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



 Save as word file Save as PDF file Custom word…

EPPO Datasheet: Aphelenchoides besseyi

Last updated: 2020-07-24


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

After 17 Years Underground, the Brood X Cicadas are Coming!

George Washington University researchers are studying the impact of the cicadas on the ecosystem and environment
George Washington University

4-May-2021 12:05 PM EDT, by George Washington Universityfavorite_border

Newswise: After 17 Years Underground, the Brood X Cicadas are Coming!

Martha Weiss

Within 12 hours, the cicadas take on the black and orange look that you see here. Even though they are now adults, these cicadas are still pretty awkward and often fall or accidentally flip themselves over.

Newswise — WASHINGTON (May 4, 2021)—Billions of Brood X cicadas will begin emerging within the next week or so in the Eastern United States after spending 17 years underground. They will sing mating calls, lay eggs, and then die. Once the eggs hatch sometime in August, the immature nymphs will burrow deep into the ground and this seventeen-year life cycle will start all over again.

Researchers at the George Washington University are studying the Brood X cicadas, which are part of a large order of insects known as hemipterans. John Lill, chair of the Department of Biological Sciences at GW and Zoe Getman-Pickering, a postdoctoral scientist at GW, plan to look at the impact the cicadas will have on the local ecosystem. 

For example, the team will collect data on birds that normally eat caterpillars to see if they will alter their diet to feast on the bonanza of cicadas instead. Lill and Getman-Pickering predict that if the birds change their diet, more caterpillars will survive this year and typical patterns of leaf damage in local forests will be altered.

Such research will provide scientists with a better understanding of this natural phenomenon, but many mysteries about the cicadas remain unsolved, Lill said. For example, no one knows how these insects keep track of time, or how long the ecological impacts of the emergence persist. 

Lill, Getman-Pickering, and their collaborator, Martha Weiss, a professor of biology at Georgetown University, began collecting data on bird diets and leaf damage during the spring and summer of 2020. They’re now monitoring the soil temperature in anticipation of the big emergence event. Scientists know that the nymphs tunnel their way out of the ground when the soil temperature reaches 64 degrees Fahrenheit.

Some of the nymphs may come out a few days early but there will be a massive emergence over the course of a few days, sometime this week or next, Lill predicts.

What happens next? The nymphs molt for the last time, spread their wings and soon start to look like the familiar adult black and orange cicadas, he said.

About a week after the emergence begins, the males start to sing courtship songs — some are as loud as 100 decibels — louder than a leaf blower or lawn mower. The females make a clicking noise to signal their interest and mating ensues.

The GW scientists will continue their research over the summer as the next generation of these 17-year cicadas hatch and burrow into the ground.

“We hope that our research will tell us more about how the cicadas affect local communities and the ecosystem,” Lill said. “By sharing the story of the cicadas, we hope the general public will start to view this natural phenomenon as a source of delight.”

Lill and Getman-Pickering have also been producing educational materials to teach K-6 students about cicadas. These can be downloaded for free at FriendToCicadas.org.









Environmental Science


CicadasCicadacicada invasionBUGSInsectsEntomologyEntomologistsEntomology ResearchGeorge Washington UniversityGWUGWBiologyBiology (Ecology/Environment)Biological SciencesPrintFacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailMore


They said weed science was dying, but then things changed

TAGS: HERBICIDERESISTANCE MANAGEMENTCOTTON GINSSOYBEANSJohn HartJohn_Hart_Farm_Press_Wes_Everman_Weeds.jpgWes Everman has been the Extension weed specialist for soybeans and small grains for 10 years. He has been on the job since 2011.At the time, Roundup Ready herbicides were taking over the world.

John Hart | Apr 26, 2021

Farm Progress Show 2021

Back in 2002, when Wes Everman was planning to pursue a Ph.D. in weed science, a number of professors discouraged him. They told him it was a dying field and that he would have a tough time landing a job come graduation.

At the time, Roundup Ready herbicides were taking over the world. Everman notes that one professor didn’t want to write a letter of recommendation for him to pursue a Ph. D because he saw no future in weed science.

Everman had just completed his master’s degree in weed science at Purdue University in 2002. He earlier earned his B.S. degree in Agronomic Business and Marketing from Purdue in 2000. Everman grew up on a farm in northeastern Iowa near Decorah. Everman’s grandfather ran the farm while his father was a local custom butcher.

