Silver scurf, caused by a fungus, is a common potato disease and found in all major production areas of the U.S., including the Red River Valley of western Minnesota and northeast North Dakota.(Photo by Andrew Robinson)

Silver scurf: Great name, but bad for spuds

GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Fans of colorful, alliterative language may like “silver scurf.” Not Red River Valley potato growers; they see the crop disease as a growing threat.

“I’m getting more questions about it at harvest,” said Andy Robinson, Fargo, N.D.-based potato extension agronomist for both North Dakota State University and the University of Minnesota.

 He helped to organize potato educational sessions during the recent International Crop Expo in Grand Forks, N.D., and brought in Amanda Gevens to speak on the crop disease on Feb. 22.Gevens, a professor in the plant pathology department at the University of Wisconsin, also is seeing more cases of silver scurf. She described the disease “as gray, silver and shiny patches” that are “more obvious on red and purples,” but seen on yellow and russet potatoes, too.

Silver scurf, caused by a fungus, is a common potato disease and found in all major production areas of the United States, including the Red River Valley of western Minnesota and northeast North Dakota.

 The disease, specific to potato tubers, causes blemishes on spuds. Though the effect is mostly cosmetic, some potatoes affected by the disease have been rejected by industry buyers. Efforts to combat silver scurf are complicated by its close resemblance to black dot, another crop disease. Even Gevens can have trouble distinguishing the two diseases on affected potatoes.


“Whodunnit? Is it a silver scurf problem? Or is it a black dot problem,” she said. “It’s hard to tell these apart. Sometimes you can’t tell them apart.”

One important difference: silver scurf is tied to infected seed, while black dot is more of a soil/field debris issue, Gevens said.

 No commercial cultivars resistant to silver scurf are available yet, though work to develop them is underway.

Use of uninfected seed, which can be hard to get, helps to control the disease, as does early harvest and chemical use,

Storage conditions also influence the extent of silver scurf in affected potatoes. “High humidity in storage encourages it,” Gevens said.

Research also shows that smaller storage volumes help to control core temperatures and hold down silver scurf. But limiting storage volumes may not always be feasible, she said.


Queen’s Researcher Develops Interactive Map Which Shows How the Irish Potato Famine Transformed Ireland

Released: 12-Mar-2018 2:00 PM EDT

Source Newsroom: Queen’s University Belfast


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    Newswise — A researcher from Queen’s University Belfast has developed an interactive map of the island of Ireland which shows the impact the Great Irish Famine had on the population during the nineteenth century.

    The map is part of a broader research project, which is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council entitled ‘The Causes and Consequences of the Great Irish Famine’, led by Dr Alan Fernihough, Lecturer in Economics from Queen’s Management School to examine both the contributing factors and outcomes of the famine.

    The Great Irish Famine, or the Irish Potato Famine as it also known, was arguably the single greatest disaster in Irish history, lasting from approximately 1845 – 1851. The main cause of the famine was the failure of the potato crop for successive years, which resulted in mass starvation and death from sickness and malnutrition.

    Dr Fernihough analysed a wide number of contemporary data sources, including the 1841 and 1851 Census of Ireland and the Poor Law Commissioner’s reports, in order to compile the repository showing the impact the famine had on the different civil parish areas.

    Talking about the findings from the study, Dr Fernihough said: “As expected, we found from the research that the population dramatically decreased after the famine due to the high number of deaths and high levels of people emigrating.

    “However, we also found that in the larger city areas, the population increased post-famine. Cities such as Belfast, Dublin, and Cork increased in population size as people from the rural areas migrated into the larger cities in search of employment opportunities and relief institutions like the workhouse and fever hospitals.”

    Ireland’s population is believed to have fallen from approximately 8.5 million to just over 6 million during the period of famine, with an estimated one million people dying and over one and a half million emigrating to Britain, the United States, Canada and Australia.

