Megan Vetter, president of Nebraska Beekeepers Association holding a honey bee frame from a honey bee box


Bees play an integral role in pollinating important crops in Nebraska.

Holly Wortmann | Jul 22, 2022

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The honeybee is vital to Nebraska’s agricultural industry. No other insect is more managed or relocated for specific pollination, nor does any other insect pollinate such a wide range of plants.

Honeybees pollinate more than 90 cultivated crops with a combined value of $10 billion annually, according to the Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA). Nebraska crops that are dependent upon bees for pollination include alfalfa, vetch, sweet clover, sunflower and other seed crops.

Many fruit and vegetable crops also benefit from bee pollination, including watermelons, cucumbers, cantaloupe, pumpkins, apples, cherries and pears. Wildflowers that cover woodlands and meadows also depend on honeybee pollination. Plus, they provide honey and wax — products used in many households.

For Megan Vetter, the desire to add honeybees to the farm went beyond the honey that bees provide.

“In 2016, I was home with little kids helping my husband, Curran, on our Vetter family’s fifth-generation farm west of Aurora, Neb.,” she says. “I wanted to diversify, so I planted fruit trees, a vegetable garden, native sunflowers, and even turned a border area into native wildflowers. I researched the benefits of pollinators and found they’re the No. 1 resource for having good gardens.”

All in

Megan wanted to learn all that she could about beehive management before the bee packages arrived. She enrolled in a beginning beekeeping class, offered by Central Community College on the Grand Island campus. “That’s when my hobby started to snowball,” she jokes.

Along with her husband and children, Phoebe and Michael, the family now runs Vetter Bees. They sell local, fresh honey and lotion bars. “Our motto is ‘Happy Bees Make Vetter Honey.’ And the bees — they’re our wild pets,” Megan says.

In 2020, Megan went from beekeeping student to educator, now teaching in the same setting where she learned the basics of beekeeping. “I’m just finishing my second year teaching the beginning beekeeping class at Central Community College, so you could say that I’ve come full circle,” she says.

Today, Megan is president of the Nebraska Beekeepers Association, a nonprofit organization. The group’s aim is to educate beekeepers, large and small, throughout Nebraska. NBA works closely with Great Plains Master Beekeeping, as well as the University of Nebraska Bee Lab, as a resource for educational materials and field training activities.

“Nebraska Beekeepers has a booth at the Nebraska State Fair, selling Nebraska honey, wax products and honey ice cream. The state fair booth is our major fundraiser for the NBA’s youth scholarship,” Megan explains. “Each year, eight to 10 youth are accepted into the program, encouraging young beekeepers to start a new hive. The students build their own hive, participate in field activities and are paired with an experienced beekeeping mentor.”

This yearlong program helps youth have a better understanding of the value of honeybees to the environment and food chain. It has been successful in providing a base for future generations of beekeepers in Nebraska.

On the rise

Craig Romary, NDA environmental programs specialistmonitors BeeCheck for the state — an online mapping service designed for reporting field locations of commercial apiary sites for pesticide applicators. An apiary is a place where bees are kept, sometimes called a bee yard.

Nebraska beekeepers have registered 720 apiaries in BeeCheck. Romary says the actual number of beekeepers is expectantly higher. “Since registration of hives on BeeCheck is voluntary, those numbers likely do not account for all of the state’s beekeepers, including the hobbyists,” he says.

USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service reports 39,000 colonies and more than 1.8 million pounds of honey production in Nebraska last year based on self-reporting producers. The number of beehive colonies reported are on the rise from 2021, which is good news for the state’s most important pollinator.

If you want better yields for your crops, orchards and gardens, Megan recommends planting a variety of forages for the healthy bee. “Perennial fall flowers such as asters and native sunflowers give the bee storage right before winter,” she says. “And in the spring, maple trees offer early nectar and pollen sources. A bee will travel up to 7 miles for food, gathering pollen and nectar. Water sources are also good for healthy bees.

“One in every three bites of food is pollinated by bees,” she adds. “From almond orchards in California to the apple orchards in the Northwest and across the Dakotas, to alfalfa and blueberries in the Upper Midwest, there’s a nationwide circular movement of bees. The best-looking food in the store’s produce department — apples, strawberries, pumpkins — they’re all pollinated by bees and hundreds of smaller pollinators. The impact is great on all persons. We must protect and conserve our pollinators and educate each other about the survival of the bee for all humanity.”

