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Robotic weed removal eliminates need for expensive hand crews

TAGS: TECHNOLOGYTodd FitchetteFarmWise weederSingle-

Single-line organic cauliflower is weeded with a robot developed and operated by the Salinas-based FarmWise.FarmWise offers a business model that provides weeding services, freeing the grower from having to own and maintain a machine.

Todd Fitchette | Dec 04, 2020

Produce growers in Arizona and California are being introduced to the futuristic world of George Jetson as robots and artificial intelligence replace labor crews used to rogue weeds from lettuce, cauliflower, and other vegetable crops.

Salinas, Calif.-based FarmWise is a service company with a robotic weeding machine capable of rouging weeds at speeds of one-to-two miles per hour. This eliminates the need for expensive hand crews or chemical herbicides.

The FarmWise weeding machine is part of a service FarmWise provides. Unlike some companies that sell the machines, FarmWise offers a business model that provides weeding services, freeing the grower from having to own and maintain a machine.

The Titan FT35 is the third generation of machines developed by FarmWise. Company Chief Executive Officer Sebastien Boyer said testing on previous generations of machine took place over the past several years. The newest generation of machine is being used commercially in California and Arizona. https://c8c1c3523498a4e6800111cf107f6155.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

The machine uses artificial intelligence to learn the various crops by studying the plant structure, according to Sal Espinoza, regional manager with FarmWise. Once the computer successfully learns the stem structure of the produce plant, the ability to cull weeds is simple. This process can take a few months of machine learning to get it right, Boyer said.

The machines can be outfitted with as many as six weeders. These are the rows of internal components that contain the metal knives that cut through the soil and rogue weeds as cameras track the vegetation and the AI of the onboard computer determines whether the plants are the planted produce, or weeds.

Boyer said his long-term goal is to find additional ways to mechanize the manual labor and tedious tasks performed by human hands. Through the machine learning the AI can distinguish cauliflower, celery, broccoli, and cabbage. Other crops including tomatoes and pepper are being perfected.

The company’s current business model is focused on providing services to produce growers in the desert region of southern California and Arizona after an inaugural run in the Salinas Valley. Boyer said he is also looking at European markets to expand his machine weeding technology.

Aphelenchoides besseyi

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EPPO Datasheet: Aphelenchoides besseyi

Last updated: 2020-07-24

IDENTITY

Preferred name:Aphelenchoides besseyi
Authority: Christie
Taxonomic position: Animalia: Nematoda: Chromadorea: Rhabditida: Aphelenchoididae
Other scientific names: Aphelenchoides oryzae Yokoo, Asteroaphelenchoides besseyi (Christie) Drozdovski
Common names in English: rice leaf nematode, rice white-tip nematode, strawberry crimp disease nematode, white-tip nematode
view more common names online…
Notes on taxonomy and nomenclature

The taxonomy used in this datasheet reflects developments suggested by several recent publications, summarised in Decraemer & Hunt (2013), which place Aphelenchoides in the Order Rhabditida, Suborder Tylenchina. This contrasts with the taxonomy nomenclature occasionally used by some authors (such as the CABI Invasive Species Compendium CABI, 2019; Wheeler & Crow, 2020), which place Aphelenchoides in the Order Aphelenchida, Suborder Aphelenchina (Hunt, 1993). Whilst this makes no difference to classification from the level of Superfamily (Aphelenchoidea) to species level (Aphelenchoides besseyi), those studying the species might need to be aware of differences in the literature.EPPO Categorization: A2 list
EU Categorization: RNQP (Annex IV)
view more categorizations online…
EPPO Code: APLOBE HOSTS 2020-07-24 GEOGRAPHICAL DISTRIBUTION 2020-07-24 BIOLOGY 2020-07-24 DETECTION AND IDENTIFICATION 2020-07-24 PATHWAYS FOR MOVEMENT 2020-07-24 PEST SIGNIFICANCE 2020-07-24 PHYTOSANITARY MEASURES 2020-07-24 REFERENCES 2020-07-24 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS 2020-07-24 How to cite this datasheet? Datasheet history 2020-07-24

Acoustical Society of America (ASA)

Acoustical Evolution Increases Battle Between Predator, Prey

Moth wing structure, composition absorb bat echolocation calls.