For college, Everman said he bucked the trend and decided to go to Purdue instead of Iowa State University. As a boy, Everman had a passion for animals and could tell you all the breeds of hogs, cows, and chickens. He had originally planned to go into agricultural economics and pursue a career working with animals.

“I got into agronomy by accident. This was before the internet. Purdue sent out a brochure. One of the majors was agronomic business and marketing. I didn’t know what agronomy was. I thought agronomics was a clever play on agricultural economics: Agronomics. That sounded perfect so I checked the box on the brochure and sent it back,” Everman says.

When it came time for freshman orientation at Purdue the summer after high school graduation, Everman soon discovered he would be taking agronomy classes. “Where are all the business classes?” Everman wondered. 

Well, Everman’s adviser, Dr. Lee Schweitzer, encouraged him to stay in the program and said he could take business electives. Purdue is known for its good soil science program. At the time, Everman said he could care less about soils, but figured he was in college to learn things he knew nothing about, so he decided to stick with it.

Glyphosate dominant

Everman soon developed a passion for weed science research and decided to go on and earn his master’s and Ph.D. with the goal of working in research and Extension. However, a number of folks discouraged him because of glyphosate’s dominance in weed control across the country.

“Most people thought Roundup was the answer to everything. They believed all the other herbicides would be going away and it was all going to be Roundup. Glyphosate resistant horseweed did show up in 2000, but it wasn’t a terrible problem and it wasn’t across the country. It wasn’t until 2005 and 2006 when we started seeing glyphosate resistant Palmer amaranth,” Everman explains.

In fact, Everman explains that many good weed scientists who had just earned Ph.Ds. in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 did indeed have a tough time finding jobs because many universities were not filling weed science positions.

It turns out glyphosate resistance as well as resistance to other herbicides would indeed become a major issue beginning in the late 2000s. And now in 2021, the problem isn’t expected to go away anytime soon. It turns out Everman was spot on in his decision to pursue a career in weed science. “Some people said I had good foresight. I was actually just stubborn,” Everman says with a laugh.

Everman was accepted into the weed science program at North Carolina State University. “I was told if I really wanted to learn about weeds, I needed to go to the South where there really are weed problems. I learned there are a lot more weed issues down here than in the Midwest,” he says.

Everman completed his Ph.D. at North Carolina State in 2008. His thesis was using Liberty Link and Liberty Link crops for managing Palmer amaranth and other troublesome weeds. Upon graduation, he did indeed land a job as an Extension weed specialist at Michigan State University.

Return to Carolina

In 2011, a weed science position opened up at his alma mater, North Carolina State University, so Everman decided to apply and landed the position. There were budget cuts and uncertainty at Michigan State so Everman knew the time was right to return to North Carolina.

He’s been on the job for 10 years now and has no regrets about working in weed science and working in North Carolina. “This is right where I belong,” he says.

Everman says he has a passion for helping farmers solve their toughest weed problems. Everman is the Extension weed specialist for soybeans and small grains.

In Extension talks and field days, Everman has continually emphasized the challenges of herbicide resistance, encouraging farmers to use multiple modes of action and cultural practices such a cover crops in their weed control regiment.

In North Carolina, there has been confirmed “three way” resistance of common ragweed to glyphosate, PPOs, and ALS inhibitors. There is also expected Palmer amaranth resistance to PPOs in North Carolina, which still needs to be confirmed. Glyphosate resistant ryegrass has been confirmed in North Carolina.

Everman explains that all the herbicide resistance is a culmination of years of use.

“I feel like where we are now, if we use a single mode of action heavily, we will probably get about five years out of it because the large seed bank is aiding in the development of resistance. We selected for weeds that have an ability to adapt to different stressors,” Everman explains.

“Some biotypes have enhanced metabolism so that when a herbicide is used, that enhanced metabolic pathway can break it down. Some of the resistant biotypes out there will even survive applications of sprays they’ve never been exposed to before. They have a mechanism now that allows them to survive just about anything. Where do we go?”

One great hope is harvest weed seed control or seed mills that have found success in Australia. North Carolina is part of a nationwide grant beginning this year where Redekop and Harrington Seed Destructors will be tested to see if they can be effectively used here as they are in Australia. Everman has already lined up two farmers in North Carolina to try the system on their operations this year.

“I’m hoping we get widespread adoption before we lose chemicals. Reducing the seedbank is one of the best ways. If we can integrate harvest weed seed control, we can reduce the seeds going into the soil and reduce the seed bank. Ultimately you have fewer weeds coming up in those fields and you have less selection pressure on your herbicides,” Everman says.