    Dr Fernihough added: “The devastating effect of the Great Famine on the Irish population is well known. However, the uneven spatial distribution of the famine’s impact is given less attention. For example, the population of the parishes surrounding Galway city fell by around 40 per cent, whereas the population of the parish containing Galway city actually rose by 15 per cent. In some areas along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, for example, the parish of Lackan in County Mayo, the population fell by as much at 60 per cent.”

    The map is the first interactive tool of its kind to combine these demographic, social, and economic data sets in any easy to use mobile-friendly website.

    “The website will be of interest to anyone looking to find out more about the Irish Famine. It’s not just about population loss, the website contains information on the impact of the famine on the proportion of families in poor housing, agriculture, alongside information on literacy. It is a piece of history that you can touch.

    “You can use the location services on your mobile phone to find out the impact of the famine wherever you are located in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, something that would be of particular interest to tourists,” comments Dr Fernihough.

    To find out more about the project and the interactive map, please visit: https://irishfamineproject.com/


    1. Dr Alan Fernihough, Lecturer in Economics from Queen’s Management School is available for interview. Bids to Zara McBrearty at Queen’s Communications Office on +44 (0)28 9097 3259 or email: z.mcbrearty@qub.ac.uk

    Autor: Eduardo Augusto Neves Reconocimiento a: Marieta Cervantes y Fernando Escobal, INIA Baños del Inca Ing. Marieta Eliana Cervantes Peralta, doctora de plantas de la estación experimental de INIA ‘Baños del Inca’ en Cajamarca, Perú, conoce bien la realidad de las mujeres rurales. Hija de campesinos, vivió su niñez y adolescencia en una comunidad rural […]

    via Empoderamiento de la mujer a través de las clínicas de planta del Perú — The Plantwise Blog


    If you’re an ag retailer and you’re reading this report, I’d guess it’s fair to assume you’ve at least considered adding biopesticide products to your crop protection lineup.

    My assumption is part idealism, part result of our 2017 CropLife® Biological Product Market Survey, which was sent to 29,000 ag retailers and other industry members nationwide. In the survey 67% of respondents said they plan to “increase the percentage of biological products” they sell/distribute in the future. Additionally, nearly half (49%) affirmed that their customers apply biologicals as “both seed treatments and topicals.”

    Advanced Biological Marketing (ABM) is one such company finding success with seed-applied biological products. Dan Custis, CEO of the Van Wert, OH-based company, has been involved in the biologicals segment of the industry for almost 18 years now. He says that when the company first started marketing biologicals back in 2000 there was “very little adoption at all. Very little.”

    “A lot of the types of products that we manufacture were referred to as kind of a bathtub mixture, or ‘Foo-foo Dust’,” Custis fondly recalls. “As we really got into it, we as a company put a lot of science and knowledge behind it.”

    Ah yes, another aspect of biological products addressed in the survey. By far the top consensus among those surveyed was that biological products engender a “lack of trust around product performance” while a sizeable 72% of retailers responded that biopesticide products need “more research that demonstrates product effectiveness.”

    At ABM, Custis says the company has research that shows about a seven bushel-per-acre yield increase over a five-year average on corn, and in soybeans that number is around two-and-a-half bushels per acre. Its top biopesticide, the seed-applied SabrEx (two strains of Trichoderma) is typically either applied downstream at the retailer, or on-farm by the grower. The company does work with some seed manufacturers as well, such as local Ohio seed company Rupp.

    “We know that maybe we get six weeks of benefit at most from a chemical seed treatment depending on weather, unless it’s a systemic,” Custis says. “What biologicals bring to the table is the extension of that plant health beyond the six weeks. Biologicals are a living organism, they should be able to live on the root system of that plant up through flowering.”

    ABM’s SabrEx is distributed via the traditional crop input retail channels, through well-known players such as Crop Production Services, WinField Uni­ted, Wil­bur-Ellis, and KOVA of Ohio. Production and formulation take place in Van Wert, while research & development is housed in the Finger Lakes region of Western New York in Geneva.

