Crop-devastating pests in Rwanda to be targeted with space-age technology from PRISE programme

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Pests, which threaten to destroy key cash and food security crops including maize, tomato and beans, are to be prioritized as part of an integrated pest management strategy using state-of-the-art space-age technology.

Scores of smallholder farmers in Rwanda are the latest to benefit from the CABI-led consortium, funded by the UK Space Agency and the Global Challenges Research Fund with co-funding from the CABI-led Plantwise, that is using a combination of earth observation technology, satellite positioning and plant-pest lifecycle modelling to provide an evidence-based Pest Risk Information Service (PRISE).

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Controlling whiteflies: How marigold is helping to promote safer alternatives for pest management

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Marigold (Asteracae) are commonly used as tools for the prevention of whitefly infestations in fields (© Pexels)

In a recently published study, researchers have identified the natural insect repelling chemical produced by marigold, reinforcing what farmers have culturally used for years as a tool to prevent or reduce whitefly infestations.

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Local innovation as source of adaptation and resilience to climate change

Women harvesting Moringa leaves in Réo, Burkina Faso
Women harvesting Moringa leaves, Burkina Faso. Photo credit: Pierre-François Pret

This is the second guest post as part of our Climate Smart Agriculture Week (20 – 24 November 2017)

Climate change poses major challenges to small-scale African farmers, whose own locally developed strategies to address these challenges provide entry points to sustainable processes of adapting to climate change. Partners in Prolinnova – a global network for promoting local innovation in ecological agriculture and natural resource management – have studied how crop farmers respond creatively to change.

Some case studies from West and Central Africa provide some insight:

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Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle on Guam – an update

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An adult male coconut rhinoceros beetle. Emmy Engasser, Hawaiian Scarab ID, USDA APHIS ITP, Bugwood.org

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

Watch the new Knowledge Bank demo

Check out the latest video demo featuring highlights of the new Plantwise Knowledge Bank version 2.1. New translation capabilities and offline content delivery make the knowledge bank a shared resource for even more people in more communities worldwide. Regional pages focus on plant health problems that cross national boarders, and improved search and diagnostic tools bring more specific and appropriate information for users’ needs. Already reaching 198 countries with front-line pest management news, records and recommendations, the Knowledge Bank has become a critical resource for global food security

Landmark climate change report will bring new concerns for food security

Food security and climate change
Sanjit Das/CABI

Tomorrow, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will release its fifth global warming report predicting indicators of climate change for the coming years. The expectation is that the temperature is set to increase even more dramatically than the last report predicted in 2007, causing a domino effect on weather conditions, oceanic trends and the multitude of ecosystems which are dependent on them.  “We believe the assessment of new publications will help us fill up some existing gaps and add to the body of knowledge that already exists in this entire field,” says IPCC Chairman Rajendra K. Pachauri.Often for the public, gaps in understanding of global warming and its predicted effects still remain. Climate change conjures up images of polar bears drifting on icebergs across expanding oceans, or hurricanes spiralling over tropical islands, waves crashing past highway barriers, and entire countries left immersed underwater. But less often do the effects of climate change seem to trickle into the everyday.  We know what we can do about it (recycle, bike to work), and how policy-makers have struggled to act on it (curbing temperature increase, agreeing on a unified response) but do we know how global warming and the IPCC predicted scenarios will really affect humanity? Do we know how this will impact the most basic human needs, namely our access to sufficient food and nutrients? Continue reading

The Evolution of Insect Resistance to Bt Crops

A group of scientists at the University of Arizona have this week published a paper in Nature Biotechnology on the evolution of resistance in insect pests populations to insecticidal proteins from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) that are produced by transgenic crops. Resistance is defined as the phenotype of an individual that gives the individual the ability to survive on a transgenic insecticidal plant from egg to adult and provide viable offspring. The team analysed field and laboratory data from seventy-seven studies of thirteen pest species in eighteen countries across five continents. Entomologist Bruce Tabashnik and colleagues found well documented cases of field-evolved resistance to Bt crops in five major pests as of 2010. 60% of these cases occurred in the U.S.A, where approximately half of the world’s Bt crop acreage is planted. In some cases, resistance to Bt evolved within as little as two to three years, whilst in other cases Bt crops have remained effective for more than 15 years. The research team aimed to better understand how quickly insect populations are evolving resistance to Bt crops and how this is occurring.

Workshop participants assess a range of fodder and cereal crops that can be used as “refugia”, fostering stem borers susceptible to the Bt toxin. In a longstanding partnership under the Insect Resistant Maize for Africa (IRMA) project , CIMMYT works with the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) to offer farmers maize varieties that resist borers, which otherwise cause heavy losses (approximately 12% of Kenya’s annual maize crop). In addition to conventional breeding, one source of resistance in developing these varieties has been the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis. A gene from this bacterium inserted into “Bt maize” causes it to produce a protein that is selectively toxic to certain borer species. However, mutant resistant borers unaffected by the toxin will flourish and eventually predominate, unless farmers use refugia to maintain a susceptible population. At this workshop in December 2005, sponsored by IRMA at KARI’s Kitale center, 50 participants—including researchers, extension workers, and farmers—learned about progress in the development of insect-resistant maize and the importance of refugia, evaluating numerous crops in the field for their potential as refugia. For more information, see CIMMYT's December 2005 e-news story "Bug Havens Keep Maize Pest-Proof," available online at: http://www.cimmyt.org/newsletter/86-2005/344-bug-havens-keep-maize-pest-proof.  Image © CIMMYT (CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0)
Women assess a range of fodder and cereal crops that can be used as “refugia for stem borers susceptible to the Bt toxin. In a longstanding partnership under the Insect Resistant Maize for Africa (IRMA) project , CIMMYT works with the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) to offer farmers maize varieties that resist borers, which otherwise cause heavy losses (approximately 12% of Kenya’s annual maize crop). In addition to conventional breeding, one source of resistance in developing these varieties has been the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis. A gene from this bacterium inserted into “Bt maize” causes it to produce a protein that is selectively toxic to certain borer species. However, resistant borers unaffected by the toxin will reproduce and eventually predominate, unless farmers use refugia to maintain a susceptible population. 
Image © CIMMYT (CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0)

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