Researchers Learn from Plant Viruses to Protect Crops

By Claire Asher. Reblogged from The Scientist magazine.

MICROSCOPIC WAR: The leaves of this corn plant redden as a result of infection by maize chlorotic dwarf virus, which caused severe crop losses in the midwest and southern United States in the 1960s and ’70s.© BILL BARKSDALE/DESIGN PICS/GETTY IMAGES

In 2011, Noah Phiri was working with local farmers in Kenya to combat the fungal pathogen that causes coffee leaf rust when another virulent plant disease began wiping out maize in the country’s southwest corner. Infected plants developed pale streaks on their leaves, then wilted and died. Some farmers lost as much as 90 percent of their crop that year. Phiri, a plant pathologist at the U.K.-based Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI), raced to identify the culprit. He and his colleagues collected samples of sick plants and sent them off to the plant clinic at the Food and Environment Research Agency (now Fera Science) in York, U.K. There, researchers sequenced RNA molecules expressed in the infected corn and identified two viruses that were at the root of the epidemic.

Continue reading in the February 2018 issue of The Scientist→

Robert Reeder on Protecting Banana Crops


“Bananas, along with lots of crop plants are under threat from pests and diseases. The reason that bananas are particularly threatened is their lack of genetic diversity.”

Listen to CABI’s very own Rob Reeder talk to Greg Peterson on this podcast from The Urban Farm. Rob talks in detail about the increasing threat to the global banana crop industry but he also tells Greg all about Plantwise.

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Lead Battery Soil Contamination in Africa and the Implications on Plant and Human Health

Globally, battery manufacturing and recycling plants have been identified as the major sources of soil lead contamination that have resulted in lead exposure to neighbouring communities via the accumulation of lead within plants.

Masai child next to Opuntia stricta (© CABI)

Lead is naturally found in soil in relatively low concentrations (10-50 mg/kg) in which it is taken up by plants via the roots and accumulates within root cells as lead is used in low levels by plants. Excessive lead concentrations found within plants have been shown to reduce the functionality of morphological, biochemical and physiological functions as well as promoting deleterious effects. For more detailed information on the effects of lead on plant health, see here.

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E-plant clinics launched in Mozambique

E-plant clinic in Inhambane Province, Mozambique (© CABI)

E-plant clinics have been successfully launched in Mozambique this November, following two trainings and official launches. The trainings took place in a village called Tenga, Moamba near the capital city of Maputo (around 80 km), and in Morrumbene District near the city of Inhambane.

Training was delivered in partnership with the National Directorate of Agricultural Extension (DNEA), an institution of the Ministry of Agriculture in Mozambique.

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The disease that could change how we drink coffee

Hands holding coffee (© Public Domain CCO)

Reblogged from BBC Future
Written by Jose Luis Penarredonda

If you landed in Bogota in the 1960s, one of the first things you would have probably seen outside the airport was a giant billboard. In a slightly menacing tone, it said: “Coffee rust is the enemy. Don’t bring plant materials from abroad”.

It was one of the first warnings about a foe that has been threatening Colombia’s coffee trade ever since.

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Más que un microscopio: El laboratorio de plantas en Comarapa, Bolivia

Ladiplantas (Laboratorio de Plantas) que se ubica en el pueblo agrícola de Comarapa, en los cálidos valles andinos de Bolivia, está bien integrado a la comunidad local. Ladiplantas es manejado por la Ing. Olivia Antezana, como parte del Centro de Investigación Agrícola Tropical (CIAT), de la Gobernación del Departamento de Santa Cruz, desde el 2000 (Bentley y Boa 2004). CIAT es una de las tres agencias agropecuarias de la Gobernación de Santa Cruz. Las otras son la Dirección de Sanidad Agroalimentaria (DSA) y el Servicio Departamental Agropecuario de Sanidad e Inocuidad Agroalimentaria (Sedacruz, antes Sedag).

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Diagnostics in action: A proactive plant laboratory in Comarapa, Bolivia

Ladiplantas (Plant Laboratory) in the agro-town of Comarapa, in Bolivia’s low Andean Valleys, is well integrated into the farming community. Ladiplantas is run by agronomist Olivia Antezana, as part of CIAT (Research Centre for Tropical Agriculture), of the Departmental government of Santa Cruz, since 2000 (Bentley and Boa 2004). CIAT is one of the three agriculture agencies of the Government of Santa Cruz. The others are DSA (Directorate of Agricultural and Food Health) and Sedacruz (Departmental Service for Agriculture, Livestock and Food Safety; formerly Sedag).

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