Need to control rodents on your crops? Use birds of prey!

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The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel is encouraging farmers to use barn owls (Tyto alba) to control rodent pests on their crops. They aim to attract barn owls by constructing nest boxes; so far 2,000 have been distributed to farmers. As barn owls only hunt at night, day-hunting kestrels are also being…
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Update: New Pest & Disease Records (09 Feb 12)

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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 a new phytoplasma infecting soybean in Costa Rica, a parasitic nematode causing damage to several plant species in Brazil, and the Mediterranean fruit fly spreading and widening its host preference…
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Radio initiatives aiding remote African farmers

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Information and communication technology has advanced rapidly in the past few decades. Many of us now take connection to the internet and easy access to information for granted. However, in remote parts of the world, even access to electricity is infrequent and unreliable, and communication technology is developing in a way that reflects this. In…
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Speedy crop breeding to help Japanese rice growers

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The devastating tsunami that hit northeastern parts of Japan last March left thousands of acres of farmland damaged by saltwater. Much of this agricultural land was paddy fields, which were left with up to 25 cm of sand and mud deposited and highly saline conditions resulting from evaporation of the seawater. Scientists from the Sainsbury…
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Update: New Pest & Disease Records (25 Jan 12)

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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 most devastating coffee pest, the coffee berry borer, being found in Hawaii; a new fungal disease of citrus plants in the Philippines; and insects causing damage to amaranth crops…
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Stopping Striga before it’s started

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Striga, or witchweed, is the main weed affecting many cereals including rice, maize, sorghum and millet. One species, Striga hermonthica, is responsible for more crop loss in Africa than any other individual species of weed. Striga is a hemi-parasitic weed; its roots latch onto the roots of its host (e.g. a crop plant such as…
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The problems of achieving food security for 1.6 billion people in China

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It is predicted that the population of China will stabilise at 1.6 billion within the next two decades. In order to feed this many people, crop production will need to increase by 2% each year to provide the estimated 580 million tonnes of grain that will be required. Mingsheng Fan and colleagues have published a…
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New plant disease records from CABI scientists in 2011

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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…
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Remote microscope networks enable long distance pest diagnoses

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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…
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Creating super banana plants in the fight against nematode worms

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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…
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