Bees close to home

If you are interested in keeping bees on your property, there are things to consider.

Basic beekeeping is having new, viable queens, feed (natural or artificial), sound equipment and disease-free hives (good medication program or integrated pest management).

“Sometimes that first year can be a tough one,” Megan says, “but I recommend taking a class a year before starting. Beekeeping is a multiyear project and does take time, especially in the fall. Budget for the cost of beekeeping upfront, which could run up to $250-$300 for one hive. Most importantly, join a beekeeping community. It’s a good family to be part of.”

For more information on beekeeping and how to get started, visit nebraskabeekeepers.org.

Wortmann writes from Crofton, Neb.




The finding challenges a century of research identifying bees as the only key clover pollinators

yellow underwing moth on a red clover flower at night
Many moths are nocturnal pollinators of plants. But the insects, like this Mythimna farrago, weren’t known to be regular visitors of red clover flowers until now. JEFF KERBY

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By Jake Buehler

JULY 26, 2022 AT 2:23 PM

Bees aren’t the only insects pollinating red clover. Moths do about a third of the flower visits after dark, new research suggests.

The findings, detailed in the July Biology Letters, come as a surprise, since almost all the credit for pollination of red clover has gone to bees. The discovery highlights what researchers may be missing during the night shift of plant pollination, including a previously unknown benefit the moth pollination bestows on the clover — a boost in seed production. 

This work may help deepen scientists’ understanding of the pollination services provided by nocturnal moths, says Daichi Funamoto, a pollination biologist at the University of Tokyo who was not involved with the new study.

For about a century, the general understanding of clover pollination has been that bees — and bees alone — are the key insect players. Clover is a “valuable agricultural plant and has received a lot of study,” says Jamie Alison, a pollinator ecologist at Aarhus University in Denmark. “Yet none of those studies have said anything about the possibility of moth pollination.”

Alison and his colleagues discovered moths’ pollination role while studying how plants and their insect pollinators respond to climate change by potentially moving uphill. To track pollinator visitation to grassland plants, the team set up 15 time-lapse cameras in the Swiss Alps. 

From June to August 2021, the cameras monitored 36 flowers of red clover (Trifolium pratense), an important crop used as forage for livestock. Such cameras are very useful for monitoring sites that are difficult to reach daily, Alison says. 

Nine of the cameras took images in a slice of the afternoon and again at night, while six of them continuously captured photos every five minutes. The technology provides substantial practical benefits.

“You can’t feasibly have someone stand there for 24 hours and record consistently what is visiting a flower,” Alison says. “Fortunately, you can do that with cameras.”

The method also allowed Alison and his colleagues to investigate nighttime visitors. In all, the team collected more than 164,000 photos of red clover flowers, with 44 of these images capturing visits by insect pollinators. Most of these nectar-seekers — some 61 percent — were bumblebees (Bombus). But a substantial proportion — 34 percent — were moths, mostly large yellow underwings (Noctua pronuba), visiting in the early morning hours. Butterflies and either a wasp or another bee species rounded out the other 5 percent of visits.

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Moths are well-known as habitual pollinators of many other plants, but their role in clover pollination seems to have been overlooked, Alison says (SN: 6/27/17). He and his colleagues also investigated how many seeds the clover blossoms produced, finding that nighttime visits from moths added to seed yield.

It’s clear “the role of nocturnal moths as pollinators of crops has largely been neglected,” Funamoto says. “I think future studies will reveal many plant species that are thought to be dependent on pollination by diurnal insects are indeed pollinated by nocturnal moths, to some extent.”

Alison and his team are now looking to replicate their observations at different latitudes in Europe to confirm that N. pronuba moths pollinate red clover in other places. The researchers also would like to equip cameras with artificial intelligence–driven programs that are trained to identify and swiftly categorize the type of pollinator making a visit.

“The future isn’t just cameras,” Alison says, “but cameras should be a big part of it.”

Questions or comments on this article? E-mail us at feedback@sciencenews.org

Editor’s Note:

This story’s image caption was updated July 27, 2022, to remove the implication that the insect shown was a large yellow underwing moth.


J. Alison et alMoths complement bumblebee pollination of red clover: a case for day-and-night insect surveillance.  Biology Letters. Vol. 18, July 2022, 20220187. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2022.0187.

