Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle on Guam – an update

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An adult male coconut rhinoceros beetle. Emmy Engasser, Hawaiian Scarab ID, USDA APHIS ITP, Bugwood.org

10 years ago the Coconut Rhinoceros beetle (CRB) was first discovered on the western Pacific island of Guam. Since then, these shoe-shine black, miniature invaders have spread to all parts of the island and are laying waste to the local coconut and oil palm population. The economy, culture and ecology  of Guam and other Pacific islands are intrinsically linked to the native palm species such that the rhino beetle poses a major threat. The indigenous peoples of Guam have a long history of weaving palm fronds, an artistry that is now at risk due to the rhino beetle. These trees are a symbol of tropic paradise, a motif that drives Guam’s primary industry; tourism. Continue reading

Fall armyworm could cost Africa $2bn+ in lost harvest

DJHggJ4WsAAzkwI (1)Last week, CABI confirmed that since it arrived in Africa in 2016, the Fall Armyworm (FAW) has been reported in 28 African countries, presenting a now permanent agricultural challenge for the continent. FAW mainly affects maize and can cut yields by up to 60%. In research funded by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), CABI estimate that, if not properly managed, the pest will cost 10 of Africa’s major maize producing economies a total of $2.2bn to $5.5bn a year in lost maize harvests.

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Pakistan’s papaya pest squashed through biocontrol

By Saleem Shaikh. Reblogged from SciDev.Net

Pakistan’s papaya pest squashed through biocontrol
Copyright: G.M.B. Akash / Pano

A severe infestation of the papaya mealybug (Paracoccus marginatus) nearly wiped out papaya orchards in Pakistan before the largely farmed country decided to replace conventional chemical pesticides that were ineffective with natural predators that proved to be successful.

The system was developed by agro-biotechnologists and entomologists at the Pakistani chapter of the UK-based Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI) who introduced the use of Acerophagus papayae, a parasitoid (insects whose larvae parasite upon and eventually kill the host), to effectively control the mealybug infestation.

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Update: Plant Health News (09 Sep 15)

Weaver ants work as colonies to feed on crop pests, providing effective control © Troup Dresser, via Flickr
Weaver ants work as colonies to feed on crop pests, providing effective control © Troup Dresser, via Flickr

Here’s a taste of some of the latest stories about plant health, including the researchers attempting to prevent pest beetles entering avocado crops in Mexico,  the use of weaver ants in pest control to reduce pesticide use and the colonisation of crops such as lettuce with secondary pathogens.

Click on the link to read more of the latest plant health news!
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Water weed removed with surgical precision

Blog written by PT Bandara, CABI Associate, and WMDH Kulatunga, Sri Lanka.

Proliferation of Salvinia molesta in tank No.4 in March 2014.
Proliferation of Salvinia molesta in tank No.4 in March 2014. Images: Thushari Weerakoon, Moragahakanda Kaluganga Development Project.

“A looming threat imposed by Salvinia molesta was averted through the introduction of a biocontrol agent by technical experts of the Department of Agriculture.” These were the words of Project Director Engineer RB Tennakoon, of the Moragahakanda Kaluganga Development Project, Sri Lanka; a project with the key objective to improve the availability of irrigation to water-scarce farmlands and thereby increase crop production and productivity in the area surrounding Kaluganga and Moragahakanda reservoirs, as well as supplying domestic water to Anuradhapura, Trincomalee and Matale districts.

Salvinia molesta recently replaced Rinderpest virus on the list of “100 of the world’s worst invasive alien species” in a global survey conducted in 2013 where over 650 invasion biologists participated. It is a water fern which forms dense mats over water reservoirs and slow moving rivers, causing large economic losses and a wide range of ecological problems to the environment, native species and communities. It can clog water intakes and interfere with agricultural irrigation water supply and hydropower generation.

One of the water tanks at Kaluganga was completely covered with Salvinia in March 2014 and there was a huge possibility of spread of Salvinia throughout the irrigation system of Kaluganga Project. The case was referred to the Plant Protection Service of the Department of Agriculture. Within ten months the tank was clear of Salvinia, without the use of any mechanical tools or chemicals but using a control method perfectly compatible with nature. What made this possible?

It is due to a tiny weevil Cyrtobagous salviniae used as a biocontrol agent. Larvae of  C. salviniae tunnel within the rhizomes/stem causing them to disintegrate. Larvae also tunnel in the buds and adults eat buds, thus suppressing growth and vegetative propagation of this sterile weed. Technical experts from the Plant Protection Service of the DoA, who are responsible for rearing this weevil  provided a culture of the biocontrol agent and introduced them into the infested water bodies.

The elimination of this troublesome weed led to the jubilation of the Project Director. Mr Tennakoon acknowledged the support given by Mr PT Bandara, Deputy Director Plant Protection Service at the time of this project, and his team in removing this highly invasive water weed and thus eliminating a huge threat that would have jeopardized the Moragahakanda Kaluganga Project.

Find out more about management of this weed by searching “Salvinia molesta” on the Plantwise knowledge bank, including factsheets from the DoA, Sri Lanka in Sinhala and Tamil.

The case was referred to the Plant Protection Service. Mr WMPT Bandara and other technical experts visited the tank and released specific biological control agent on 14 March 2014.
The case was referred to the Plant Protection Service. Mr WMPT Bandara and other technical experts visited the tank and released specific biological control agent on 14 March 2014. Images: Thushari Weerakoon, Moragahakanda Kaluganga Development Project.
By June 2015 the tank becomes clear and the control method is a success
By June 2015 the tank becomes clear and the control method is a success. Images: Thushari Weerakoon, Moragahakanda Kaluganga Development Project.

New edition of weed biocontrol catalogue gives information on more than 2000 releases

Himalayan balsam infected with Puccinia rust
Himalayan balsam infected with Puccinia rust – a method of biocontrol being used in the UK. Photo credit: Rob Tanner © CABI

The fifth edition of Biological Control of Weeds: A World Catalogue of Agents and Their Target Weeds has been released after years of literature searches and the involvement of 125 weed biocontrol specialists.

The publication of this catalogue, available as a searchable online database and as a PDF book, was led by Mark Schwarzländer, University of Idaho CALS professor of entomology and biological control of weeds (and a former CABI researcher), and current CABI biological weed researcher, Hariet Hinz. Several prominent invasive species researchers co-edited the catalogue, including CABI’s Chief Scientist, Matthew Cock. Continue reading

Fungi just as effective as pesticides at controlling crop pest

Leatherjackets are amongst the crop pests being targeted with biocontrol © Rasbak (CC BY-SA licence)

Researchers at Swansea University have found a strain of fungi that could replace harmful pesticides in the control of the European crane fly (Tipula paludosa). The effects of 17 strains of entomopathogenic fungi, chlorpyrifos-based pesticides and a nematode worm were compared. The pesticides and fungal strain V1005 Metarhizium robertsii were both found to be 100% effective at controlling crane fly larvae, which are pests to many crop and tree species. The larvae, known as ‘leatherjackets’, feed on cereals, cabbages and lettuces, as well as young tree saplings, resulting in millions of pounds of damage every year in Europe and North America. Continue reading