Everman stresses that chemical control of weeds isn’t going away anytime soon, but additional tools such as harvest weed seed control should have a place. He is really hopeful the system will work in North Carolina.

One thing is certain, Everman believes he made the right decision when he decided to pursue a career in weed science research and Extension. He notes that weeds are genetically programmed to survive which means there will a need to find news ways to control them.

In fact, Everman encourages others to pursue a career in weed science. “There will always be work that needs to get done,” he says.


Sustainable IPM efforts target insect pheromone use

TAGS: CROPSTodd Fitchettewfp-todd-fitchette-desert-broccoli-71.jpg

A biologically safe attractant using pheromones to entice honeybee visits to broccoli for seed is one of several new ag tech ideas promoting sustainable agriculture practices.A company is using a transgenic plant to create low-cost pheromones that could revolutionize pest control.

Todd Fitchette | Apr 21, 2021

Attracting bees to broccoli is just one of many ways a California ag tech company has its mind set on sustainable agriculture with global implications.

Scientists at the Riverside-based ISCA are using a transgenic plant to create low-cost pheromones that could revolutionize pest control and integrated pest management (IPM) efforts in agriculture and beyond.https://7456b58e549c0abcddebe4cfdc5b0937.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

The example of bees and broccoli was demonstrated earlier this year near Yuma, Ariz. By placing a safe pheromone attractant on broccoli grown for seed production, colonies of managed honeybees were attracted to the plants, even during high wind events common during the winter months in the desert region of southwest Arizona.

The use of an attractant to entice honeybees to visit plants needing pollination is just one of several projects, according to ICSA Chief Executive Officer Agenor Mafra-Neto. Moreover, the bee attractant, which looks like a dollop of toothpaste applied to the top of the broccoli plants, could have implications other crops needing pollination by honeybee colonies. Studies in almonds suggest a 5-15% boost in fruit set. Those studies are ongoing.

Mating disruption – the art of fooling male insects into thinking female insects are in an area they are not by means of filling the air with the sex pheromone scent they emit – is yet another sustainable way to improve IPM efforts in agricultural systems. In this case ISCA scientists are using genetically modified strains of camelina plants to create the insect sex pheromones.

These efforts have shown themselves successful in protecting vineyards in Argentina against the European grapevine moth.

USDA funding

According to a company statement, the camelina plant efforts received U.S. Department of Agriculture funding to develop pheromones from natural resources over the use of standard chemical synthesis techniques. A $650,000 grant from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) came after a $100,000 NIFA grant that kickstarted the project.

“Pheromone and other semiochemical controls are the future of crop protection, and ISCA’s breakthrough biological pheromone synthesis will propel agriculture into a more lucrative and sustainable enterprise,” Mafra-Neto said in a prepared statement.

Pheromone use is growing in popularity, particularly for mating disruption efforts that are proving themselves successful in agricultural systems. Almond growers are using pheromone attractants in mating disruption efforts against the Navel orangeworm. Unlike with pesticides, insects do not develop resistance against pheromone products.

Mafra-Neto points to the use of the camelina plant, a cousin of broccoli and canola, as a lower-cost method to create pheromones. Biosynthesis in plants eliminates the need to use petroleum-based chemicals as feedstock and bypasses most of the complex organic chemistry steps now required in pheromone production, he said.


Moreover, ISCA studies are also looking at attract-and-kill products that entice targeted insects to a specific location that includes an insecticide capable of killing that insect. Rather than broadcast a chemical insecticide across large swaths of land or to rows of trees, the attract-and-kill method draws insects to a specific location through pheromones. The inclusion of pesticide materials capable of killing the pest when it feeds on or touches the formulation, allows this method to be targeted and safer for the environment.

The attract-and-kill method can greatly reduce the number of chemical pesticides applied on crops for insect control. It also protects non-targeted pests, including pollinators and beneficial insects, because the pheromones used to attract target pests are specific to those species.

Current attract-and-kill studies are ongoing in cotton, corn, and soybeans.

Another topic of study includes the idea of repellants, or semiochemicals that can cause insects to avoid specific plants. As studies in California avocados are ongoing on this front, Mafra-Neto believes forestry systems can use such technology to repel the bark beetle, which is responsible for widespread forest damage and explosive forest fires because of all the dead trees.

