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Insect Numbers Fall by 75 Percent: We Are Creating a ‘Profoundly Impoverished World’

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Flying Insect Numbers Drop, Threatening World Ecosystem
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The total number of flying insects in protected areas in Germany has dropped by over 75 percent in the past 27 years. Scientists noted the major decline of bees, butterflies, moths and other winged creatures across 63 key areas and said it could not be explained by changes to habitat or weather, instead speculating that widespread pesticide use may be to blame.

Insects form the basis of many ecosystems, providing food for around 60 percent of bird species and playing a crucial role in pollinating wild plants. A decline in their numbers has the potential to cause huge disruption to the food chain—the valued of the “ecosystem services” provided by wild insects is estimated to be $57 billion annually in the U.S. alone.

Understanding insect numbers and the reasons behind changes to them is therefore vital to ensuring food security.

The latest research, published in PLOS ONE, looks at flying insect biomass in 63 protected areas across Germany. Scientists, led by Caspar Hallmann, from Radboud University, the Netherlands, used Malaise traps—tent-like structures—to assess their numbers each year. Researchers were aware numbers had been fallen, but they did not know to what extent.

Honeybee populations are up again

Honeybee on a shamrock flower in a garden in Hede-Bazouges, western France, July 8. DAMIEN MEYER/AFP/Getty Images

Their findings showed that between 1989 and 2016, total flying insect biomass had fallen by 76 percent. At some points in mid-summer, the number fell by as much as 82 percent. “This decrease has long been suspected but has turned out to be more severe than previously thought,” Hallmann said in a statement.

Analysis showed there was not one main contributing factor that could explain the decline seen across the study areas—including changes to land use, weather and habitat.

“The decline in insect biomass, being evident throughout the growing season, and irrespective of habitat type or landscape configuration, suggests large-scale factors must be involved,” the team wrote. “While some temporal changes in climatic variables in our study area have taken place, these either were not of influence (e.g. wind speed), or changed in a manner that should have increased insect biomass (e.g. temperature).”

They said that they have no yet looked at the full range of climatic variables, such as prolonged droughts and lack of sunshine. They also suggested “agricultural intensification,” including the use of pesticides, increased use of fertilizers and year-round tillage, could be a “plausible cause” for the decline.

10_19_insect study Examples of operating malaise traps in protected areas in western Germany PLOS ONE/Hallmann et al

Concluding, they add: “Whatever the causal factors responsible for the decline, they have a far more devastating effect on total insect biomass than has been appreciated previously.”

One of the study authors, Dave Goulson, from the University of Sussex, U.K., said the rates of loss recorded are not sustainable. “Insects make up about two thirds of all life on Earth,” he said. “We appear to be making vast tracts of land inhospitable to most forms of life, and are currently on course for ecological Armageddon. On current trajectory, our grandchildren will inherit a profoundly impoverished world.”

Project leader Hans de Kroon, from the Radboud University in Nijmegen in The Netherlands, said the only thing we can do is exercise extreme caution by using fewer pesticides and maintaining wildflowers wherever possible.

“The fact that flying insects are decreasing at such a high rate in such a large area is an alarming discovery,” he said. “As entire ecosystems are dependent on insects for food and as pollinators, it places the decline of insect eating birds and mammals in a new context. We can barely imagine what would happen if this downward trend continues unabated.”

Reuters

October 17, 2017 / 10:22 AM / 3 days ago

Harness ‘natural enemies’ to fight pests and protect crops: World Food Prize winner

 ROME (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – African farmers can lose up to half their harvest to pests, so storing their crops in chemically-treated storage sacks and metal silos can do a lot to boost a farmer’s income, agriculture experts say.

Although these are important, the most effective way of protecting the harvest is to stop crops from being infested in the field – without using pesticides, says World Food Prize laureate Hans Herren.

“The way post harvest loss is being dealt with now is a very short term view,” said Herren, who co-chaired a major World Bank and United Nations assessment of the state of agriculture involving more than 400 scientists, published in 2008.

“(If) what you put in your bags and silos has less infestation – maybe even none” then it doesn’t need to be treated with insecticides, he said.