4-Jun-2021 2:30 PM EDT, by Acoustical Society of America (ASA)favorite_border

Newswise: Acoustical Evolution Increases Battle Between Predator, Prey

Thomas Neil, University of Bristol

Newswise — MELVILLE, N.Y., June 9, 2021 — In the evolutionary battle between hunter and hunted, sound plays an integral part in the success or failure of the hunt. In the case of bats vs. moths, the insects are using acoustics against their winged foes.

During the 180th Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America, which will be held virtually June 8-10, Thomas Neil, from the University of Bristol, will discuss how moth wings have evolved in composition and structure to help them create anti-bat defenses. The session, “Moth wings are acoustic metamaterials,” will take place Wednesday, June 9, at 1 p.m. Eastern U.S.

Nocturnal moths are under intense selection pressure by the bats that hunt them. Some moths have developed a form of acoustic camouflage by evolving structures on their bodies and wings to absorb ultrasound. This decreases the strength of the bat’s echo return and gives the insects a better chance of survival.

“The wings of a moth will produce strong echoes to a hunting bat owing to their large size,” Neil said. “As such, it is important the moth cloaks the wing with sound-absorbing material, so it matches the acoustic camouflage brought about by the fur on the body. The only way to create the much thinner sound absorber allowed on the wings is by developing a resonant absorber, and we discovered moth wings have evolved this approach.”

The scales covering moth wings allow as much as 70% of the sound hitting them to be absorbed. More amazingly, these scales are individually tuned to different frequencies, forming an array of resonant absorbers, which together create broadband absorption by acting as an acoustic metamaterial — the first known in nature.

Neil said the strategies identified in moths have already been partially explored from a theoretical and technical standpoint. The advantages of using a metamaterial design for sound absorption is the absorbers can be much thinner than the wavelength of the sound they absorb. In the case of the moths, their absorbers are 100 times thinner than the wavelength of a bat’s cry.

“In theory, we could take inspiration from the moths and build sound absorbing panels made from lots of differently tuned resonating paddles, with the goal of achieving sound absorption that is on par with traditional sound absorber panels but being just a fraction of the width,” Neil said. “With this approach, we would be getting close to a much more versatile and acceptable sound absorber wallpaper rather than the typically bulky absorber panels we use today.”

University of Delaware

Brazil: Measuring Impact of Double- Cropping

Increasing crop production without clearing new fields transforms Brazilian agriculture

9-Jun-2021 9:55 AM EDT, by University of Delawarefavorite_border

Newswise: Measuring Impact of Double- Cropping

Photo illustration by Tammy Beeson

A new study published in Nature Food quantifies for the first time the impact that double-cropping had on helping Brazil achieve its national grain boom. Jing Gao, assistant professor of geospatial data science in the University of Delaware’s College of Earth, Ocean and Environment (CEOE) and Data Science Institute (DSI), was a co-author on the study that included collaborators from institutions in China and Brazil.

Newswise — From 1980 to 2016, grain production in Brazil increased more than fourfold, and the country now stands as the world’s largest soybean exporter and the second largest exporter of corn. The two main drivers of this increase in food production were cropland expansion and double-cropping, harvesting two crops, such as corn and soybeans, from the same field in a single year.

While cropland expansion has long been recognized as one of the drivers behind the increase in Brazil’s agricultural output, a new study published in Nature Food quantifies for the first time the impact that double-cropping also had on helping Brazil achieve its national grain boom.

Jing Gao, assistant professor of Geospatial Data Science in the University of Delaware’s College of Earth, Ocean and Environment (CEOE) and Data Science Institute (DSI), was a co-author on the study that included collaborators from institutions in China and Brazil.

Gao contributed to the team efforts by examining agriculture census-related data gathered from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), and identifying spatial patterns and changes that occurred over time in three key agricultural regions with regards to food production: the Centre-West, Southeast-South, and Matopiba regions in Brazil.

“You don’t know what is happening until you analyze data,” said Gao. “This was the first time this unique dataset was analyzed from this angle to show how the system worked. Understanding how the boost in Brazil’s grain productivity was achieved in the recent past provides insight for developing sustainable food production in the future.”