Perceiving Predators: Understanding How Plants “Sense” Herbivore Attack

19/03/2021JSPBNewsPlant Science

How “elicitors” can initiate defense responses in plants against herbivores, and can potentially lead to development of pesticide-free agriculture 

Plants are known to possess solid immune response mechanisms. One such response is “sensing” attack by herbivorous animals. In a new review article, Prof. Arimura from Tokyo University of Science, Japan, discusses “elicitors”-the molecules that initiate plant defense mechanisms against herbivore attack. He highlights the major types of elicitors and the underlying cellular signaling, and states that this could spur research on organic farming practices that could prevent the use of harmful pesticides.

Nature has its way of maintaining balance. This statement rightly holds true for plants that are eaten by herbivores-insects or even mammals. Interestingly, these plants do not just silently allow themselves to be consumed and destroyed; in fact, they have evolved a defense system to warn them of predator attacks and potentially even ward them off. The defense systems arise as a result of inner and outer cellular signaling in the plants, as well as ecological cues. Plants have developed several ways of sensing damage; a lot of these involve the sensing of various “elicitor” molecules produced by either the predator or the plants themselves and initiation of an “SOS signal” of sorts.

In a recently published review in the journal Trends in Plant Science, Professor Gen-ichiro Arimura from Tokyo University of Science, Japan, encapsulates the research on the herbivory-sensing mechanism of plants through elicitors,. Commenting of the immense value of these elicitors, Prof. Arimura states, “This review focuses mainly on elicitors because they are timely, novel, and have potential biotechnological applications”.

When the same herbivorous animal comes to eat the plant multiple times, the plant learns to recognize its feeding behavior and records the “molecular pattern” associated with it. This is termed “herbivore-associated molecular patterns” or HAMPs. HAMPs are innate elicitors. Other plant elicitors include plant products present inside cells that leak out because of the damage caused by herbivory. Interestingly, when an herbivorous insect eats the plant, the digestion products of the plant cell walls and other cellular components become part of the oral secretions (OS) of the insect, which can also function as an elicitor! 

Prof. Arimura highlights the fact that with the advancement of high-throughput gene- and protein-detecting systems, the characterization of elicitors of even specific and peculiar types of herbivores, such as those that suck cell sap and do not produce sufficient amounts of OS, has become possible. The proteins present in the salivary glands of such insects could be potential elicitors as they enter the plant during feeding. He explains, “RNA-seq and proteomic analyses of the salivary glands of sucking herbivores have led to the recent characterization of several elicitor proteins, including a mucin-like salivary protein and mite elicitor proteins, which serve as elicitors in the leaves of the host plants upon their secretion into plants during feeding.” 

The review also highlights some peculiar elicitors like the eggs and pheromones of insects that plants can detect and initiate a defense response against. In some special cases, the symbiotic bacteria living inside the insect’s gut can also regulate the defense systems of the plants.

And now that we have understood different types of elicitors, the question remains-what signaling mechanisms do the plants use to communicate the SOS signal?

So far, it has been hypothesized that the signaling is made possible by proteins transported through the vascular tissue of plants. Interestingly, there is evidence of airborne signaling across plants, by a phenomenon called “talking plants.” Upon damage, plants release volatile chemicals into the air, which can be perceived by neighboring plants. There is also evidence of epigenetic regulation of defense systems wherein plants maintain a sort of “genetic memory” of the insects that have attacked them and can fine-tune the defense response accordingly for future attacks.

Given the improvement in knowledge of the mechanisms of plant defense systems, we can embrace the possibility of a “genetic” form of pest control that can help us circumvent the use of chemical pesticides, which, with all their risks, have become a sort of “necessary evil” for farmers. This could usher in modern, scientifically sound ways of organic farming that would free agricultural practices from harmful chemicals.

Read the paperTrends in Plant Science

Article sourceTokyo University of Science

Image creditChandres / Wikimedia


Plant Science

Weed invaders are getting faster

15/04/2021ASPSNewsPlant HealthPlant Science

  • A new study from James Cook University shows invasive plants are adapting to new habitats and new climates at an increasing pace – and especially so in tropical environments.

Dr Daniel Montesinos is a Senior Research Fellow at the Australian Tropical Herbarium in Cairns and is studying weeds to better understand (among other things) how they might respond to climate change.

He said most invasive plants are characterised by their rapid pace when it comes to taking up nutrients, growing, and reproducing – and they’re even faster in the regions they invade.

“New experiments comparing populations from distant regions show a clear trend for already-fast invasive plants to rapidly adapt even faster traits in their non-native regions,” Dr Montesinos said.

This is further pronounced in the tropics and sub-tropics.