    “Right now in R&D we’re taking a look at nematode control in soybeans and corn, that’s one of the products that we have committed to EPA for approval right now,” Custis shares. “That (product) would be a first, and we’ve certainly got other things in the pipeline that I’m not able to talk about at the moment.”

    Where do others see the biopesticide industry headed in the next couple years? Again, we consult our survey responses, and with nearly three-fourths (72%) saying their customers prefer to apply biologicals not as one-off standalones, but actually in conjunction with conventional products. Well-known Iowa State University seed treatment expert Allison Robertson agrees.

    “There has been quite a lot of work looking at biologicals, not as stand-alone treatments, but in partnership with treatments that address pathogens in the field,” she shared back in August. “In addition, nematicides have been developed recently to help fight off soybean nematodes.”

    Which provides a perfect segue to discuss post-patent giant Albaugh and its intriguing BIOst system, which Director of Global Proprietary Products Chad Shelton describes as “the first complete biological seed treatment platform.”

    “What’s really exciting for retailers,” he continues. “Is our BIOst 100 nematicide, which can be combined with synthetic chemistries to give both insect and nematode protection. This is the first biological nematicide registered for control of both soil dwelling pests, along with activity on nematodes. And when we combine that with a neonic seed treatment it’s giving the grower a better return-on-investment (ROI).”

    That’s a trend Shelton is seeing play out more and more in the row crop biologicals space in the last couple years, shifting the deployment of biopesticides from one-off products to more integrated usage with conventional hard chemistries.

    “It’s no longer about having one mode of action, or a specific agronomic response in the marketplace. To me that’s the biggest change,” he shares. “When you have biopesticides in combination with synthetics at a reduced rate you’re going to get enhanced performance plus ROI.”

    Another area that Albaugh is focusing attention is developing products with what Shelton describes as “customization based on microclimate.”

    “Our goal today is to customize seed treatment technologies based on micro climate and (regional) needs,” he adds.



    Daily News Blog

    Predatory Birds Can Successfully Replace Pesticide Use in Agriculture

    (Beyond Pesticides, March 8, 2018) Simple approaches that increase populations of vertebrate predators, like bats and falcons on farms, can reduce pesticide use, increase on-farm productivity, and conserve wildlife, according to a literature review published by researchers at Michigan State University in the journal Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment.  The review encompasses 48 studies published over the last 150 years on the effect of human interventions to enhance natural ecosystem services. Results point not only to new methods to improve on-farm pest management, but also potential ways to engage farmers and citizen scientists in implementing these win-win strategies.

    Researchers looked at a number of methods tested in the scientific literature that would increase on-farm populations of vertebrate pest predators. Broadly, discrete approaches such as installing structures like nest boxes, perches, and artificial roosts were investigated alongside more wide-ranging systems aimed at altering habitat and increasing landscape complexity. The latter includes methods such as installing field borders, increasing tree cover, reintroducing native species, and eliminating invasives.

    The more discrete approaches provided a simpler, more accessible, and less expensive method of pest management when compared to approaches that require more wide-ranging landscape changes, though the benefits of those activities were not negligible. Nest boxes were found to successfully increase the abundance of predator species. Populations of western bluebirds increased by a factor of 10 when nest boxes were installed as part of a study on California vineyards, and vineyards without the nest boxes saw significantly higher pest levels when compared to those with bluebird boxes. In Europe, apple orchards that installed nest boxes for the native great tit bird saw 50% less pest damage than orchards that did not install the structures. Likewise, the installation of artificial bat roosts around Spanish rice fields led to significant declines in major moth pests over a 10 year period. When perches were installed around Australian soybean fields, raptors and other predatory birds caused a statistically significant decline in mouse populations.

    The creation of field borders – strips of non-crop flowers and plants – did represent a successful method of improving populations of vertebrate pest predators. Studies reviewed found that bird abundance around these strips grew as the distance between cropland and forested areas increased, indicating potentially significant benefits of this practice for otherwise monotypic row crop farms.