About Jake Buehler

Jake Buehler is a freelance science writer, covering natural history, wildlife conservation and Earth’s splendid biodiversity, from salamanders to sequoias. He has a master’s degree in zoology from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

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‘Murder hornets’ have a new common name: Northern giant hornet

Worries over rising anti-Asian bias added urgency to picking a new name for Asian giant hornets

portrait of a northern giant hornet specimen
U.S. insect scientists chose a new, mild common name — northern giant hornet — for what’s been sensationalized as a murder hornet. Until now, less sensational scientists called it the Asian giant hornet.HANNA ROYALS, MUSEUM COLLECTIONS: HYMENOPTERA, USDA APHIS PPQ, BUGWOOD.ORG (CC BY-NC 3.0)

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By Susan Milius

JULY 27, 2022 AT 5:38 PM

What’s been called a “murder hornet” or “Asian giant hornet” now has a somewhat official, maybe kinder, name. Meet the northern giant hornet.

That’s what the Entomological Society of America, or ESA, announced July 25 as the preferred plain-English common name for the big, orange-and-black Vespa mandarinia. The choice has at least as much to do with people as it does with hornets.

It’s a celebrity as insects go. By 2019, the species had hitchhiked across the Pacific and was already nesting in Canada probably also on the U.S. side of the border. News stories exclaimed over hornet queens as long as a human thumb and the hornets’ late summer raiding parties that mass-slaughter whole hives of adult honeybees to steal the chubby larvae as wasp food. V. mandarinia became the doomsday spirit insect for the start of COVID-19 times (SN: 5/29/20). As of late July, there have been no confirmed sightings this year of the hornet in Washington, the state at the center of the buzz in the United States, but trapping efforts are under way.

In that innocent earlier time, the ESA’s list of preferred common names didn’t have an entry for the species. “Murder hornet” was way too tabloid; the hornets don’t hunt people. Frontline scientists dealing with invaders in the Pacific Northwest took up the name “Asian giant hornet.”

Yet both “Asian” and “giant” troubled Chris Looney of the Washington State Department of Agriculture in Olympia. “Asian” is “at best neutral and uninformative,” he wrote when proposing an alternative name to ESA. All 22 species of Vespa hornets have some part of their range in Asia. So mentioning the continent does pretty much nothing to clarify which species is under discussion.

At worst, though, connecting Asia and a nervous-making insect feeds racist fears, Looney argued. He warned about a recent “rise in hate crimes and other odious behavior directed at people of Asian descent in countries across the globe.” He has heard multiple grumblings about the hornet as “another” unwelcome “thing from China,” he said. (The current invaders came from elsewhere in Asia.)

With such concerns in mind, ESA has launched the Better Common Names Project to fight racism embedded in names (SN: 8/25/21). In 2021, this effort led to retirement of a cringy old name for what’s now the spongy moth (SN: 3/10/22). Looney urged that a hornet common name avoid linking “Asian”with “a large insect that inspires fear and is under eradication.”

The trouble with just calling it “giant” is that other hornets also grow whoppingly big. One, Vespa soror, a mostly subtropical species, turned up as a large, one-hornet surprise in Vancouver in 2019. Those hornets grow about the same size as V. mandarinia and also will mass-slaughter honeybees.

The new name declaration finesses both size and geography. Based on rough distribution in their native Asian range, V. mandarinia is now the “northern giant hornet” and V. soror the “southern giant hornet.”

Western Farmer-Stockman

Nate LongWFP-nate-log-juniper-control-web.jpg

Junipers on a hillside are controlled through chaining.

Large populations of the tree can negatively impact sage grouse habitat and diminish sustainability of grazing land.

Heather Smith Thomas | Jul 28, 2022

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Western juniper is a native shrub that grows to tree size, thriving in the Great Basin, which spans most of Nevada, much of Oregon and Utah, and portions of California, Idaho, Wyoming, and Mexico.   

In recent decades, hardy junipers have been dominating vast areas, crowding out other plant species.  Large populations of juniper can negatively impact sage grouse habitat and diminish sustainability of grazing land.

The goal of many rangeland managers has been to restore ecologic balance.  Juniper removal on the Modoc National Forest in California, for instance, is part of an effort to improve sage grouse habitat, but there are many other ecological benefits resulting from removing the encroaching juniper stands.

These trees pull more water from the ground than the surrounding vegetation does, leaving less moisture for the other plants. With loss of understory vegetation in juniper woodlands, there is soil loss and erosion during intense rain storms. They outcompete most other plants; with their efficient root system they consume a lot of water that would have helped the survival of other plants.