According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), post-harvest food losses in sub-Saharan Africa total $4 billion a year – enough to feed at least 48 million people.

About 20 percent of cereal harvests, 40 to 50 percent of tubers, fruits and vegetables, 27 percent of oilseeds, meat and milk, and 33 percent of fish, are lost, FAO says.

Pests quickly develop resistance to insecticides, and need increasingly powerful – and toxic – chemicals to kill them, Herren said. “So we get into this treadmill which has no end to it. That’s not the way to do it.”

Herren, a Swiss entomologist and farmer, and his research team have experimented with different farming methods and found they could treble the production of maize or sorghum without pesticides, herbicides or fertilisers.

The method has been tested in Malawi, Kenya, Zambia and Tanzania.

They plant the main crop with a legume, a plant which is rich in nitrogen that feeds the soil. The legume keeps away weeds, attracts insects which destroy pests, and can eventually be used to feed cattle or chickens.

Wild grasses are planted around the edge of the field, which attract pests like stem borers before they reach the maize or sorghum. After the insects have laid their eggs in the grass, it can be used to feed cattle.

“You slowly deplete the environment of pest insects, and natural enemies usually get the ones who get through the barriers and end up on the maize,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Herren also found that pests were more likely to attack new varieties of maize and sorghum than traditional ones, which have evolved mechanisms to protect themselves.

One such mechanism kicks in when an insect bites a plant, at which point the plant releases a chemical that attracts predators that kill the attacking insect, he said.

“All plants have evolved some system (of defense), you just have to look for it,” Herren said.

 The fields are also better able to cope with floods and drought, he said. “In drought, all our fields were green and all the (surrounding fields) were brown. It’s striking,” he said.

Herren won the World Food Prize in 1995 for developing a chemical-free biological control for cassava mealybug that was threatening crops in Africa, averting a potential famine.

He said a new integrated form of farming was needed to curb planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions produced by conventional farming. Agriculture contributes about 24 percent of global emissions, a figure rising every year, according to FAO.

“I don’t see how we can survive unless we change this … Time is running away. Just look around, we can see it,” he said.

Reporting by Alex Whiting @Alexwhi, Editing by Ros Russell.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change, resilience, women’s rights, trafficking and property rights.

Editor’s note: Hans Herren is the founding president of the International Association for the Plant Protection Sciences (IAPPS) <www.plantprotection.org>

Dhaka tribune

  • Abu Siddique
  • Published at 03:52 PM October 16, 2017
  • Last updated at 11:55 PM October 16, 2017
Bangladesh plans to popularise controversial Bt brinjal
File photo: Bangladesh Agriculture Research Institute released GM brinjal varieties in 2013 without giving any satisfactory explanation of the issues related to environment and health hazards |Reuters

Environmentalists have been expressing serious concerns about biological and health hazards the new breed of brinjal may pose

The government plans to incentivise farmers to produce more genetically modified (GM) brinjal despite not having conducted any tests on its possible impact on human health and the environment.

Brinjal – also known as aubergine – is one of the staple vegetables in Bangladesh and across South Asia.

According to the plan, the Ministry of Agriculture will provide seeds and fertilisers among 2001 farmers in 64 districts to cultivate Bt brinjal on 2001 bighas (667 acres) of land next season.

As an incentive, each farmer will receive 20 grams of seed and 15 kilograms of DAP and MoP fertilisers, at a total cost to the government of Tk1,630,800.

The decision came from the ministry’s September 10 meeting, presided over by Agriculture Minister Matia Chowdhury.

The meeting report said a maximum of 90 farmers from Chittagong would come under the incentive programme, in addition to 75 farmers from Comilla, Cox’s Bazar, Noakhali and Bogra.

However, environmental activists have been expressing serious concerns about the biological and health hazards at home and abroad that the new breed of brinjal may pose.

Several organisations and individuals also challenged the release of the GM crop with the top court, seeking an extensive assessment.

Bangladesh Agriculture Research Institute (BARI) released the GM brinjal varieties in the country on October 30, 2013 without giving any satisfactory explanation of the issues related to the environment and health hazards.