These three regions covered 36% of Brazil’s territory and accounted for 79% of the national soybean production and 85% of the country’s corn production in 2016. The Centre-West area showed the biggest increases in production as well as cropland expansion. As such, the Centre-West displaced the Southeast-South as the dominant grain producer in the country, producing 46% of the nation’s grain compared to 29% for the Southeast-South.

The increase in grain production in the Centre-West can be attributed to cropland expansion as well as double-cropping.

Contributions from double-cropping in the Centre-West increased from 19% to 33% from 2003 to 2016. While the increase in soybean production was largely due to cropland expansion — soybean fields account for more than one-third of Brazil’s cropland — the increase in corn production could be linked to the practice of double-cropping. In the Centre-West, the agricultural area for second season corn — or the corn grown after the first season soybean is harvested — increased from 26.3% to 66.6% from 2003 to 2016, and in 2012, the second season corn crop surpassed the corn grown during the first season as the main source of corn nationwide.

Tao Lin, from the College of Biosystems Engineering and Food Science at Zhejiang University in China and the corresponding author of the paper, said that it was interesting to see the agricultural developments in these regions had different approaches to agricultural expansion and double-cropping.

“The Centre-West region has experienced a rapid cropland expansion in the last few decades, and after the new cropland was created, farmers then decided to also increase the double-cropping area a lot,” said Lin. “Meanwhile, the contribution of double-cropping in the Southeast-South region is over 50%, which has had a much higher impact than cropland expansion in recent times, because there is not much arable land remaining for further expansion in this commercial agricultural region.”

The researchers also found that the strongest driver behind this rapid increase in grain production has been the rising demand for corn and soybean exports from Brazil on a global scale.

It is important to understand how double-cropping has helped a country like Brazil, which plays a critical role in the global food supply chain, increase its agricultural productivity while limiting the conversion of natural land for agricultural use and possibly helping offset some of the negative environmental impacts that might result from cropland expansion.

From 2003 to 2016, double-cropping in Brazil offset the equivalent of about 76.7 million hectares of arable land for corn production, that is, more than twice the annual harvested area of corn in the United States.

While not every country is growing food in an area of the world that is conducive or even possible for double-cropping, for other grain-growing pantropical countries, double-cropping could be a solution to increase grain production without expanding cropland over natural landscapes.

Plant pandemics are affecting up to 30% of major food crops – and they’re getting worse

A farmer harvest wheat during the sixty day of the lockdown imposed by the government amid concerns about the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Lalitpur, Nepal May 22, 2020.
Climate change will likely exacerbate these outbreaks, researchers say.Image: REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar

World Economic Forum

This article is published in collaboration with Futurity04 Jun 2021

  1. Shirley Cardenass Researcher and Writer, McGill University
  • New research has found that plant pandemics are only getting worse as climate change steadily worsens.
  • Research shows that mean losses to major food crops such as wheat, rice, and maize ranged from 21% to 30%.
  • However, new tools and techniques to monitor these diseases can help to stem their spread.

Plant disease surveillance, improved detection systems, and global predictive disease modeling are necessary to mitigate future disease outbreaks and protect the global food supply, according to a team of researchers.

Plant diseases don’t stop at national borders and miles of oceans don’t prevent their spread, either. The recommendations appear in a commentary published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The idea is to “detect these plant disease outbreak sources early and stop the spread before it becomes a pandemic,” says lead author Jean Ristaino, professor of plant pathology at North Carolina State University. Once an epidemic occurs it is difficult to control, Ristaino says, likening the effort to efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19.

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“We’ve seen how important information sharing, data analytics, and modeling have been in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. These types of tools could also be leveraged to help build resilience to future plant disease outbreaks—from identifying risk in global crop trade networks to local citizen science monitoring,” says coauthor Graham MacDonald, assistant professor in the geography department at McGill University.

While some diseases are already under some sort of global surveillance—such as wheat rust and late blight, an important pathogen that affects potatoes and caused the Irish famine—other crop diseases are not routinely monitored.

“There are a few existing surveillance networks, but they need to be connected and funded by intergovernmental agencies and expanded to global surveillance systems,” says Ristaino. “We can improve disease monitoring using electronic sensors that can help rapidly detect and then track emerging plant pathogens.”

