Crop diseases are an ever-increasing worldwide threat and estimated to be the cause of the 20-40% decrease in global agricultural productivity. With this boom in plant diseases affecting agricultural practices, there is therefore also an increased demand for research and the implementation of disease control and management schemes.
Australian researchers have developed a new nanotechnology pesticide spray called BioClay which has shown success in recent trials.
Developed by the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI) and the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN), BioClay contains double stranded RNA which can be sprayed onto a crop. When the RNA contacts the plant, the plant believes it is being attacked by a virus and protects itself.
Black rot is considered the most important disease of crucifers across the world and can attack its host at any stage of growth. Cauliflower and cabbage are the most readily affected crucifer hosts and suffer significant yield loss as a result of the disease. On cabbage, black rot causes yellow to brown V-shaped lesions to develop on the edges of leaves and move inwards towards the midrib. As the disease progresses, the lesions turn darker, and leaves may wilt and fall from the plant. In the advanced stages of the disease, veins in the affected area will darken.
The disease is causes by a bacteria, Xanthomonas campestris pv. campestris, which can be spread via wild hosts, water or, most commonly, infected seed. Even symptomsless plants may produce infected seed so it is important to try to source certified disease-free seed before planting. For more information about how to control this disease, read September’s Factsheet of the Month, Control of Black Rot in Cabbage, which has been written by staff from the Ministry of Agriculture in Grenada.
Blog written by Dorcas Kabuya Chaaba-National Agricultural Information Services,Zambia
Rallies are commonly associated with politics, a time when politicians present their ideologies to the electorates in a bid to win votes. But this time around, officers from the Ministry of Agriculture and livestock implementing the Plantwise initiative in Zambia held plant health rallies with farmers to share management solutions on specific crop problems.
Drawn from different districts of the country, these officers who are trained plant doctor held plant health rallies in Rufunsa, Chongwe, Chilanga districts of Lusaka Province while in Central Province the same events took off in Chibombo and Kapiri Mposhi. Farmers who attended the rallies were sensitized on how to control various pests and diseases of groundnuts, cotton, cabbage, tomato, maize and sweet potatoes.
The goal of these rallies was to create awareness of the Plantwise initiative that was launched in May 2013 with an additional focus of advising farmers how to manage pests and diseases reported in the places where the initiative is currently running plant clinics.
The production of food is taken for granted by a lot of people. But to farmers, producing a healthy crop that can give them income at the end of the day can be a challenge. Pests and diseases if left unattended to can have serious consequences. As such, farmers need to be equipped with the necessary knowledge to fight pests and diseases if this problem is to be contained. Plantwise addresses the constant struggle that small-scale farmers go through to produce food by providing affordable, locally available solutions to plant health problems. Plant clinics are at the heart of Plantwise and trained plant doctors diagnose pests and disease problems brought by local farmers using plant samples on a one on one basis, during the plant health rallies, farmers came in large numbers and were helped by Plant doctors.
Clinics and rallies help farmers to access the information they need when they need it and it further helps them reduce crop losses thereby improving crop health and their livelihoods.
Improving food security is not a myth – using the right agricultural extension approaches surely, we can loose less and feed more!
Growing up in a small village in Western Kenya, I often accompanied my mother and other village women on customary weeding expeditions. Whenever we came across sick plants in the fields—which was all too often—my mother would instruct me to pull them out and cast them aside.
I did as she asked, but wondered to myself: Why do we simply throw out the plants instead of doing something to make them better?
At times, my mother lost nearly 80 percent of her tomatoes to plant disease. The loss was so bad that she eventually stopped growing tomatoes all together. Yet when one of our cows got sick, my mother would call a veterinarian to come and treat the cow. I wondered: Were there no doctors who could also cure our plants?
I turned this curiosity into a career in science and became the first child in my family to attend university as well as the first woman in my village to earn a science degree. Seeking answers to my childhood questions, I studied botany and zoology as an undergraduate to better understand the diversity of crop and animal pests and diseases afflicting farmers like my mother in Kenya and her peers across Africa. I wanted nothing more than to find a practical solution.
So, I became a plant doctor
According to the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Tanzania and Uganda, who produce almost half of all bananas in Africa, are only achieving 9% of their expected yield. This year sees the start of a 5-year project to develop high-yielding, pest resistant banana hybrids. Rony Swennen, the project’s leader, says that he hopes this will help to increase resistance to pests such as nematodes, Black Sigatoka and banana weevils. Banana weevils are found in virtually all banana-growing countries of the world and can cause severe damage to the banana plant. The weevils bore into the trunk and roots, which weakens the plants and can cause them to collapse altogether. This month’s Factsheet of the month explains how banana weevil populations can be reduced using traps made from 2 halves of a freshly cut banana stem.
This factsheet was written by an agronomist from the Ministry of Agriculture in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is also available in French.