Environmental lawyer Syeda Rizwana Hasan said the government had failed to maintain the labelling of Bt brinjal while marketing, which is one of the major conditions of the bio-safety committee regarding release of the varieties.

She said the government has yet to confirm the health and environmental hazards of the trans-genetic variety.

Initially, the agriculture minister herself distributed saplings of four Bt brinjal varieties among 16 farmers in four regions – Gazipur, Jamalpur, Rangpur and Ishwardi – to cultivate them on one bigha land each in February 2014.

Later, its cultivation gradually increased through selected farmers across the country.

On September 08, 2014, the then BARI DG Rafiqul Islam Mandol admitted that before releasing the four varieties at the farmers’ level, they did not conduct any laboratory test regarding the possible negative impacts on human health.

Environmental activists said the government had violated the constitution and two international protocols – Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and Cartegena Protocol.

According to Article 8G of CBD and Article 16 of Cartegena protocol, a country has to abide by existing laws and rules while introducing any GM crops at farmers’ level.

According to BARI, it developed the Bt brinjal varieties – Bt Uttara, Bt Kajla, Bt Noyontara and Bt ISD 006 – from local varieties by inserting the Bt gene into them.

The seven-year experiment began in 2006 with the technical support of Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company of India, in which the American seed giant Monsanto had 26% stake.

iot-logo

NZ government funds targeted weeding initiative.

By Stuart Corner on Oct 16 2017 2:53PM

Killer drones coming – for weeds

It’s a vision straight out of a sci-fi movie: a fleet of drones criss-crossing a farm, scanning the ground below for weeds and when they are found zapping them with a laser-beam.

However, the New Zealand government is spending $NZ1 million in the hope of making that vision a reality. The Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment is giving the money to a partnership between government research organisation, AgResearch, the Universities of Auckland and NZ-based technology firm Redfern Solutions to examine the development of such technology.

Program leader Dr Kioumars Ghamkhar said the aim was to use cameras and software to identify the weeds based on their unique chemical signatures and how they reflect light, and then locate them precisely using GPS.

“From there, we think smart spraying (rather than systemic and non-targeted use of chemicals), or the right kind of laser mounted on the drone could hone in and damage the weed,” Ghamkhar said.

“We know there are lasers now available that could be suitable, and that they are extremely accurate, so if lasers are used, it would also avoid damaging the useful plants around the weed.

“The effectiveness of lasers against plants has been tested overseas before but that was in the lab, and we’ll be taking it out in the field to test and see if it works as we have planned.”

There are other initiatives underway suggesting that the weed identification, if not killing, is perfectly feasible.

IoT Hub reported last month that Netherlands-based crop spraying equipment maker Agrifac was a planning to incorporate weed recognition technology developed by French startup Bilberry, in conjunction with Nokia, CETA, Institut Mines-Télécom and Tampere University of Technology into crop sprayers sold in Australia.

Also, Hitachi Australia has developed technology that takes imagery from drone mounted cameras able to respond to a very wide range of wavelengths, analyses this data in the cloud and provides weed identity data to the farmer.

The company is looking to commercialise the service including providing the drone and training in its use to the farmer.

Earlier this year, the Electron Science Research Institute (ESRI) and Edith Cowan University in WA was reported to be close to commercialising a laser system for identifying (but not killing) weeds that used lasers of three different frequencies.

Copyright © IoT Hub, nextmedia Pty Ltd

 

west f p

Biologicals
Biological pesticides and fertilizers are generating quite the buzz among farmers and the ag chem companies that serve them.

John Hart | Oct 17, 2017

Farmers are always on the lookout for new tools that build yields and improve the bottom line. Among the latest tools generating quite the buzz are biological pesticides and fertilizers.

These new products, simply referred to as “biologicals,” have the backing of all of the major ag chem companies as useful for both organic and conventional growers. Land grant universities and researchers are committed to biologicals and EPA likes them too. A report by Credence Research notes that the global biopesticide market had a value of $3.47 billion in 2016 and is expected to reach $12.23 billion by 2025.