“Even though invasives’ growth rates are already among the highest for plants, when they invade new territory in the tropics and sub-tropics, they develop those weedy traits more rapidly than they do when they invade in temperate climates,” Dr Montesinos said.

“This might be explained by higher chemical processing at higher temperatures, which suggests that global warming will increase invasive impacts in these regions, as long as enough water is available.”

Dr Montesinos said invasive plants usually take hold in land that has been disturbed by human intervention (for example farms and roadsides) and then spread to other habitats.

“It’s important to recognise disturbed habitats as a gateway for plant invasions,” Dr Montesinos said. “If we can limit disturbance of natural environments, we can reduce biological invasions, particularly in tropical areas that are threatened by increasing human encroachment.”

Dr Montesinos said that range expansions by native species trying to ‘escape’ from changes in climate could be a further complication. This involves climate change enabling some native plants to grow where they previously could not.

“This can be seen as a double-edged sword – some native species will survive climate change, but they might achieve that by disrupting the habitats of others.

“The study of invasion ecology is complex, but invasive species can be models in which to study, and make predictions about, the responses of native plants to climate change, giving us clues on improved management techniques for both natives and invasives,” Dr Montesinos said.

‘Fast invasives fastly become faster: Invasive plants align largely with the fast side of the plant economics spectrum’ is published in the latest edition of the British Ecological Society’s Journal of Ecology.

Read the paperJournal of Ecology

Article source:  James Cook University

ImageNicotiana glauca, Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix, Arizona. CreditMiwasatoshi/Wikimedia

China develops GM corn variety to combat yield-cutting fall armyworm

Dong Xue | CGTN | April 12, 2021

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Credit: Miaoli County Agriculture Office
Credit: Miaoli County Agriculture Office

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

Food security is a major policy issue in China. To strengthen the nation’s seed industry, the country has approved a series of supporting policies, including in South China’s Hainan Province.

Like James Bond once said, “Nothing is impossible.” Lyu Yuping, a veteran plant breeder, had a similar belief and so [he] named his genetically modified corn seed “the 007”.

Lyu has devoted himself to agricultural technology and the seed breeding industry for more than two decades. He believes the corn seeds he’s developed are the real deal.

LSU student identifies fungus causing soybean taproot decline

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is delta-f-perss.png

TAGS: CROP DISEASELSUGarciaArocajpg.jpgTeddy Garcia-Aroca, an LSU Ph.D. student, holds a sample of a fungus he found and named that causes the disease soybean taproot decline.Discovery just “tip of the iceberg” as scientists strive to learn more about this devastating soybean disease.

Bruce Shultz, Louisiana State University | Apr 13, 2021

An LSU graduate student has identified and named a new species of fungus that causes a devastating soybean disease. 

LSU doctoral student Teddy Garcia-Aroca identified and named the fungus Xylaria necrophora, the pathogen that causes soybean taproot decline. He chose the species name necrophora after the Latin form of the Greek word “nekros,” meaning “dead tissue,” and “-phorum,” a Greek suffix referring to a plant’s stalk. 

“It’s certainly a great opportunity for a graduate student to work on describing a new species,” said Vinson Doyle, LSU AgCenter plant pathologist and co-advisor on the research project. “It opens up a ton of questions for us. This is just the tip of the iceberg.” 

Taproot decline

The fungus infects soybean roots, causing them to become blackened while causing leaves to turn yellow or orange with chlorosis. The disease has the potential to kill the plant. 

“It’s a big problem in the northeast part of the state,” said Trey Price, LSU AgCenter plant pathologist who is Garcia-Aroca’s major professor and co-advisor with Doyle. 

“I’ve seen fields that suffered a 25% yield loss, and that’s a conservative estimate,” Price said. Heather Kellytaproot decline in soybeans

Yellowing leaves are early symptoms of taproot decline in soybeans.

Louisiana soybean losses from the disease total more than one million bushels per year. 

Price said the disease has been a problem for many years as pathologists struggled to identify it. Some incorrectly attributed it to related soybean diseases such as black-root rot. 

“People called it the mystery disease because we didn’t know what caused it.” 

Price said while Garcia-Aroca was working on the cause of taproot decline, so were labs at the University of Arkansas and Mississippi State University. 

Price said the project is significant. “It’s exciting to work on something that is new. Not many have the opportunity to work on something unique.” 


Garcia-Aroca compared samples of the fungus that he collected from infected soybeans in Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama with samples from the LSU Herbarium and 28 samples from the U.S. National Fungus Collections that were collected as far back as the 1920s. 

