Plantwise showcases open access Knowledge Bank at global open data summit

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Dr Nicholls addressing the GODAN Summit; © Diana Szpotowicz

Last week, CABI and Plantwise representatives attended the GODAN Summit in New York, the largest event ever planned for open data in agriculture and nutrition. It brought together key stakeholders from around the world to consider how open data can help achieve Zero Hunger – one of the key Sustainable Development Goals (SDG2).

Speaking at the opening session of the Summit on the 15th September, CABI CEO, Dr Trevor Nicholls, called for action. “As a GODAN partner and donor we know the importance of building core GODAN principles into what we do as well as what we say. We cannot remain still. Innovation is essential.”

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Update: Plant Health News (22 Jun 16)

Opuntia stricta 3
Invasive cactus Opuntia stricta in Maasai community areas, Kenya © CABI

Here’s a taste of some of the latest stories about plant health, including the effects of Tuta absoluta on tomato prices in Zambia, hail causing damage to crops in Colombia and the threat of invasive species on agriculture around the world.

Click on the link to read more of the latest plant health news!

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Water weed removed with surgical precision

Blog written by PT Bandara, CABI Associate, and WMDH Kulatunga, Sri Lanka.

Proliferation of Salvinia molesta in tank No.4 in March 2014.
Proliferation of Salvinia molesta in tank No.4 in March 2014. Images: Thushari Weerakoon, Moragahakanda Kaluganga Development Project.

“A looming threat imposed by Salvinia molesta was averted through the introduction of a biocontrol agent by technical experts of the Department of Agriculture.” These were the words of Project Director Engineer RB Tennakoon, of the Moragahakanda Kaluganga Development Project, Sri Lanka; a project with the key objective to improve the availability of irrigation to water-scarce farmlands and thereby increase crop production and productivity in the area surrounding Kaluganga and Moragahakanda reservoirs, as well as supplying domestic water to Anuradhapura, Trincomalee and Matale districts.

Salvinia molesta recently replaced Rinderpest virus on the list of “100 of the world’s worst invasive alien species” in a global survey conducted in 2013 where over 650 invasion biologists participated. It is a water fern which forms dense mats over water reservoirs and slow moving rivers, causing large economic losses and a wide range of ecological problems to the environment, native species and communities. It can clog water intakes and interfere with agricultural irrigation water supply and hydropower generation.

One of the water tanks at Kaluganga was completely covered with Salvinia in March 2014 and there was a huge possibility of spread of Salvinia throughout the irrigation system of Kaluganga Project. The case was referred to the Plant Protection Service of the Department of Agriculture. Within ten months the tank was clear of Salvinia, without the use of any mechanical tools or chemicals but using a control method perfectly compatible with nature. What made this possible?

It is due to a tiny weevil Cyrtobagous salviniae used as a biocontrol agent. Larvae of  C. salviniae tunnel within the rhizomes/stem causing them to disintegrate. Larvae also tunnel in the buds and adults eat buds, thus suppressing growth and vegetative propagation of this sterile weed. Technical experts from the Plant Protection Service of the DoA, who are responsible for rearing this weevil  provided a culture of the biocontrol agent and introduced them into the infested water bodies.

The elimination of this troublesome weed led to the jubilation of the Project Director. Mr Tennakoon acknowledged the support given by Mr PT Bandara, Deputy Director Plant Protection Service at the time of this project, and his team in removing this highly invasive water weed and thus eliminating a huge threat that would have jeopardized the Moragahakanda Kaluganga Project.

Find out more about management of this weed by searching “Salvinia molesta” on the Plantwise knowledge bank, including factsheets from the DoA, Sri Lanka in Sinhala and Tamil.