    In considering research on the addition of tree cover, studies have found mixed results. While some work indicates higher populations of various birds on farms of shade-grown coffee, other show species richness to be greater in sun-grown fields. That being said, studies generally indicate that increasing tree cover is likely to improve vertebrate pest control services.

    Reintroducing native species can be a multifaceted, costly undertaking, and as a result of misperceptions about large carnivores, is more successful when the species is smaller, well-known, and non-threatening for people and farmers. A case study following the introduction of the New Zealand falcon into region known for its grape production found that the predators reduced fruit loss from pest bird species.

    Both structural and landscape-level strategies can interact with one another. In one example, nest boxes installed to promote kestrel populations in Michigan were displaced by the widespread and invasive European starling. Although the solution to this problem is as simple as removing the nests, it indicates broader efforts may be necessary to maintain discrete approaches.

    In sum, these methods provide a myriad of benefits. The economic value of vertebrate predators in reducing pests is significant. Bats alone contribute millions of dollars in pest-controlling ecosystem services – one study reviewed found that the loss of bats in Indonesian cacao fields would decrease yields by over 700 lb per hectare, a loss of $730 per year per hectare. The falcons reintroduced to New Zealand grape fields saved farmers there between $234 and $326 as a result of decreased pest bird consumption of fruit. In addition to monetary benefits, structures like nest boxes help conserve species by enhancing local populations, as occurred with the reintroduction of kestrels in Michigan.

    Critically, these strategies help replace the over $15.2 billion American farmers spent purchasing pesticides in 2016. However, as researchers indicate, the true cost of pesticide use, through the poisoning of humans and animals, the displacement of pest predators, and contamination of our environment may increase that number by over $10 billion.

    This review provides sound evidence in favor of farmers implementing simple, environmentally sustainable pest management methods. Researchers note the need to further investigate ways to engage farmers and citizens to participate in these activities, potentially through social networks, games such as the Ebird mobile app, and other tools. “Now that we’ve bundled these studies, we really need to set a research agenda to quantify best practices and make the results accessible to key stakeholders, such as farmers and environmentalists,” said lead author of the study Catherine Lindell, PhD to the National Science Foundation.

    For more information on the benefits of not only vertebrate predators, but a wide range of wildlife species in reducing pesticide use, see Beyond Pesticides’ Wildlife Program page.

    All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

    Source: National Science Foundation, Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment


    Dear Colleague 

    We are now less than 6 months from the start of the XV International Congress of Acarology 2018 (XV ICA 2018) at Swandor Hotels & Resorts Topkapi Palace in Antalya, Turkey from 2-8 September.

    Please note that the deadline for the submission of abstracts and bids for staging XVI ICA 2022 is Friday, 16 March, only 2 days from today. To submit, go to the congress website at here and follow the prompts. The details of four symposiums and their organisers are also listed on the website.

    The congress website also has all the up-to date congress details, including registration and accommodation. You are encouraged to make your arrangements to take advantage of ‘early bird’ prices.

    Please also forward this email to colleagues who may be interested in attending.

    Best wishes and see you in September in Antalya!

    On behalf of the Organizing Committee

    Sebahat K. Ozman-Sullivan
    XV ICA 2018

    SE farm press


    Auburn University
    An Auburn University researcher surveys a soybean field. Auburn entomologists have discovered and identified a tiny wasp, Ooencyrtus nezarae, which kills the crop-destroying bugs.

    Researchers discover another natural enemy of the kudzu bug

    Though only about the size of a pinhead, the newly detected parasitoid wasp can do plenty of damage to the kudzu bug.

    Paul L. Hollis | Mar 14, 2018

    Auburn University entomologists have discovered and identified a tiny wasp that could provide a huge benefit to soybean producers and other farmers.