Effect on watersheds has been noticed; with increased demand for water by juniper, combined with several years of drought in Northeast California, many springs and streams have dried up.

Removal projects

Kyle Sullivan, District Manager, Soil and Water Conservation District, Grant County, Ore., says there were government projects in earlier years to help ranchers remove juniper; there was funding for mechanical removal—sawing the trees, piling and burning them.  “Logging crews brought equipment to take out the trees, with hand-labor follow-up for the smaller trees,” Sullivan said.

Loggers piled the trees, and after they dried out the landowners burned the piles during winter when there was no risk of fire danger.

“Our Soil and Water Conservation District received grants to try to control juniper with herbicide.  A dozen years ago we did an experiment, cutting incisions into the trunk with a chain saw, then squirted herbicide into the trunk with a spray bottle. But juniper is so bushy that it is difficult to get to the base of the tree,” he said.

The crew tried different herbicides and different concentrations. It was effective for killing the trees, but the time and labor involved didn’t pencil out, economically.  The Forest Service preferred that method, however, because it left the dead trees standing and didn’t tear up the ground or disrupt surrounding vegetation.

A landowner might choose this method, to kill some of the larger trees and keep them from reproducing, but dead trees on the range might be fuel for wildfires.

“If standing trees are limbed high enough, a grass fire might quickly burn through underneath, but many junipers have low branches under the duff which could raise the fire higher off the ground and into the tree itself,” said Sullivan.

Junipers proliferate

“We left a few trees on the landscape to provide shade for livestock and wildlife, but they had to be trees with no berries (seeds).  Juniper trees have genders, and some can have both male and female characteristics.  If a tree isn’t producing berries it doesn’t spread seeds,” he explained.

“We also learned the importance of maintenance after trees are cut/piled/burned, because the seed source is still there.”  The seeds are viable for years, to produce new seedlings.  The problem will re-emerge if you don’t keep after it.

“After you cut them down you may get a new flush of young trees in 7 to 10 years, but you can do periodic controlled burning or remove the young ones, or use herbicide and eventually get rid of most of them.”            

Junipers are tough and hardy, with high survival rate.  If they take over a range or watershed, they can be detrimental.  “Research is still ongoing in central Oregon, looking at the effects of hydrology, and how a canopy of juniper can keep snow from coming to the ground.  This watershed study is providing new information; we realize what an aggressive root system they have.  If there is a high population of junipers, they have a negative effect on the watershed,” he said.

Herbicide pellets can be used for juniper control. Wilburn Ranches in Oregon started using chemical control of juniper invasions on their range pastures a few years ago, with good results. They took photos of trees afterward, showing how it killed them.

Label directions suggest putting one tablet on the ground in the drip zone of the juniper if it is 3 feet tall.  For every additional 3 feet, you add another tablet– up to about 10 feet of tree height.  The pellets can be applied when moisture is sufficient to dissolve them.  The smaller trees tend to die all at once and the larger ones die by degrees until they completely brown and dead.

Cost per tree for this method is lower than using chain saws or heavy equipment, but the herbicide pellets may need to be repeated every 3-4 years to keep juniper contained.  This is another option for people who don’t want to mechanically remove and then burn them.  Ranchers can hike around and distribute the pellets, or do it from horseback while checking cattle, tossing pellets around the outside edges of the junipers. 

Chains and excavators

Sullivan said one method still used in some parts of the West is chaining.  An old ship anchor chain (with huge, heavy links) is secured between two big Cat tractors to mow down the trees.  The heavy chain pulls on the trees and uproots them.

Another method is to tip the juniper tree over with the boom of an excavator.  The machine can then grab it, pick it up and shake the soil off the roots so the trees can be piled easier.  It costs more for this method but has the advantage of uprooting the trees without much damage to the surrounding terrain.  “A machine can also be used to pile them and clean up the area afterward.  This way you get some of the smaller branches that are underneath the soil; they pull up with the tree roots,” he said.

“This is probably one of the more expensive alternatives but leaves a cleaner site.  Depending on your goals, budget, and equipment, one method may be more attractive than another.”

In his region many ranchers use chain saws and cut down the larger trees, then go back later to get the little ones—and pile them all up with machines. 

“We try to keep abreast of research that keeps evolving on the impacts of these plants, and how to deal with them.  Oregon State University has published a number of guidelines with advice on managing western juniper,” Sullivan said.