The case was referred to the Plant Protection Service. Mr WMPT Bandara and other technical experts visited the tank and released specific biological control agent on 14 March 2014.
The case was referred to the Plant Protection Service. Mr WMPT Bandara and other technical experts visited the tank and released specific biological control agent on 14 March 2014. Images: Thushari Weerakoon, Moragahakanda Kaluganga Development Project.
By June 2015 the tank becomes clear and the control method is a success
By June 2015 the tank becomes clear and the control method is a success. Images: Thushari Weerakoon, Moragahakanda Kaluganga Development Project.

New edition of weed biocontrol catalogue gives information on more than 2000 releases

Himalayan balsam infected with Puccinia rust
Himalayan balsam infected with Puccinia rust – a method of biocontrol being used in the UK. Photo credit: Rob Tanner © CABI

The fifth edition of Biological Control of Weeds: A World Catalogue of Agents and Their Target Weeds has been released after years of literature searches and the involvement of 125 weed biocontrol specialists.

The publication of this catalogue, available as a searchable online database and as a PDF book, was led by Mark Schwarzländer, University of Idaho CALS professor of entomology and biological control of weeds (and a former CABI researcher), and current CABI biological weed researcher, Hariet Hinz. Several prominent invasive species researchers co-edited the catalogue, including CABI’s Chief Scientist, Matthew Cock. Continue reading

Update: Plant Health News (08 May 13)

The Australian banana industry wants a banana production and marketing information system to improve its resilience to cyclones, pests and diseases.
The banana industry is planning an information system to reduce crop loss

Here’s a taste of some of the latest stories about plant health, including the risk of Septoria attack if sprays are delayed, an internet data portal plan from the banana industry and new plant protein discoveries that could ease global food and fuel demands.

Click on the link to read more of the latest plant health news!
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Invasive species by sea: What can be done?

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Contributed by Roger Day and Melanie Bateman from Rome

One major cause of pest spread- sea shipment containers- was a key discussion topic on the first evening of the IPPC’s week-long annual meeting, the CPM8. With over 35 million sea shipments each year, regulation is both crucial and extremely complex.

“The complexity of the situation is such that the EU doesn’t hold a common position on the issue,” noted the EU delegate yesterday. One suggestion was to conduct a survey to clarify the nature and extent of the problem, but even that’s complex.  “Surveys can be difficult, and one on sea containers gives me a headache just thinking about it” said the delegate from New Zealand who is the steward for the proposed standard.

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Spot The Difference: Decoy Beetles Created To Manage The Invasive Emerald Ash Borer

An Emerald Ash Borer (left) and a manufactured Emerald Ash Borer decoy (right) created by researchers  at Penn State University  © Penn State News via Flickr (CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0)
An Emerald Ash Borer (left) and a manufactured Emerald Ash Borer decoy (right) created by researchers at Penn State University © Penn State News via Flickr (CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis) is a beetle native to Asia which was first identified near Detroit, Michigan and Ontario in 2002. It is now a serious invasive pest of North American ash trees in the genus Fraxinus. Emerald ash borer populations are spreading rapidly in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic states of the USA, as well as adjacent regions of Ontario, Canada. “Within 25 years, practically no ash trees may remain on either side of the St. Lawrence Seaway”, said Akhlesh Lakhtakia, Charles Godfray Binder Professor of Engineering Science and Mechanics at Pennsylvania State University.

Emerald ash borer adult males locate females using visual cues, and males can be attracted by using dead male or female beetles pinned to host trees. The beetles are in the family Buprestidae, also known as Jewel Beetles as they often have metallic, iridescent colouring. Thomas Baker, Professor of Entomology at Pennslyvania State University and Michael Domingue have previously used dead female emerald ash borers for bait to trap the male beetles. The dead emerald ash borers are not ideal for trapping due to their fragility, therefore two researchers working in Lakhtakia’s laboratory have created a decoy beetle made from a mold of the female beetles body. The decoy has been coloured using a process of layering polymers with different refractive light properties to create the characteristic iridescent green colouring of the emerald ash borer. The team were able to find the right combination of polymers and number of layers in order to refract light and create a colour very similar to the beetle’s own colouring, creating a realistic visual decoy.

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