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

Which is the most important plant-pathogenic fungus?

Stem rust on wheat - one of the Top 10 plant-pathogenic fungi © Yue Jin (USDA ARS)

A survey by the journal, Molecular Plant Pathology, had 495 responses from international fungal pathologists on what they thought the most scientifically and economically important fungal plant pathogens were. Several of the ‘top 10’ fungi from these results are those that infect cereal crops, which isn’t surprising as cereals such as wheat and rice are some of the most highly produced crops worldwide. Continue reading

Yellow Rust Adds to Famine Worries

Source: allafrica.com

In terms of food security the big story recently is that two regions of southern Somalia are in the midst of a famine. More than 10 million people are currently at risk of starvation with 1.8 million people displaced in East Africa’s worst drought for 60 years. Ethiopia and Kenya are neighbouring food insecure populations according to the UN food security classification.

However East Africa may soon experience more food shortages in the future due to yellow rust. Yellow rust (Puccinia striiformis) is a fungal disease which reduces wheat yields and can be found in many countries (Where is yellow rust found?). It causes the formation of necrotic areas and yellow pustules which together form stripes on the leaves. In the past it has not been found to destroy entire crops and was managed by the introduction of yellow rust resistant varieties in the 1970s. Recently a more aggressive strain of yellow rust has appeared and has already affected parts of Europe, Australia and the US. It is able to generate more spores than previous strains and spread more rapidly.

The international community had largely ignored this new strain in its fight against another wheat disease. Ug99 is a strain of stem rust (Puccinia graminis) which was first detected in 1998 and is traditionally regarded as more of a threat than yellow rust in the areas that it exists in (Where is stem rust found?). However this new strain of yellow rust is now considered more of a threat to wheat yields.

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Do you like your coffee wilted?

According to CABI’s Peter Baker at the recent ISEAL Conference the International coffee community may be failing farmers in providing them with support in adapting to upcoming climate risks.

Source: http://www.roasterscoffee.co.uk/gallery.htm

Changes in the climate can have dire consequences for farmers within developing countries. They can change the distribution ranges of insect pests, causing pests to migrate into new areas which are not prepared for them. Farmers may not have the knowledge to identify these new insect pests and take appropriate action to reduce the harm that they can cause to their crops.

As part of the Plantwise initiative CABI is increasing support to farmers face-to-face via a network of plant clinics in the developing world and also via a comprehensive global knowledge bank. Specially trained ‘plant doctors’ help farmers identify problems affecting their crops. Advice and treatment recommendations are offered along with information on the disease in local languages in the form of factsheets, leaflets and posters, an example being Coffee wilt disease.

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