‘Bug ninja’ helps growers conquer insects


When he’s not on TV, ‘American Ninja Warrior’ Eric Middleton works in IPM for the University of California Cooperative Extension.

Saoimanu Sope | Jul 29, 2022

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What do University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources and the sports entertainment reality television show, “American Ninja Warrior,” (ANW) have in common?

That would be Eric Middleton, also known as the “Bug Ninja” to fans of the show, which follows competitors as they try to navigate a grueling obstacle course.


Middleton describes himself as a “full-time entomologist and part-time ninja warrior.” When he is not training for ANW, Middleton works as an integrated pest management (IPM) advisor for University of California Cooperative Extension in San Diego County.

“Broadly, I like to think of IPM as increasing your knowledge and diversifying your tools so that you rely on pesticides a lot less for conventional agricultural practices,” he explained.

Middleton’s own background is anything but conventional. His popularity on the hit TV show can largely be attributed to his unique culinary tastes in insects. During season 10 of ANW, Middleton struck a deal with the show announcers, Matt Iseman and Akbar Gbaja-Biamila, claiming that if he completed the obstacle course, the pair would have to eat an insect of his choosing.


Spoiler alert: Iseman and Gbaja-Biamila did have to eat tempura-fried tarantula and scorpion thanks to Middleton, who says that he has also tried the two delicacies.

A part of his backstory on ANW includes b-roll of Middleton prepping and eating his favorite – a tempura-fried tarantula. During his on-camera interview, he explained that insects offer nutritional value and can be a viable source of protein when countering climate change’s effect on food sources.

Inspired by mom

Studying bugs and becoming an entomologist was not a career path Middleton always had in mind. Rather, it was a realization that became more apparent the more time he spent with his mother.

“I grew up in Utah. My mom is a geologist, and I spent a lot of time with her out in the field,” he said. “She was always looking at rocks. Rocks aren’t the most interesting to me so I would find things more interesting to look at, like bugs.”

It was not until he began college that Middleton decided he would become an entomologist. “I really wanted to learn more about the natural world, and insects are a good way to do that because they’re so involved in natural processes and ecosystems,” he explained.

Middleton earned a B.S. in biology from the University of Utah and a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.

One of Middleton’s fondest memories while attending the University of Minnesota is when he designed and taught an undergraduate course on insect warriors. Middleton wanted a course that would “engage undergrads in a way that would get them interested in entomology.”

Leveraging his stardom from ANW, Middleton based the course on how insects were used in warfare. Students who took the course were intrigued and genuinely wanted to learn why insects make such formidable warriors or athletes. 

Managing the mealybug

While working as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Florida’s Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred, Middleton focused on developing management options for the Lebbeck mealybug in Florida citrus.

Now that he has relocated to San Diego, Middleton expressed excitement for the diversity that comes with living in southern California, which includes working with citrus, floriculture, avocado growers, small farms, or all the above.

“What’s really interesting about working with UC ANR is the fact that you could work with almost anything you want,” he explained. “It also provides a great opportunity to do research that’s applicable and impactful to a diverse group of people.”

One of the challenges that Middleton is already mindful of is prioritizing needs. Floriculture and nurseries, for example, face many challenges. Given that they are two of the biggest industries in the area, focusing on them alone can lead to other aspects becoming more neglected.

When asked how he plans to address the challenges ahead, Middleton said that it all comes down to intentionality and, ideally, conducting research that becomes standard practice. One of Middleton’s goals is to essentially identify pest management practices that are beneficial for the environment.

“It’s broad, but I’d really like to make regenerative agriculture, ways of producing food or other commodities, more sustainable,” he said.

Momentum from ANW

Meanwhile, he continues to build momentum for his work from his participation in ANW – using the platform to challenge people’s perspectives about the natural world and applying his ninja skills to overcome obstacles that California growers face.

If you cannot find Middleton in the office or field, try tuning into the latest season of ANW. His results are still under wraps, but the nation will find out just how determined the “Bug Ninja” is soon enough.

Middleton is based out of the UCCE office in San Diego and can be reached at egmiddleton@ucanr.edu.

Source: University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, 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.