The researchers say the efforts from a wide range of scholars—so-called convergence science—are needed to prevent plant disease pandemics. That means economists, engineers, crop scientists, crop disease specialists, geneticists, geographers, data analysts, statisticians, and others working together to protect crops, the farmers growing crops, and the people who eat them.

Future of Food Agriculture, Food and Beverage Sustainable Development
Plant pandemics are only getting worse as climate change steadily worsens.Image: PNAS

Research is underway to model the risk of plant pathogen spread and help predict and then prevent outbreaks, they report in the paper. Modeling and forecasting disease spread can help mobilize mitigation strategies more precisely to stop pandemics.

Global plant disease outbreaks are increasing in frequency and threaten the global food supply, the researchers say. Mean losses to major food crops such as wheat, rice, and maize ranged from 21% to 30% due to plant pests and diseases, according to a paper published in 2019.

Take the case of bananas, specifically the Cavendish variety, which has no resistance to a specific pathogen called Fusarium odoratissimum Tropical race 4, which causes Panama disease. That pathogen spread rapidly from Asia to Africa, the Middle East, and recently into South America, where it affects the main type of banana grown in the Americas for export.

Climate change will likely exacerbate these outbreaks, the researchers say. In Africa, for example, climate change and drought in Saharan Africa affects the population and range of locusts, which devastate crops further south in sub-Saharan Africa. Climate data can help drive disease forecasting and spread models.

“More frequent rainfall can allow airborne plant pathogens to spread and fungal spores can move with hurricanes, which is how soybean rust came to North America from South America—via storms,” says Ristaino. “There are also cases of early emergence, when pathogens emerge earlier in the growing season than usual due to warmer springs.”

In addition, the global nature of food trade is driving some plant disease pandemics. The emergence of new harmful plant pathogens adds other risks to the food supply, which is already strained by growing global demand for food.

“Globalization means that agriculture and food supplies are increasingly interconnected across national borders. Analyzing these crop trade networks combined with greater information sharing among countries can help to pinpoint risks from pests or diseases,” says MacDonald.

The researchers say there is a need to link human global health and plant global health scientists to work together. Food security and livelihoods are linked to agriculture and human health is linked to the food we consume.

Nigeria losing over 1m tonnes of onions to purple blotch annually – FG

From Olanrewaju Lawal, Birnin Kebbi

The Federal Government has asserted that the annual purple blotch fungal disease affecting onions in the country has created a demand deficit of 1.1million metric tonnes of the product, even as Nigeria is supposed to be harvesting 2.4 million metric tonnes to meet up demands.

Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr Ernest Umakhihe, stated this at a two-day workshop on management of Onion Purple Blotch ‘ Dan- Zazzalau’ Fungal Disease’ organised by the ministry under Horticulture Programmes in Birnin Kebbi

Umakhime, who was represented by an Acting Deputy Director in the ministry, Mrs Agbani Omotosho, explained that “it is however sad to note that though Nigeria, rated as a major producer of onions in Africa, contributes little to the export market largely due to produce quality resulting from poor management of pests and diseases, and use of pesticides causing food- borne illnesses.

“The national output as at 2018/2019 was 1.4 million metric tones, while national demand is 2.5 million metric tones, with demand gap of 1.1 million metric tones to be bridged by importation of onion and other products estimated at N3 million metric tone between 2015 and 2018. This is twice the country’s annual production; exerting enormous pressure on our foreign exchange earnings.”

Farmers in Narok staring at losses as head smut disease ravages crop

By thenairobistar – June 6, 2021 0

Edwin Osoro, a commercial maize farmer inspecting maize crop affected by the head smut disease at his leased farm at Olkiriaine in Narok South.[Robert Kiplagat, Standard]

A section of maize farmers in Narok South is staring at losses worth millions in crop yields following the outbreak of head smut disease suspected to be linked with fake seeds.

Most of the farmers who claim to have bought ‘genuine’ seeds are crying foul after their crops develop head smuts at a time they were anticipating a bumper harvest.

According to Edwin Osoro, a large-scale maize farmer at Olkiriaine in Ololung’a area, his crop was lush in the initial stages up to the production stage when he realised that the cobs had been affected by the head smut disease.

