Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle on Guam – an update

5539645-PPT
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)

Continue reading

New technology for detecting pests and diseases

by Keron Bascombe, Technology4Agri

IPM Scope for identifying diseases
IPM Scope – a new technology to aid identification of plant diseases © Spectrum Technologies

Much of farm enterprise activity is spent dealing with pests and diseases which significantly lower the yield of produce. For many producers this warrants the use of pesticides of many kinds to deter a wide variety of pests and insects that can either destroy crops or act as vectors that cause disease. Excess use of pesticides can not only harm the plant and its soil (or soil medium) but it is potentially harmful to those labourers applying the chemical and in the long run to those consuming the crop.

In this regard, early detection of pests and disease is paramount when operating a medium to large scale agri enterprise, as pesticide application can be minimised if pests are found before they get out of control. There are numerous technologies, ranging from simple applications to complex innovations, that can be used to identify harmful insects and the like. Currently, some of the more high-tech tools are quite expensive, especially for farmers in developing countries. However, as demand and use increases in countries such as the United States, these tools will become more accessible worldwide. Continue reading

Plantwise plant clinics – Pest diagnosis for a farmer in Barbados

A farmer, Pedro Welch, attended the Plantwise plant clinic at this year’s Agrofest 2012, the annual agricultural show in Barbados. He described the problems he was having on his lime tree, and the plant doctor diagnosed the problem straight away, giving advice on how to manage the pest. Watch the video below to see a plant clinic in action.

Continue reading

Agricultural Super Ducks

Agricultural super ducks? You may think that the entire phrase is flawed. Ducks waddle around in parks, not on farms. You probably have never thought of them as being particularly ‘super’ as they paddle around the park pond, searching for scraps of bread. However, you’d be mistaken, as I was, for the humble duck is now emerging as a new tool in the farmer’s arsenal for improving food security. Brace yourself for the rise of the agricultural super duck.

Recently, we have witnessed a rise in the use of ducks in Asian agricultural systems. They have their own book dedicated to their amazing agricultural abilities in Japan and are already employed in some of Bangladesh’s rice paddies. These agricultural superstars provide an effective pest management solution and have even been found to reduce both production costs and greenhouse gas emissions.

A Farmer's New Best Friend? Source: Flickr, Nick Fedele

Continue reading