The no-tech way to preserve Calif. grassSeptember 28, 2022New insect control formulation, packaging approvedAugust 18, 2022Vigilance urged but ‘no cause for panic’ over ACPNovember 21, 2022


GM/Biotech Crops Report – August 2022

1st August 2022

  • GM/Biotech Crops Monthly Reports (BELOW) form part of BCPC’s free three-tier Biotech Crops Info service.
  • This service also includes a weekly round-up of news from around the globe – see BCPC Newslink GM Crops section.
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GM/Biotech Crops Monthly Report August 2022

More accurate gene editing

CRISPR-Cas9 editing can cause off target edits and cuts both strands of the DNA helix at once. Now a system related to CRISPR but cutting only one strand of the DNA promises new options and greater accuracy in the edits.
Full Story.

Boost to rice yields

Over-expression of a single gene in rice seems to shorten the time taken for the plant to mature, improve nitrogen efficiency and boost yields by up to 40%.
Full Story.

Improved efficiency in food production

Photosynthesis is not the only way to produce food. Capturing the sun’s energy via photo-voltaic cells and using this energy to power an electrolyser that converts water and CO2 into acetate which can be utilised by mushrooms, yeasts and algae can be more efficient than growing crops. It sounds like an ideal food production system for space stations but here on earth there may be more resistance to this production method.
Full Story

Pod-borer resistance in chickpea

Gram pod borers account for a yield loss of 40-50% in chickpeas grown in India but a successful gene modification is achieving significant reductions in larval feeding damage.
Full Story

Australia starts to evaluate GM sorghum

Queensland University has been granted a licence to conduct field evaluations of GM sorghum over the next 3 years but the crop will not (yet?) be used for human or animal feed.
Full Story

Photosynthesis in overdrive

The University of Wisconsin have identified one of the brakes on photosynthesis and switched it off. The modified Arabidopsis plants produce greater quantities of aromatic compounds and, in doing so, absorb greater quantities of CO2.
Full story

Optimising wheat production

A study by Rothamsted has indicated that, if the genetics of wheat crops were optimised for the regions that the crop was grown in, growers could double their yields. However, a recent ‘Countryfile’ programme on the BBC reported a similar yield benefit achieved by a Ukrainian farmer who swapped his Russian-made combine harvester for a John Deere! Perhaps more widespread access to optimised harvest machinery could also improve harvested yields.
Full Story

This is rocket-science

By engineering the genome of soil bacteria, scientists have caused them to produce polycyclopropanated fatty acids that are sufficiently energy dense to be used as biofuels for road, shipping, aviation and rocket fuel. Let’s hope they can scale up production soon.
Full Story

Cassava Mosaic disease resistance

Cassava is a root crop that can grow in dry conditions without applied fertiliser and is a staple of many in India and Africa. Mosaic disease causes significant yield losses and the natural resistance of some landraces is easily lost during propagation. Now the gene involved has been identified, progress can be made on a more durable resistance:
Full Story

Improved immunity

Many plant pathogens switch off the plant’s immune response before they attack and now a team of scientists from Germany, France and Switzerland have decoded the signals that the pathogen uses to achieve this. They have also developed chemicals that re-activate the plant’s immune system in the lab and now they need to evaluate it in the field.
Full Story

Chitin for leaf blight control in rice

Chitin can be used as an insecticide due to the physical damage that it can cause to insect cuticles but now Chinese scientists have bio-engineered chitosan-iron nanocomposites that seem to have efficacy against bacterial leaf blight in rice.
Full Story

Wheat stripe rust resistance

The Sainsbury Laboratory has identified the genes that stop wheat rust infecting barley and now that the genes involved are known, it will allow this resistance to be transferred to other varieties:
Full Story

Phosphate biosensor

Many plants rely on soil fungi to scavenge for their phosphorus and reward the fungi with carbon compounds when they deliver the phosphates. Now a team at Texas University has developed a biosensor that allows them to monitor this trade and by optimising he process, they hope to make phosphate use by plants more efficient.
Full Story

Asian soybean rust resistance

Corteva and the 2blades Foundation based at the Sainsbury Laboratory have developed a durable rust resistance for soybeans, important because the yield losses caused by the disease can range 10 – 80%.
Full Story

Reduced pre-harvest sprouting in rice

Scientists at the Nanjing Agricultural University have used CRISPR-Cas0 to knock out various versions of the CsABA8ox gene to increase seed dormancy in rice. This makes pre-harvest sprouting less likely but they do not say if it affects the germination of a seed crop.
Full Story


The latest approvals of biotech crops to report this month:

• HB4 wheat with improved drought tolerance approved for food and feed use in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Columbia, New Zealand, Nigeria and the USA.


