10 years ago the Coconut Rhinoceros beetle (CRB) was first discovered on the western Pacific island of Guam. Since then, these shoe-shine black, miniature invaders have spread to all parts of the island and are laying waste to the local coconut and oil palm population. The economy, culture and ecology of Guam and other Pacific islands are intrinsically linked to the native palm species such that the rhino beetle poses a major threat. The indigenous peoples of Guam have a long history of weaving palm fronds, an artistry that is now at risk due to the rhino beetle. These trees are a symbol of tropic paradise, a motif that drives Guam’s primary industry; tourism. Continue reading
Transgenic Bt crops have been grown around the world since the 1990s and have contributed to increased yields by controlling agricultural pests. Due to the importance of this technology, there has been continuous study into the development of resistance to Bt crops and how best to avoid this happening. A recent investigation into the rapid spread of Bt resistance in South Africa has revealed one of the more surprising discoveries to date, that the maize stalk borer (Busseola fusca) has evolved Bt maize resistance inherited as a dominant trait for the first time. This has significant impacts on the management of Bt crops, as current methods for sustaining susceptibility rely on the recessive inheritance of Bt resistance.
Bread wheat (Triticum aestivum) is a globally important crop that accounts for 20% of the calories consumed by the world’s human population. Major work is underway to increase wheat production by expanding knowledge of the wheat genome and analysing key traits, however due to the large size and great complexity of the bread wheat genome progress has been slow. Now scientists from a number of organisations including the Centre for Genome Research at the University of Liverpool, the University of Bristol, University of California and the US Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research service have been working to sequence the genome and identify several classes of genes involved in crop productivity. The analysis provides a resource for improving this major crop by identifying variation in useful traits such as yield and nutrient content, thereby contributing to sustainable increases in wheat production.
Coffee (Coffea) is the one of the world’s favourite drinks and the second most traded commodity after oil, accounting for annual retail value of US$ 90 billion. The two main species used in the production of coffee are Arabica coffee (Coffea arabica), which accounts for 70% of coffee production, and Robusta coffee (Coffea canephora). The productivity of Arabica and the distribution of many coffee pests and diseases are strongly linked to climate and seasonality. A series of recent studies have forecast the predicted effects of climate change on both the present and future distribution of Arabica coffee and the effects of climate change on the distribution and lifecycle of the world’s worst coffee pest, the Coffee Berry Borer (Hypothenemus hampei).
The Coffee Berry Borer, Hypothenemus hampei, is a tiny beetle which is widely considered to be the most damaging pest of coffee plantations in the world. Originating in Africa, it is now found in almost all coffee growing areas in the world as an invasive species, with nearly 160 records from different areas worldwide on the Plantwise Distribution Map. Coffee is an extremely important commodity in many countries, including Brazil, Peru, Columbia, Vietnam, India and Indonesia. CABI is currently running a project led by Soetikno S. Sastroutomo in partnership with the Indonesian Coffee and Cacao Research Institute (ICCRI) and Papua New Guinea Coffee Industry Corporation Ltd (CIC) to address problems with the Coffee Berry Borer in Indonesia, where over 920,000 ha of coffee are infested, 95% of which are farmed by small holder farmers. Papua New Guinea is one of the last two remaining coffee nations without the pest, so the project also aims to prevent the establishment of the pest in Papua New Guinea and save the country’s extensive coffee growing areas. The CABI project is applying knowledge from Coffee Berry Borer management in African and Latin American countries to create a country-specific management program with an emphasis on Integrated Pest Management techniques and training for farmers in order to combat the Coffee Berry Borer. A recent paper published this year highlights the potential for Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programs in the management of Coffee Berry Borer, using a case study from a large coffee plantation in Colombia. Farm managers and harvest workers received training workshops on pest management strategies based on prior research and the recommendations of the National Coffee Research Center in Columbia in order to implement effective IPM strategies. Continue reading
Eggplant or aubergine (Solanum melongena) is a crop often attacked by the Colorado Potato Beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata), a major insect pest of plants from the Solanaceae family including potato, tomato and eggplant throughout North America, Europe and Asia. This insect pest is exceptionally destructive to crops and readily develops resistance to a wide variety of chemical insecticides, making research into alternative control methods vital. Now new research has revealed that the use of clover cover crops in agricultural fields of eggplants may provide an economically and ecologically viable method of Colorado Potato Beetle management that is as effective as chemical insecticides in regulating the beetle populations.
Following on from a previous blog on the interactions between soybean plants and soybean pests, new research on soybean (Glycine max) responses to the soybean aphid (Aphis glycines) published in Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions has revealed some of the complex and fascinating interactions between pests and their plant hosts. This recent research led by Dr Gustavo Macintosh and Matthew Studham from Iowa State University has shown that soybean aphids can suppress the natural plant defense response of soybean plants to the aphids through the activation of what is known as an antagonistic decoy response. For example, the aphid will induce a plant defense that is not particularly effective against the pest (the ‘decoy’ defense) while suppressing the effective defense in order for it to continue feeding on the plant. It has further been found that aphids can actively suppress the effective defence responses of the plant while at the same time ‘hijacking’ the plant metabolism to improve the nutritional value of the plant for their own benefit. Soybean aphids do this by inducing asparagine synthase transcripts which improve the nutritional content of the phloem sap from which they feed. Continue reading