Some of these historical samples were collected in Louisiana sugarcane fields, but were not documented as pathogenic to sugarcane. In addition, non-pathogenic samples from Martinique and Hawaii were also used in the comparison, along with the genetic sequence of a sample from China. 

Garcia-Aroca said these historical specimens were selected because scientists who made the earlier collections had classified many of the samples as the fungus Xylaria arbuscula that causes diseases on macadamia and apple trees, along with sugarcane in Indonesia. But could genetic testing of samples almost 100 years old be conducted? “It turns out it was quite possible,” he said. 

DNA sequencing showed a match for Xylaria necrophora for five of these historical, non-pathogenic samples — two from Louisiana, two from Florida, and one from the island of Martinique in the Caribbean — as well as DNA sequences from the non-pathogenic specimen from China. All of these were consistently placed within the same group as the specimens causing taproot decline on soybeans. 

Why now? 

Garcia-Aroca said a hypothesis that could explain the appearance of the pathogen in the region is that the fungus could have been in the soil before soybeans were grown, feeding on decaying wild plant material, and it eventually made the jump to live soybeans. 

Arcoa’s study poses the question of why the fungus, after living off dead woody plant tissue, started infecting live soybeans in recent years. “Events underlying the emergence of X. necrophora as a soybean pathogen remain a mystery,” the study concludes. 

But he suggests that changes in the environment, new soybean genetics and changes in the fungal population may have resulted in the shift. 

The lifespan of the fungus is not known, Garcia-Aroca said, but it thrives in warmer weather of at least 80 degrees. Freezing weather may kill off some of the population, he said, but the fungus survives during the winter by living on buried soybean plant debris left over from harvest. It is likely that soybean seeds become infected with the fungus after coming in contact with infected soybean debris from previous crops. These hypotheses remain to be tested. 

Many of the fungal samples were collected long before soybeans were a major U.S. crop, Doyle said. “The people who collected them probably thought they weren’t of much importance.” 

Garcia-Aroca said this illustrates the importance of conducting scientific exploration and research as well as collecting samples from the wild. “You never know what effect these wild species have on the environment later on.” 

What’s next? Now that the pathogen has been identified, Price said, management strategies need to be refined. Crop rotation and tillage can be used to reduce incidence as well as tolerant varieties. 

“We’ve installed an annual field screening location at the Macon Ridge Research Station where we provide taproot decline rating information for soybean varieties,” Price said. “In-furrow and fungicide seed treatments may be a management option, and we have some promising data on some materials. However, some of the fungicides aren’t labeled, and we need more field data before we can recommend any.” 

He said LSU, Mississippi State and University of Arkansas researchers are collaborating on this front. 

Doyle said Garcia-Aroca proved his work ethic on this project. “It’s tedious work and just takes time. Teddy has turned out to be very meticulous and detailed.” 

The final chapter in Garcia-Aroca’s study, Doyle said, will be further research into the origins of this fungus and how it got to Louisiana. Source: Louisiana State University, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.  

Taken from PestNet

Sunday, 18 April 2021 15:03:00

Grahame Jackson posted a new submission ‘How Plant ‘Vaccines’ Could Save Us From A World Without Fruit’


How Plant ‘Vaccines’ Could Save Us From A World Without Fruit


Researchers are formulating unconventional solutions for tree diseases that harm beloved foods like oranges and chocolate. These include a potential RNA therapy, similar to certain COVID-19 vaccines.

A future where chocolate, wine and oranges can be afforded only by the wealthy certainly feels dystopian. But it could be a reality if some of our favorite crops succumb to plant diseases — a reality that is already taking shape in some parts of the world. To tackle the problem, Anne Elizabeth Simon, a virologist at the University of Maryland, is attempting to create what she calls a “vaccine” for crops that could protect our food supply.

Like the current approach to the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers have long dealt with pathogen spread among plants by quarantining infected flora to spare surrounding ones. And, depending on the type of disease, plants may also receive pesticides or antibiotic sprays.

But to offer more reliable protection, Simon is part of a team developing a vaccine-like solution as an efficient and relatively quickly deployable solution to preempt — or possibly cure — plant diseases.

This potential fix can’t come fast enough. Currently, the world grapples with increasing perils to vital agricultural sectors. In Europe, a disease called olive quick decline syndrome threatens Italy’s treasured industry. Cacao grown in West Africa, which provides about 70 percent of the world’s chocolate, faces the debilitating cacao swollen shoot virus (CSSV). And precious Napa Valley grapes now contend with the grapevine red blotch virus. 