India’s Supreme Court mulls impact of green lighting GM crops on peasant woman farm laborers, who will no longer need to hand-weed

Krishnadas Rajagopal | Hindu | December 5, 2022

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Credit: Getty Images
Credit: Getty Images

The [Indian] Supreme Court on [November 30] expressed concern about the plight of thousands of women agricultural labourers in rural areas, traditionally engaged in de-weeding, who will be part of the human cost if the government permits the commercial cultivation of herbicide-tolerant crops such as GM mustard in India.

“In rural areas, women are experts in removing weeds. They are a part of the labour force in agriculture in India. It brings them employment…” Justice B.V. Nagarathna observed orally while hearing challenges against the environmental clearance given to genetically modified mustard by the government.

Justice Dinesh Maheshwari, the lead judge on the Bench, agreed that women were an integral part of the Indian agricultural landscape, from paddy fields to tea estates, across the country.

“They work in knee-deep water in the fields, bending the whole day and working,” Justice Nagarathna said.

Senior advocate Sanjay Parikh, for a petitioner, said the widespread use of herbicide-tolerant crops would encourage farmers to spray chemical weed-killers.

…“The Supreme Court’s own Technical Expert Committee [TEC] had said that these GM crops were not meant for agriculture in the Indian context. They may be suitable in the western context where there are large farms, but not here,” Mr. Parikh argued.

This is an excerpt. Read the original post here

Update: New Pest & Disease Records (05 December 2022)

This month’s pest alerts include the isolation and identification of the top blight pathogen of Passiflora edulis (photograph by Earth100).

We’ve selected a few of the latest new geographic, host and species records for plant pests and diseases from CAB Abstracts. Records this month include information about a new virus disease of sunflower from Nebraska and the isolation and identification of the top blight pathogen of Passiflora edulis.

To view all search results for new geographic, host and species records for plant pests and diseases, click here or to view results by your location click here.

If there’s another new record you’d like to highlight, please post a comment.

View past pest alerts

Plant pests and diseasesnew geographic recordsnew host recordsnew speciespest alertsplant diseasesplant healthplant pests

Agriculture and International DevelopmentCrop healthPlant Sciences

Honey bee life spans

Laboratory study might provide new explanation for colony collapses

Honey bee life spans are half what they were in the 1970s

Honey bee landing on a watermelon flower


The longevity of honey bees has fallen by 50% over the past 5 decades, New Scientist reports. When a hive doesn’t have enough worker bees, it’s less likely to survive over the winter. For this reason, commercial beekeepers now typically lose 30% to 40% of their colonies each year—significantly more than in previous decades. Shorter life span could be a reason, according to a study published this week in Scientific Reports. For the study, researchers took bee pupae from a colony, reared them in an incubator, and then kept the adult bees in custom cages. The bees lived an average of 18 days; that’s versus 34 days, according to publications from the 1970s. Shorter lives mean less time collecting pollen and nectar, and thus smaller reserves of honey to help the bees survive to the next spring. The researchers speculate that breeders may have accidentally shortened the potential life span while they were improving disease resistance, because shorter lived bees might be less likely to spread disease, New Scientist reports.

Rijk Zwaan launches ToBRFV-resistant tomato varieties

The Tomato Brown Rugose Fruit Virus or ToBRFV has been causing major economic losses in tomato cultivation worldwide. Rijk Zwaan’s team of researchers found new ToBRFV-resistant genetics .

HR ToBRFV – Rugose Defense
Soon after this discovery, breeders started to develop resistant varieties in all worldwide breeding programs and extensively tested these varieties internally as well as with growers to assess their agronomic value. Rijk Zwaan now offers growers the best-performing hybrids under the Rugose Defense label, including mini plum, cherry TOV, cocktail, and medium TOV tomato varieties.

Compatible with all commercial rootstocks
Rijk Zwaan tomato varieties with high resistance to ToBRFV are compatible with all commercially available rootstocks. Trials have shown that rootstock variety Suzuka RZ performs strongly in combination with both susceptible and resistant tomato varieties.

Contact for more information
In the coming period, Rijk Zwaan will continue to introduce new varieties suitable for high-tech and protected cultivation. Rijk Zwaan would like to thank all growers who supported the company in testing the first HR resistant tomatoes for high-tech cultivation. Keen to know more? Visit Rijk Zwaan’s local Rugose Defense page.