“I did 168 acres of maize this year and I was optimistic that this will be the turning point in my farming life, but I was mistaken. The crop has been doing well for the last five months but last month after inspection, I found that in every five maize plants, three had head smuts,” said Osoro.

He told The Standard he had invested Sh2 million and was expecting at least an Sh15 million in returns but his hopes have now been dashed.

“I purchased my seeds through a renowned agent whom I paid then he made the payment to the seed company. I went with my lorry and picked the consignment at the Narok Kenya Seed yard but from these yields, I doubt the seed quality,” narrated Osoro.

Head smut is caused by the fungus Sphacelotheca reiliana forming on the tassels and ears, whereby galls are at first covered with a thin layer of tissue that breaks open to expose the black spore masses and threadlike remains of the vascular bundles.

Mr Osoro, who has been in the maize planting business for 10 years now, claims that he maintained his farm well and the disease could only be as a result of fake seeds.

Raphael Keiwa, who owns a 10-acre maize farm, is also experiencing the same problem. 

“I bought my seeds from an agrovet in Ololung’a as I always do. Last year I harvested 22 90kg bags per acre, but this year I will be lucky if I get five bags per acre,” said Mr Keiwa.



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Tulane University

Tulane professor has the latest buzz on cicadas

9-Jun-2021 3:05 PM EDT, by Tulane Universityfavorite_border

Newswise: Tulane professor has the latest buzz on cicadas

Photo by Keith Clay

Tulane Professor Keith Clay recently returned from a trip to Indiana, where he saw the cicada invasion up close.PreviousNext

When biologist Keith Clay came to Tulane University in July 2018, he brought with him an impressive knowledge of periodical cicadas, the noisy bug that has emerged by the billions in states east of the Mississippi after 17 years underground.

Clay, professor and chair of the Tulane Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, conducted a major a research project on cicadas from 2002 to 2007 while on the faculty of Indiana University. It was during that time — in 2004 — that the previous emergence of the so-called Brood X species occurred and now, 17 years later, it is happening again.

“The emergence of 17-year periodical cicadas is one of the most unusual biological phenomena on Earth, and occurs almost entirely within the eastern United States and nowhere else in the world,” said Clay, who is also a distinguished professor of biology emeritus at Indiana University.

In his research, supported by the National Science Foundation, Clay investigated the potential effect of cicadas on forest ecosystems and produced a documentary on their biology, as well as his research, for general audiences. At the time, he said, the idea of the United States being invaded by enormous hordes of insects generated worldwide attention and interest.

“Many people found the cicada emergence to be creepy and disgusting, but many others delighted in different aspects of the emergence,” Clay said. He said the “science-fiction” sound of their singing coupled with the fact that other animals stopped what they were doing to chow down on the bugs created a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“In its aftermath were piles of dead and rotting cicadas emitting an unmistakable stench,” he said.

Clay recently returned from southern Indiana, where in addition to reliving 2004 he shared his expertise on cicadas with researchers and media outlets reporting and filming Brood X. He said last week, before Memorial Day, the brood was “going great guns.”

Clay’s web site includes numerous resources on cicadas, including publications, videos and two documentaries, including his own  “Return of the Cicadas.”

Eensy Weensy Spider Silk Takes the Temperature of a Single Cell

Inside Science

These fine filaments can funnel light from fluorescent nanoparticles, acting just like a teeny optical fiber.Image

A spider clings to a spider web that takes up the entire frame, with a forest in the background.

Media credits

Vadym Lesyk via ShutterstockTECHNOLOGYThursday, June 10, 2021 – 15:20Shi En Kim, Contributor

(Inside Science) — Even though he works with spiders regularly, Yao Zhang, a physicist at Jinan University in China, admits he’s afraid of them. In fact, most of the people in his lab are, except for graduate student Zhiyong Gong, who keeps spiders as pets in his dorm. Naturally, Gong was the one who volunteered to harvest spider silk in the lab as part of the group’s efforts to study how the silk can be used to benefit the human world. 

“He was the real ‘Spider-man’,” said Zhang. 

