Last week, Nature published an article on the story of rice, from a wild grass to the stable crop we know today. Rice is one of the most important crops in the world as it forms the basis of the diet of a large portion of the human population. Due to the high importance of this crop, there is a vast amount of research that goes into ensuring the world’s rice production is as efficient and sustainable as possible.
Like all crops, rice is affected by a range of pests including insects, pathogens, weeds, nematodes and birds. One of the most damaging pests for rice in Asia is the Brown Planthopper (BPH). This pest not only feeds on rice plants, but also transmits grassy stunt virus and ragged stunt virus which cause stunting and reduce productivity. There are chemicals that will control this insect pest but it is important to note that this isn’t always the best method of control, due to the effect on natural enemies that feed on BPH. There are a range of non-chemical options that are effective at preventing and controlling BPH including the use of resistant varieties and avoiding excessive urea application to the field.
To find out more about BPH and its management, read this month’s Plantwise Factsheet for Farmers which was written by staff from Shushilan, an agroecology and rights-based NGO situated in South West Bangladesh. Please note this factsheet is also available in Bengali.
Last month, SciDevNet reported on a hybrid tomato variety that is encouraging Nepali farmers back into tomato production after the majority of plantations were wiped out by storms and disease 5 years ago. The variety, known as Shrijana, is high-yielding, wilt and disease-resistant and flavoursome. The higher yields have increased farmers’ incomes, thus raising their standard of living. This has allowed more farmers in Nepal to send their children to private schools. However, Nepali scientists will continue to research new varieties as it is possible that Shrijana could become susceptible to bacterial wilt over time.
Bacterial wilt is a common and devastating disease affecting a large number of hosts including potato and tomato. It is caused by the bacterium Ralstonia solanacearum which can cause damage to host plants at all growth stages. There are a variety of control measures that have found to be effective against the disease, of which the use of resistant varieties is just one. To read more about additional control measures, read this month’s Plantwise Factsheet for Farmers which was produced by employees from the Horticultural Research and Training Institute (Horti) in Tengeru, Tanzania. Please note this factsheet is also available in Swahili.
Guatemala has declared a state of agricultural emergency after coffee rust fungus has affected approximately 193,000ha of coffee, equating to 70% of the national crop. As a result of the outbreak, Guatemala is releasing $13.7m (£8.7m) in emergency aid to help farmers buy pesticides and to inform farmers on ways to manage the disease. Honduras and Costa Rica have already declared national emergency and El Salvador and Panama are also affected.
Coffee is a major export crop in many Central American countries and it is thought that this disease outbreak, which has been called “the worst seen in Central America and Mexico” by John Vandermeer, ecologist at the University of Michigan, will lead to big job losses. The Institute of Coffee in Costa Rica has estimated that the latest coffee rust outbreak may reduce the 2013-2014 harvest by 50% or more in the worst affected areas.