New Type of Invasive Whitefly Recorded In South Africa

The whitefly Bemisia tabaci (USDA image PD USDA ARS via Wikimedia Commons)
The whitefly Bemisia tabaci (USDA image PD USDA ARS via Wikimedia Commons)

A species of whitefly that transmits cassava mosaic virus has been detected in South Africa for the first time. The whitefly, Bemisia tabaci is a cryptic species complex containing some important agricultural pests and virus vectors. The term ‘cryptic species complex’ means that Bemisia tabaci is considered to be a complex of at least 24 different species that look almost identical but are in fact genetically different.  Researchers from a range of organisations including the University of Johannesburg, the University of Witwatersrand and ARC-Vegetable and Ornamental Plant Institute conducted surveys to investigate the diversity and distribution of Bemisia tabaci species in 8 provinces in South Africa. The study aimed to update the information regarding the different Bemisia tabaci types present in the country.

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Parasitic Witchweed defeated in Kenya

Striga Weed in a rice field © AfricaRice (License CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Striga Weed in a rice field © AfricaRice (License CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Striga, a parasitic weed (also known as Witchweed,) has long been a problem in African nations; causing farmers to lose billions of dollars’ worth of crops annually. To make matters worse, the weed flourishes in conditions that characterise that of poor farming communities (small plots, mono-cropping, lack of oxen and natural manure and lack of agricultural inputs.)

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What CABI Is Doing To Tackle Major Coffee Rust Outbreaks In Central America

Guatemala has declared a state of agricultural emergency after coffee rust fungus has affected approximately 193,000ha of coffee, equating to 70% of the national crop. As a result of the outbreak, Guatemala is releasing $13.7m (£8.7m) in emergency aid to help farmers buy pesticides and to inform farmers on ways to manage the disease. Honduras and Costa Rica have already declared national emergency and El Salvador and Panama are also affected.

Coffee is a major export crop in many Central American countries and it is thought that this disease outbreak, which has been called “the worst seen in Central America and Mexico” by John Vandermeer, ecologist at the University of Michigan, will lead to big job losses. The Institute of Coffee in Costa Rica has estimated that the latest coffee rust outbreak may reduce the 2013-2014 harvest by 50% or more in the worst affected areas.

To find out more information about coffee rust view our Plantwise Knowledge Bank- Coffee Leaf Rust PDF booklet.

Symptoms of Coffee Rust (Hemileia vastatrix) © Carlos Roberto Carvalho, Ronaldo C. Fernandes, Guilherme Mendes Almeida Carvalho, Robert W. Barreto, Harry C. Evans (2011): Cryptosexuality and the Genetic Diversity Paradox in Coffee Rust, Hemileia vastatrix. PLoS ONE 6(11): e26387. {{doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0026387}} (CC-BY 2.5)
Symptoms of Coffee Rust (Hemileia vastatrix) © Carlos Roberto Carvalho, Ronaldo C. Fernandes, Guilherme Mendes Almeida Carvalho, Robert W. Barreto, Harry C. Evans (2011): Cryptosexuality and the Genetic Diversity Paradox in Coffee Rust, Hemileia vastatrix. PLoS ONE 6(11): e26387. {{doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0026387}} (CC-BY 2.5)

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A Sting In The Tale- EFSA Assesses The Risks of Neonicotinoids To Bees

Bumblebee Bombus terrestris foraging © Kintaiyo (License CC-BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
Bumblebee Bombus terrestris foraging © Kintaiyo (License CC-BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Bees represent a proportion of the insects that contribute to the pollination of crops, and the potential impact of observed declines in bees on crop yields, as well as their importance as pollinators of wild flowers, has resulted in significant attention and controversy in determining the causes of bee declines. No single factor has been found to explain the decline in pollinators, and it is thought to be due to a range of interacting effects such as climate change, bee pests and diseases, pesticide use, and habitat loss. More recently, some studies have implicated neonicotinoid insecticides in the pollinator decline, although to date evidence from different studies is conflicting and the topic remains highly debated.

In April 2012 the European Commission demanded a re-examination of the risks posed by the neonicotinoids, including imidacloprid and clothianidin, primarily produced by Bayer CropScience, and Syngenta’s thiamethoxam. A report published on Wednesday by scientists at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) assessed the risks posed to honeybees by these three neonicotinoids.

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Why food losses are even greater than the Global Food report by IMechE says

by Daniel O’Hara

Harvested tomatoes with boll worm symptoms
Post-harvest losses are only part of the food waste problem © CABI

Yesterday saw the release of a report from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers which highlighted the shocking level of waste within the global food system.

The report, ‘Global Food – Waste not, want not’, claims 30-50% (or 1.2-2bn tonnes) of all food produced is wasted. In the context of a rapidly growing global population this amount of waste simply isn’t acceptable. The report also notes the waste that lies behind the front-line statistics. For each item of food wasted the resources which have gone towards producing it are wasted too. In a world of water shortages and energy crises this inefficiency can be devastating.

Despite its strengths, the report is limited in one respect. It fails to examine the entire food production process and does not take into account one of the biggest causes of food waste – pre-harvest crop losses. Although the report notes that “frequently poor weather conditions or attacks by pests of all types reduce the quality or quantity of crop harvested” it fails to properly account for the huge global losses which occur. Continue reading

The Climate Reality Project- Coffee Production Hit by Climate Change


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Recently aired as part of The Climate Reality Project (founded by Al Gore), this documentary contains a 5 minute  film about climate change and smallholder coffee production in Colombia. The film featured as part of a 24 hour online stream of climate documentaries and discussions to raise awareness and explain the varying impacts of global climate change.

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Armyworms devastate crops in Zambia, threatening food security

Armyworms can devastate crop yields © Rikus Kloppers/PANNAR Seed (Pty) Ltd
Armyworms can devastate crop yields © Rikus Kloppers/PANNAR Seed (Pty) Ltd

Armyworms in Zambia are threatening food security by reducing crop yields. This was the message from former Agriculture Minister Eustarkio Kazong, speaking in an interview for Zambian radio station, QFM. Armyworms are attacking crops, causing major damage to maize, cassava, sorghum and rice. In Kabwe, the capital of the Central Province where the first cases were reported, armyworms have already been reported to have destroyed 6500 hectares of maize crop. Despite measures to prevent the spread, cases of armyworms have today been confirmed in 5 of the country’s 10 provinces. Farmers in the remaining provinces have been advised to take precautions as the pest could spread to the whole country.
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