Whether you’re afraid of spiders or not, it’s hard not to marvel at the wonders of spider silk. By weight, it’s stronger than steel and tougher than Kevlar. It’s also exceptionally elastic and can stretch a further one-half its length before it breaks — that’s twice as long as nylon can stretch. Also, spider silk doesn’t harm living tissue and breaks down safely inside the body, which has led scientists to investigate the biomedical applications of this extraordinary material. 

Spider silk’s transparency and high refractive index means light moves more slowly through it than in air. This property allows spider silk to trap and channel light over long distances. With a diameter of no more than several microns — a hundred times thinner than a human hair — spider silk can be used as a Lilliputian optical fiber to direct light to and from extremely small and hard-to-reach places, such as fluorescent nanoparticles.

Zhang and his colleagues showed that if the nanoparticles fluoresce colors differently depending on temperature, then stringing spider silk with the particles turns the thread into a thermometer. In a paper published earlier this year in the journal Nano Letters, the researchers report that their tiny spider-silk thermometer can measure the temperature across a single cell.

The idea for this unconventional thermometer struck when the Jinan researchers noticed that their nanoparticles stuck strongly to spider silk. Spider silk is negatively charged, so it attracts positively charged objects such as the researchers’ nanoparticles. This means the nanoparticles won’t fall off the spider silk when jiggled in a fluid environment, such as inside a human body. 

Because lone nanoparticles fluoresce diffusely, the researchers slather many nanoparticles onto the surface of spider silk. Then they can excite all the nanoparticles at once by shining an infrared laser into one end of the thread. The thread can also collect and concentrate the fluorescent light from the nanoparticles for a stronger signal.

When the researchers draped the nanoparticle-embellished silk thread across a cell, the thread could map the cell’s hot spots. A cell’s temperature reveals what stage of life it’s in, including whether it is cancerous. According to Zhang and his team, their thermometer could be used to diagnose cancer or study cancer development. Someday this could perhaps be done inside the human body, but “how to deliver the modified silks to the cells through the body is a big challenge,” said Zhang. 

“Temperature is such a fundamental quantity in biochemical and chemical processes, because reaction rates are temperature-dependent,” said Peter Maurer, a physicist at the University of Chicago who didn’t participate in the research. Many alternative methods to measure cell temperature are challenging to deploy and read out, he noted. Conversely, the spider silk method seems much simpler. “I’m sure [the Jinan researchers] could use this for detection of other things besides temperature as well,” he added.

For all the diverse things people have made with spider silk (among the wackiest are a violinbulletproof armor and flamboyant fashion), this light-based thermometry for cells makes a lot of sense, said Kenny Hey Tow, a senior scientist at the Research Institute of Sweden who wasn’t involved in the study. He said the Jinan researchers’ demonstration is “one of the ways that we should think of actually using [spider silk] as a biocompatible material.”

Humans often look to Mother Nature for inspiration to solve important engineering problems, or even straight-up pilfer her designs. Zhang, Li, Gong and their colleagues’ work on single-cell thermometry may be only the tip of the iceberg for the optical applications of silk-based fibers. 

“It is very exciting!” said Zhang, who plans to continue working with spider silk despite his arachnophobia. 

Tow agrees, though he acknowledges that there still are significant challenges that scientists need to overcome before spider silk can be practical enough for widespread use in the human world. Like Zhang, Tow can’t help but admire the futurism of spider silk as a material. “The fact that we’re using [spider silk] as fiber … it’s a kind of a Hollywood thing,” he said.  

Editor’s Note: This story was produced in collaboration with the NPR Scicommers program.

NEMEDUSSA CONSORTIUM ADVANCING NEMATOLOGY EDUCATION IN SUB-SAHARA AFRICA

To develop the research and educational capacity in Sub-Sahara Africa in the field of nematology, or the study of roundworms, a joint Erasmus+ KA2 project was recently launched. The Erasmus+ project, Capacity Building in Higher Education (CBHE): Nematology Education in Sub-Sahara Africa (NEMEDUSSA), is a joint effort by a consortium of Universities from Sub-Sahara Africa and Europe.

This three-year project (2021-2023) is co-funded by the European Union (Erasmus+ KA2 CBHE) and VLIR-UOS, and is linked to the objectives of the Erasmus+ Programme. The aims are to encourage cooperation between the EU and Partner Countries and support eligible Partner Countries in addressing challenges in the management and governance of their higher education institutions.