    Though only about the size of a pinhead, the newly detected parasitoid wasp, Ooencyrtus nezarae, can do plenty of damage to the kudzu bug, a quarter-inch-long invasive pest of soybeans and other legume crops in the Southeast. Researchers in the lab of entomologist Henry Fadamiro, associate dean for research for the College of Agriculture and associate director of the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station, were the first to detect the wasp’s presence in North America.

     The research team published its findings in a recent article in the Journal of Insect Science. Blessing Ademokoya, an Auburn graduate researcher at the time of the study and now a doctoral student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, is lead author of the article. Fadamiro and Rammohan Balusu, research fellow in the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology, are co-authors,

    as are Auburn research entomologist Charles Ray and Jason Mottern, entomologist at the USDA Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. Ray and Mottern assisted in final identification of the wasp. O. nezarae is the second kudzu bug-attacking wasp to be identified in the U.S. The first, Paratelenomus saccharalis, was discovered in Georgia in 2013.”It is exciting to know that many natural enemies are in the field helping to keep kudzu bug populations under control,” Ademokoya said. “And, with this latest addition, we have a potential explanation for the decline observed in kudzu bug densities across several locations in the southeastern U.S.”

    The kudzu bug, native to Asia, was first reported in the U.S. in 2009 in Georgia. Although it feeds on kudzu—an economically important invasive weed native to Asia and familiar to Southerners—it also devours soybeans and other legume crops, causing significant yield loss in highly infested fields.

    A strong flyer and good hitchhiker, the pest rapidly expanded its numbers across many southern states, including Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina, Florida, Tennessee, Mississippi, Virginia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Arizona, Maryland and Delaware. The population peaked in 2013.

    The kudzu bug has emerged as the top yield-limiting pest of soybeans, which rank as the second most planted field crop in the United States with an estimated annual market value of approximately $39 billion.

    In 2017, Alabama farmers harvested approximately 345,000 acres of soybeans with a production value of more than $150 million.

    Potential long-term solution

    O. nezarae, which was found during field surveys in Alabama, is reported to parasitize eggs from a variety of plant bug families in China.

    “Until now, the distribution of O. nezarae has been limited to China, Japan, Thailand, South Korea and Brazil,” Fadamiro said. “This is the first report of the parasitoid in North America. The high rate of parasitism—82.8 to 100 percent—recorded in our study indicates that the parasitoid may serve as a potential long-term solution for managing kudzu bug.”

    Despite O. nezarae’s high parasitism rate of kudzu bug, it has a short period of activity, and Fadamiro said continued research will be necessary to identify tactics for the use of the insect to biologically control the pest on farms.

    “We need to conduct monitoring to know the distribution of the parasitoid in the United States and to determine its seasonal phenology in the field—when it is not active and when it is most active,” he said. “We also are interested in studying the nutritional ecology of this insect and strategies for its conservation in the field. We don’t want to spray toxic chemicals when it is most active.”

    There are numerous ways to use natural enemies in production agriculture, Fadamiro said, including introducing them into areas where they are not already present and preserving them where they are naturally occurring. Farmers also can plant host flowering plants around a field so the nectar will attract and keep the beneficial insect in an area.

    “If we conduct a survey and find the insects are only in central Alabama, then we can capture and relocate them to other areas of the state where the kudzu bug is a threat,” he said. “We want to make sure this finding is useful to the farmers who need it most.”

    But there’s a risk in assuming that the known natural enemies of the kudzu bug will eliminate the threat, Fadamiro said.

    “While the incidence of the kudzu bug has declined in recent years, there could be many factors involved, including weather conditions and other natural enemies, so we need to continue this work,” he said.

    The research leading to the discovery of the parasitoid was supported by an Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture and by the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station. It’s an example of Auburn’s commitment to development science-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs.

    Auburn University

    Auburn University entomologists have discovered and identified a tiny wasp that could provide a huge benefit to soybean producers and other farmers. Though only about the size of a pinhead, the newly detected parasitoid wasp, Ooencyrtus nezarae, can do plenty of damage to the kudzu bug, a quarter-inch-long invasive pest of soybeans and other legume crops in the Southeast.