Most of these diseases don’t have a simple treatment, and require several costly, time-consuming strategies to mitigate the diseases once they’ve spread. They can also be difficult to detect because, in some cases, several years pass before symptoms appear.

Of course, plant pandemics are no new challenge. In the first half of the 20th century, for instance, a disease caused by fungus killed more than 3 billion American chestnut trees. But overall, climate change, ramped-up global travel and neglect by governments and industry have combined to create a perfect pathogen storm that endangers our food supply. “The time has come to let people know that there are other pandemics going on,” Simon says. “There’s multiple ones happening with trees, and it’s going to lead to a very different world.”

Fight against fall armyworm: good progress, more efforts needed

Format News and Press Release Source 

 Posted 16 Apr 2021 Originally published 16 Apr 2021 Origin View original

FAO Director-General reviews action to tackle the destructive pest

Rome, 16 April 2021 – The Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, QU Dongyu, today hailed progress in the fight against one of the most destructive pests jeopardizing food security across vast regions of the globe – while urging renewed drive and scaling up of efforts.

Qu was speaking at the latest virtual meeting of the Steering Committee of the Global Action for Fall Armyworm (FAW) Control, attended by over 40 participants including FAO Members, international experts and key research partners. Fall armyworm – known in Latin form as frugiperda, or “lost fruit,” for its crop-wrecking potential – has dramatically spread eastwards from the Americas in the last five years. Having established itself in most of Africa, as well as large swaths of Asia, it has lately been reported in Australia and parts of Oceania. More than 70 countries are now affected; there are fears that the Mediterranean fringes of Europe could be next.

Thriving in warmer climates, FAW primarily feeds on maize crops – but also on wheat, sorghum, millet, sugarcane, vegetables and cotton. The pest’s voracious appetite means that in many parts of the world, food, fuel and fibre are at severe risk. FAO estimates that FAW has contributed to worsening food security for 26 million people. While the bug cannot be eradicated, managing it is vital and possible through a coordinate approach.

Demonstration countries

In his address, the Director-General commended the steps taken to date: eight “demonstration” countries have been chosen as hubs for the Global Action, one for each geographical zone where the threat is most acute – China, India and the Philippines in Asia; and in Africa – Egypt, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Kenya and Malawi. All have set up National FAW Task Forces, and are developing detailed work plans for monitoring, technology evaluation and capacity building. The demonstration countries have also served as links to “scale-up” countries from their region, with some 50 more attending coordination meetings to date.

FAO’S Technical Cooperation Programme has been a “catalytic force to support a number of these efforts,” Qu told participants. The integrated pest management packages are based on the Organization’s guidelines. He added that “it is thanks to the excellent network among key stakeholders in the different countries that we have achieved these results together.”

Down in the field

Aside from the institutional level, FAO has been working to assist those whose livelihoods are most directly threatened. In 2020, despite limitations posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly a million and a half African farmers were trained on scouting and monitoring the appearance and spread of FAW. They also learned about using bio-pesticides and pesticides, as well as nature-based solutions for FAW management.

Those benefitting from this outreach include farmers such as Cyril Nzagumandore, in Rwanda’s Nyamagabe district. “Before, from this 10-hectare marshland, we used to harvest 5 to 6 tons,” he explains. “But in 2017, this dropped to 3.5 tons. We did our best to fight the worm, but had nothing to show for it. When the FAO project came, we understood more about FAW and the technologies it takes to fight it. The FAW mobile phone application I received allows me to collect and share information. Then the agronomist comes and inspects the field. Production has gone back up. Today, from our 10 hectares, we’re harvesting 7 tons.”

Digitalizing the fight against FAW

The app on Nzagumandore’s phone is part of the digital tools FAO has put forward to tackle the FAW challenge. Available in 29 languages, it analyses manually entered data and photos, and uses a mix of artificial and human intelligence, to detect the presence of the worm and offer guidance. Current proposals are to enhance the system with a predictive capacity: this would warn of impending invasions by combining more sophisticated data, ranging from meteorological patterns to insect reproduction cycles to the presence of other host plants in the vicinity.

Overall, thousands of experts and technicians also received training from FAO last year in Africa and Asia – including on mass rearing of natural enemies of FAW, such as particular types of wasps. (Separately, China has included FAW monitoring and control in its own training programmes for nearly 4 million farmer technicians.)