Specifically, NEMEDUSSA aims to increase awareness of nematodes and expand educational and research capacities in higher education and other institutions in Sub-Sahara Africa in this field. Nematodes or roundworms cause significant damage and yield loss to a wide variety of crops often together with other pathogens. Unfortunately, nematodes are often overlooked or misdiagnosed, resulting in the unnecessary use of unhealthy agro-chemicals. Nematodes can also be used as bio-control agents against insect pests and/or as bio-control agents for environmental health and biodiversity.

Despite the profound adverse impact plant-parasitic nematodes have on productivity worldwide, it is striking how concealed the discipline of nematology has remained, particularly in Sub-Sahara Africa. This project aims to address the need for increased capacity and specialised training in handling these pathogens, so that plant-parasitic nematodes are managed correctly and beneficial nematodes can be implemented as biocontrol organisms.

To achieve this, the project focuses on 6 core activities:

  1. Developing Curricula. Develop curricula in nematology on BSc and MSc level for the integration into existing educational programmes in English and French, for both lecturers and students.
  2. Training Staff. Improve the nematological expertise of academic and technical staff to enhance teaching capacity.
  3. Upgrading lab facilities. Increase the number of student microscopes, lab and demonstration equipment to augment hands-on training.
  4. Nematology digital learning platform. Develop an open-access platform to share and disseminate nematological knowledge, develop curricular modules, knowledge clips, etc.
  5. Nematology Network. Enhance cooperation between nematologists in Sub-Sahara Africa by providing networking tools, workshops on relevant topics in nematology and sharing good practices in education, promoting collaboration with a focus on young nematologists.
  6. Creating awareness. Facilitate dissemination activities and involve a range of different stakeholders such as farmers, extension service workers, policy makers, students and private and public sector.

Ghent University (Belgium) coordinates NEMEDUSSA, in cooperation with:

  • University Abomey-Calavi, Benin
  • University of Parakou, Benin
  • Haramaya University, Ethiopia
  • Jimma University, Ethiopia
  • Kenyatta University, Kenya
  • Moi University, Kenya
  • Ahmadu-Bello University, Nigeria
  • University of Ibadan, Nigeria
  • North West University, South Africa
  • Stellenbosch University, South Africa
  • Makerere University, Uganda
  • Muni University, Uganda
  • University Côte d’Azur, France

The work of this project is further supported by 36 associated partners from the private and public sectors in Sub-Sahara Africa.

For more information about the NEMEDUSSA project, please see www.nemedussa.ugent.be or contact us at nemedussa@ugent.be.  

‘Gene hacking’ fall armyworm moths: Biotech company Oxitec behind Florida Keys gene drive mosquitoes approved for pest-release test run in Brazil

Dan Robitzski | Futurism | June 2, 2021

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Credit: Getty Images
Credit: Getty Images

This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

Oxitec, the British biotech firm behind the genetically engineered mosquitoes that just took flight in the Florida Keys [recently], is now moving on to its next gene-hacked pest.

The company is partnering with pharmaceutical corporation Bayer on a genetically engineered version of the fall armyworm, a notorious crop-eating pest that’s ravaged farms in the US, China, India, Brazil, and multiple African nations in recent years, the news wire Zenger News reports.

Just like Oxitec’s mosquitoes, the idea is to release gene-hacked armyworms into the wild that can’t produce female offspring, ultimately driving down the pest population without spraying harmful chemicals.

Brazil’s regulatory agency CTNBio gave Oxitec and Bayer the approval they needed to launch a field test of the gene-hacked armyworm ­— technically a caterpillar — on commercial crops, so there may be genetically altered bugs crawling across corn farms in the area soon. Follow the latest news and policy debates on agricultural biotech and biomedicine? Subscribe to our newsletter.SIGN UP

“Our technology potentially reduces the need for additional pesticides in the long term,” Oxitec head of agricultural programs Neil Morrison said, according to Zenger. “Besides reducing populations of the pest, it also has the potential to slow the resistance development to insecticides and biotechnology enhanced crops.”

Read the original postRelated article:  Some Florida Key residents incensed about pending release of Zika- and malaria-stopping GMO mosquitoes, but others believe cutting-edge science will help control health menace