Cabbage disease mystery in Ghana

Cabbage © iStock images

Cabbage is an important crop in Ghana where it grows all year round, right across the country. It is mainly grown for commercial production in Southern Ghana, in Akwapim and Kwahu areas and in the moist high elevations around Tarkwa.

Growing cabbage in Ghana is challenging since it can be attacked by a variety of pests, such as cabbage aphids, caterpillars, cabbage webworm, diamondback moth, mole cricket, snails and rodents. Worldwide, aphids are a major concern because they commonly spread plant-infecting viruses. These are often diagnosed as turnip mosaic virus and cauliflower mosaic virus, particularly in Europe and the US, according to Dr John Carr, University of Cambridge, UK (, 2017).

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Why the green peach aphid is such a successful pest

Myzus persicae (green peach aphid); an alate (winged) adult
Myzus persicae (green peach aphid); an alate (winged) adult

Recent research highlights why the green peach aphid (Myzus persicae) is one of the most successful crop pests. These findings will help further the development of effective management and control measures which will ultimately reduce worldwide crop losses.

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Aphids Run Scared from GM Wheat

Wheat fields have just become a lot scarier (Source: RaeAllen, Flickr)

Genetically Modified wheat, gifted with the ability to fight off plant pest attacks, is being grown in England. In a situation similar to the film The Happening, wheat crops are now able to defend themselves against aphids. In the barely-believable movie, plants gained the ability to release chemicals that affected people’s behaviour in order to defend themselves from the polluting ways of humanity. Whilst we are not quite at that stage yet, the ability to produce plants that can defend themselves is an important step in reducing the use of chemical insecticides. Some plants naturally evolve defences against herbivores, but in this case, the wheat crop’s chemical defences have been specifically chosen by scientists.

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Microwaved Pests: A new recipe for success?

Researchers at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) are currently exploring the use of microwaves as a potential pest control method.  Unlike traditional chemical pesticides, which indiscriminately kill all insects, microwaves would be able to target specific insect pests and not affect other insects in the area. This new application of microwaves could benefit farmers in the developing world by providing a cheaper and more environmentally-friendly alternative to chemical pesticides.

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This approach uses microwave frequencies that only affect the target insect pest whilst ignoring other insects. The specific insect pests are identified and affected by the microwaves based upon their size and structure, with the microwaves tailored to fit the specific insect pest. This is done on a trial and error basis on species individuals before entering the field. There is still the possibility of killing “useful” or “neutral” insects (such as pollinators), however the risk of this is reduced compared to chemical pesticides.

The researchers are not only looking to kill the insect pests immediately but are also looking to disrupt their reproduction and communication systems. By making them infertile or reducing the insect pests’ ability to effectively communicate with each other they could reduce their long-term survival prospects.

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