While lauding recent progress, the Director-General also stressed the need for more funding – adding that a Working Group on Resource Mobilization had been set up to that effect.

The meeting agreed on the need to embed the fight against FAW within wider food security and nutrition strategies, in an effort to increase awareness and expand donor engagement. “There is still a lot of work ahead of us,” the FAO Director-General concluded, as he called for stronger, timely national and regional monitoring; early warning capacities; effective technology transfer; and stepped-up capacity development.Primary country

Other countries





Disaster type



“Beetles that pee themselves to death could be tomorrow’s pest control”

Various beetle species have gobbled through grain stores and weakened food production worldwide since ancient times. Now, researchers at the University of Copenhagen have discovered a better way of targeting and eliminating these teeny pests. Instead of using toxic pesticides that damage biodiversity, the environment, and human health, the researchers seek to exploit beetles’ greatest strength against them — their precisely regulated mechanism of balancing fluids.

Up to 25 percent of global food production is lost annually due to insects, primarily beetles. For the past 500 million years, beetles have successfully spread and adapted to life around the globe and now account for one of every five animal species on Earth. Yet as far back as ancient Egypt, these tough little bugs have invaded granaries and vexed humans by destroying crops.

Wheat weevils, confused flour beetles, Colorado potato beetles and other types of beetles and insects make their ways into up to 25 percent of the global food supply. Photo: Getty 

As a result, food production and abundant use of pesticides now go hand in hand. A large share of these pesticides damage biodiversity, the environment, and human health. As various pesticides are phased out, new solutions are required to target and eradicate pests without harming humans or beneficial insects like bees.

This is precisely what researchers from the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Biology are working on. As part of a broader effort to develop more “ecological” methods of combatting harmful insects in the near future, researchers have discovered which hormones regulate urine formation in the kidneys of beetles.

“Knowing which hormones regulate urine formation opens up the development of compounds similar to beetle hormones that, for example, can cause beetles to form so much urine that they die of dehydration,” explains Associate Professor Kenneth Veland Halberg of the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Biology. He adds:

“While it may seem slightly vicious, there’s nothing new in us trying to vanquish pests that destroy food production. We’re simply trying to do it in a smarter, more targeted manner that takes the surrounding environment into greater account than traditional pesticides.”

Ancient Egyptians weakened beetles’ water balance using stones
The new study, as well as a previous study, also conducted by Kenneth Veland Halberg, demonstrates that beetles solve the task of regulating their water and salt balance in a fundamentally different way than other insects. This difference in insect biology is an important detail when seeking to combat certain species while leaving their neighbors alone.

“Today’s insecticides go in and paralyze an insect’s nervous system. The problem with this approach is that insect nervous systems are quite similar across species. Using these insecticides leads to the killing of bees and other beneficial field insects, and harms other living organisms,” explains Kenneth Veland Halberg.

The centrality to survival of the carefully controlled water balance of beetles is no secret. In fact, ancient Egyptians already knew to mix pebbles in grain stores to fight these pests. Stones scratched away the waxy outer layer of beetles’ exoskeletons which serves to minimize fluid evaporation.

“Never mind that they chipped an occasional tooth on the pebbles, the Egyptians could see that the scratches killed some of the beetles due to the fluid loss caused by damage to the waxy layer. However, they lacked the physiological knowledge that we have now,” says Kenneth Veland Halberg.

One-hundred billion dollars of pesticides used worldwide
Pesticides have replaced pebbles. And, their global use is now valued at roughly 100 billion dollars annually. But as rules for pesticide use become stricter, farmers are left with fewer options to fight pests. 

“The incentive to develop compounds which target and eradicate pests is huge. Food production is critically dependent on pesticides. In Europe alone, it is estimated that food production would decline by 50 percent without pesticide use. With just a single, more targeted product on the market, there would almost immediately be immense gains for both wildlife and humans,” states Kenneth Veland Halberg.

But the development of new compounds to combat beetles requires, among other things, that chemists design a new molecule that resembles beetle hormones. At the same time, this compound must be able to enter beetles, either through their exoskeletons or by their feeding upon it.

“Understanding urine formation in beetles is an important step in developing more targeted and environmentally-friendly pest controls for the future. We are now in the process of involving protein chemistry specialists who can help us design an artificial insect hormone. But there is still a fair bit of work ahead before any new form of pest control sees the light of day,” concludes Associate Professor Kenneth Veland Halberg.

Read the complete research at www.pnas.org.

For more information:
University of Copenhagen