Bees aid early detection of fireblight in orchards

The bees leave fireblight bacteria in the tube.
Bees from the orchard leave any fireblight bacteria in the tube through which they enter their hive © Rudolf Moosbeckhofer, AGES

Fireblight is a bacterial disease caused by the species Erwinia amylovora that affects fruit trees including apple and pear. It also affects other members of the rose family, including roses, crabapples and hawthorn. The disease can quickly spread through a plant, killing it within a few months, and can devastate entire orchards within a season. Fireblight is difficult to control; there are no chemicals that are effective once the disease has taken hold, and the spread can mainly only be slowed by pruning infected branches. Early detection of fireblight is therefore essential. Researchers at the Vienna University of Technology have devised a method to detect the disease, not on the fruit trees but on the bees that pollinate them. Continue reading

Maize disease in Kenya no longer a mystery and being controlled

Maize showing symptoms of Maize chlorotic mottle virus © CIMMYT (CC BY-NC-SA license, via Flickr)

Update [March 2013]: More information about the pests and viruses associated with Maize Lethal Necrosis disease can be found on the Plantwise Knowledge Bank.

In January this year, ProMed-mail reported an undiagnosed disease of maize that had been destroying farmers’ crops in the Rift Valley of Kenya since the previous September. The Ministry of Agriculture in Kenya swiftly took action to investigate the problem, and at the end of May, the Minister of Agriculture Hon. Dr Sally Kosgei announced their conclusions. Continue reading