean aphids do this by inducing asparagine synthase transcripts which improve the nutritional content of the phloem sap from which they feed. Continue reading

World Food Prize Borlaug Dialogue 2012 highlights the real people affected by global food security issues

World Food Prize bannerBy Daniel O’Hara

This year’s World Food Prize Borlaug Dialogue concluded on Friday with a breakfast address from the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, highlighting the importance of food security to global prosperity. The Secretary General’s attendance was an indicator of the importance of food security on the international agenda. He summed up the conference simply: that “no parent should have to choose which child to feed”.  This simple message, of real people, was at the heart of many of the presentations and discussions at this year’s Borlaug Dialogue. Continue reading

Plantwise plant clinic at the Nairobi International Trade Fair

Visitor to the Plantwise stand at the Nairobi International Trade Fair
Visitor to the Plantwise stand at the Nairobi International Trade Fair © CABI

by Kimani Chege and Abigail Rumsey

Plant clinics have been running in Kenya since 2010. There are currently 35 clinics throughout Kenya, to which farmers can bring their crops and receive a diagnosis of the pest or disease that is causing them problems. These clinics are organized and run by the Ministry of Agriculture extension services with support from the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (KEPHIS) and CABI. While plant clinics are mainly organized in marketplaces in Kenyan towns, they mostly interact with rural populations keen to get diagnosis of their crops and better their production. However, this October, for the first time, plant doctors had an interaction with urban farmers during the Nairobi International Trade Fair. Continue reading