For more information:
Rijk Zwaan

Publication date: Tue 6 Dec 2022


Small-Scale Beekeepers Earn More With Best Management Practices


A first-of-its-kind study examining the financial outcomes of small-scale beekeepers shows that following a set of best management practices can result in higher earnings—largely due to improved colony health via more active Varroa mite management. (Photo by mbeo via FlickrCC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

By Andrew Porterfield

While most of the honey produced by the European honey bee (Apis mellifera) industry comes from large, commercial beekeepers, small-scale beekeepers make up more than 90 percent of the number of keepers in the United States.

Small-scale beekeepers (those managing 50 colonies or less) are usually more interested in managing bees as a hobby, but they remain an important part of the $15 billion honey bee management industry in the U.S. They also suffer more economic consequences of hive losses than do commercial keepers. During the winter of 2021-2022, for example, small-scale keepers lost 58.5 percent of their hives, versus a 36.6 percent loss for commercial beekeepers. (Some losses over winter are expected for all honey bees.)

While the economics of commercial beekeepers are fairly well known, not much is known about the financial situation of small-scale keepers. While many hobbyist keepers may not be highly concerned about profits and losses from their activities, many other such keepers do sell honey and aim for some financial gain. To determine whether certain management practices may benefit small-scale keepers, a team from the University of Maryland and Washington State University conducted a financial analysis of small-scale beekeepers. Their results—the first covering the economics of small-scale beekeeping—were published in November in the Journal of Economic Entomology.

Bee colony losses can arise from a number of stresses, including parasites, pathogens, pesticides and inadequate nutrition. However, good management practices can reduce the impact of these stresses. The research team compared the revenue, cost, and profitability of small-scale beekeepers following two standards of practice:

  • Average management practices (AMP) include removing and storing equipment from dead colonies for the following spring, applying miticides to control Varroa mites every fall, starting new colonies by purchasing packages of bees, and not treating old brood honeycombs before using them in a new colony.
  • Best management practices (BMP) include reusing equipment immediately with a new colony or adding to an existing one, monitoring Varroa monthly and using miticide when needed, starting new colonies by splitting from successful colonies, and freezing honeycombs at −20 degrees Celsius for 24 hours before using them in a new colony.

The team looked at seven apiaries of 20 colonies, 10 under BMP and 10 under AMP for three years. They used economic tools of net present value and internal rates of return to determine what economic benefits BMP may provide.

They found that costs per colony under BMP were higher than AMP during the first two years, with an average cost of $219.55 per apiary for BMP versus $183.96 for AMP in the first year, for example. However, per-colony costs decreased more for BMP apiaries than for AMP (14.2 percent compared to 4.0 percent), largely because of reduced needs for BMP apiaries to replace dead colonies.

On the revenue side, the team found that under BMP, the amount of honey and number of colonies produced increased steadily. For BMP, average total revenue per colony increased 11 times over three years, versus 6.7 times in AMP colonies. By calculating net present value and internal rates of return, the researchers found that after three years, BMP apiaries were eight times more profitable than AMP apiaries. This was largely due to improved colony health brought about from better Varroa management.

There’s still room for improvement among BMP managed hives, the researchers write. Reducing labor costs from more experienced and streamlined management could boost profits, and simplifying Varroa monitoring and adjusting the timing of colony inspections and Varroa mite treatments could also boost the bottom line.

But further challenges remain even under BMP, and further, says Kelly Kulhanek, Ph.D., assistant professor in entomology at Washington State University and co-author on the study.

“Ultimately many of the factors making beekeeping difficult are outside the scope of what beekeepers can control,” Kulhanek says. “Even after three years of using BMPs, we still had colony losses around 30 percent. This is because, even with great management practices, honey bees are still subject to several interacting environmental stressors that contribute to their poor health.”

She adds, “Stressors like chronic low-level pesticide exposure and lack of floral resources in the landscape will always have some effect, no matter how well a beekeeper manages their hives. I think that ultimate bee health will only be achieved when we address these landscape level issues, which will require cooperation among many different stakeholder groups.”

Read More

Best Management Practices Increase Profitability of Small-Scale US Beekeeping Operations

Journal of Economic Entomology

Andrew Porterfield is a writer, editor, and communications consultant for academic institutions, companies, and nonprofits in the life sciences. He is based in Camarillo, California. Follow him on Twitter at @AMPorterfield or visit his Facebook page.