Biologicals are certainly here to stay with many expecting their growth to outpace conventional chemical crop protection products in the years to come. Biologicals are seen as safer for the environment and necessary for promoting sustainable agriculture.

Biologicals certainly have a place in both conventional and organic farming, but it is important to remember that they will never fully replace chemical crop protection products. Both chemical and biological products are needed for farmers to battle pests and improve yields.

At a sustainability symposium sponsored by the Biological Products Industry Association in Orlando in October, speakers emphasized the importance of not overpromising the benefits of biologicals. Bottom line: the products need to work, be affordable and deliver returns that will help farmers make money.

Roger Tripathi, CEO and co-founder of Global BioAg Linkages in Alpine, Utah, stressed that the benefit claims of biologicals have to be proven through science and research. The quality of the products must be assured and there must be evidence that they work. “It’s about trust,” Tripathi said at the Orlando symposium. “What we have to avoid is the selfish profiteering because that’s where we will kill the product.”

If companies don’t deliver on the promises, that’s when they will have problems, Tripathi cautioned. Taking care of the farmer’s bottom line from seed to post-harvest is vital, he said. Farmers will certainly turn to biological products if they work and are affordable.

It is important to remember that biologicals are just one more tool. They won’t replace chemical crop protection products, but add to them. That’s important because farmers need every tool possible to build yields and improve the bottom line.

 

India: Pesticide poisoning

 

Plantwise_Logo

Suspected pesticide poisoning in India highlights importance of PPE

On 5th October, the BBC reported that at least 50 farmers have died in the western state of Maharashtra, India, since July, due to suspected accidental pesticide poisoning (see the full article on the BBC website).

Nineteen of these deaths were reported from Yavatmal district, a major cotton growing area, where farmers use a variety of cotton which is meant to be resistant to bollworms. However, this year, despite use of this variety, crop damage caused by bollworm has been highly significant, leading to an increase in the use of pesticides.

Without the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), such as gloves, overalls, goggles, boots and a mask, pesticides can be extremely harmful, causing symptoms such as vomiting, dizziness, respiratory problems, visual impairment and disorientation.

How can we help?

The Plantwise Knowledge Bank hosts variety of relevant resources that you may find useful, such as a factsheet on reducing exposure the agrochemicals, written by the Ministry of Agriculture in Barbados, which includes the following management information:

  • Spray at cool times of the day (evening or morning) so that wearing protective equipment is bearable in the heat.
  • The concentrated chemical is especially hazardous and additional equipment may be required when handling these chemicals.
  • Wear a specially produced spray suit or at least a long-sleeved shirt and full length pants.
    • Wear long rubber gloves and rubber boots
    • Your pants should go on the outside of the boots
    • Your sleeves should be on the inside of the gloves
    • Wear a hat to keep the chemical out of your hair
    • Wear a mask, preferably with a filter; if not available, use a bandanna (A bandanna may not give good protection and could make you think you are protected when you are not)
    • Wear protective glasses/sunglasses
  • Maintain the spraying equipment and check for leaks, replace the filter in the mask often. Make sure the mask is suitable for agrochemicals use.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We believe it is  important to take an Integrated Pest Management approach to controlling pests, which improves effectiveness and is environmentally sensitive. For advice on how to prevent, monitor and control bollworm on cotton using non-chemical control, please see our cotton bollworm green list which mentions practices such as reducing planting density, using trap crops and using natural enemies.

There is also a pest management decision guide specific to India, which emphasises non-chemical cotton bollworm management practices, and details pesticides that can be used along with their restriction information.

When developing and delivering content for farmers, we take the use of PPE very seriously, which is why we ensure that it is included in plant doctor training and highlighted in our content on the Plantwise Knowledge Bank.

If you would like to raise awareness of the importance of wearing protective clothing when spraying agrochemicals, then please print our Stay Safe poster.

Invasive Apple Snails- Book Cover

Joshi R.C., Cowie R.H., & Sebastian L.S. (eds). 2017. Biology and management of invasive apple snails. Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), Maligaya, Science City of Muñoz, Nueva Ecija 3119. 406 pp.​”

 

Open link in new window to view:

 Invasive Apple Snails Book 2017 – final.pdf