Why we should all be batty about agriculture

Image from Flickr, by Michael Pennay

Bats are perhaps one of the best kept secrets of agricultural success. As nocturnal fliers they are often ‘out of sight, out of mind’, but insectivorous bats (Chiroptera) provide us with a natural, eco-friendly, and free pest control solution, saving North America alone an estimated $3.7 billion every year. Good news then? Not so much for bats. Habitat loss and fragmentation, land-use change and disease (to name just a few) are all putting bat populations under pressure, and many are reaching breaking point.

Continue reading

RIDL baffles Pink Bollworms

Pink bollworm larvae, photo by Peggy Greb, USDA Agricultural
Research Service, Bugwood.org

It was love at first sight for many pink bollworms this year, but as their eyes met across the cotton field all was not as it seemed…

Oxitec (a company based not far from the Plantwise Knowledge Bank team), have managed to genetically engineer a strain of pink bollworm (Pectinophora gossypiella) which greatly advances the already used sterile insect technique (SIT). The new strain (affectionately known as Pink Bollworm OX3402) has been genetically engineered to include bisex RIDL technology, which means that they have a RIDL gene that effectively makes them sterile (offspring cannot survive without additional dietary supplements). OX3402 also has Oxitec’s heritable fluorescent marker technology (DsRed), which allows populations of released strains to be monitored more accurately.

Continue reading