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Panama disease in bananas could be controlled by fungicides, study says

November 09 , 2022

Panama disease in bananas could be controlled by fungicides, study says

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Scientists at the U.K.’s University of Exeter have found that a particular class of fungicides are able to suppress Panama disease in banana plants.

The disease is caused by the fungus Fusarium oxysporum cubense Race 1, and its spread decimated the world’s banana supply during the 1950. Because of its known resistance to other fungicides, the study sought to better understand why chemical control of Panama disease had previously failed. 

Funded by the BBSRC Global Food Systems initiative (GFS), the team led by Professor Gero Steinberg and Professor Sarah Gurr used a multi-disciplinary approach, combining expertise in cell and molecular biology, bioinformatics and plant pathology.

The research team discovered that a specialized class of fungicides, not previously used, can suppress Panama disease and maintain plant health in the presence of the pathogen. This discovery provides a significant step forwards in the fight to protect this valuable crop.

“Bananas are Britain’s favorite fruit and Panama disease may ‘wipe’ them off the supermarket shelves. On top, millions of people in producer countries live on bananas. Providing an important step towards safeguarding bananas from Panama disease gives me great pride,” said Professor Steinberg.

Professor Sarah Gurr, the plant pathology expert who led all work on banana infection and pathogen cultivation, said: “Our success is due to an enormous amount of dedicated work over several years with co-workers with hugely disparate skills. We are highly delighted and excited by the outcome of our work and by the glimmer of hope that the beloved banana may remain as part of our daily diet.”

The paper, published in the journal PLOS Pathogens, is entitled: “Multi-site fungicides suppress banana Panama disease, caused by Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense Tropical Race 4.

Climate change means farmers in West Africa need more ways to combat pests

by Loko Yêyinou Laura Estelle, The Conversation

worm on corn
Credit: Unsplash/CC0 Public Domain

The link between climate change and the spread of crop pests has been established by research and evidence.

Farmers are noticing the link themselves, alongside higher temperatures and greater variability in rainfall. All these changes are having an impact on harvests across Africa.

Changing conditions sometimes allow insects and diseases to spread and thrive in new places. The threat is greatest when there are no natural predators to keep pests in check, and when human control strategies are limited to the use of unsuitable synthetic insecticides.

Invasive pests can take hold in a new environment and cause very costly damage before national authorities and researchers are able to devise and fund ways to protect crops, harvests and livelihoods.

Early research into biological control methods (use of other organisms to control pests) shows promise for safeguarding harvests and food security. Rapid climate change, however, means researchers are racing against time to develop the full range of tools needed for a growing threat.

The most notable of recent invasive pests to arrive in Africa was the fall armyworm, which spread to the continent from the Americas in 2016.

Since then, 78 countries have reported the caterpillar, which attacks a range of crops including staples like maize and has caused an estimated US$9.4 billion in losses a year.

African farmers are still struggling to contain the larger grain borer, or Prostephanus truncatus Horn, which reached the continent in the 1970s. It can destroy up to 40% of stored maize in just four months. In Benin, it is a particular threat to cassava chips, and can cause losses of up to 50% in three months.

It’s expected that the larger grain borer will continue to spread as climatic conditions become more favorable. African countries urgently need more support and research into different control strategies, including the use of natural enemies, varietal resistance and biopesticides.

My research work is at the interface between plants, insects and genetics. It’s intended to contribute to more productive agriculture that respects the environment and human health by controlling insect pests with innovative biological methods.

For example, we have demonstrated that a species of insect called Alloeocranum biannulipes Montr. and Sign. eats some crop pests. Certain kinds of fungi (Metarhizium anisopliae and Beauveria bassiana), too, can kill these pests. They are potential biological control agents of the larger grain borer and other pests.

Improved pest control is especially important for women farmers, who make up a significant share of the agricultural workforce.

In Benin, for example, around 70% of production is carried out by women, yet high rates of illiteracy mean many are unable to read the labels of synthetic pesticides.

This can result in misuse or overuse of chemical crop protection products, which poses a risk to the health of the farmers applying the product and a risk of environmental pollution.

Moreover, the unsuitable and intensive use of synthetic insecticides could lead to the development of insecticide resistance and a proliferation of resistant insects.

Biological alternatives to the rescue

Various studies have shown that the use of the following biological alternatives would not only benefit food security but would also help farmers who have limited formal education:

  1. Natural predators like other insects can be effective in controlling pests. For example I found that the predator Alloeocranum biannulipes Montr. and Sign. is an effective biological control agent against a beetle called Dinoderus porcellus Lesne in stored yam chips and the larger grain borer in stored cassava chips. Under farm storage conditions, the release of this predator in infested yam chips significantly reduced the numbers of pests and the weight loss. In Benin, yams are a staple food and important cash crop. The tubers are dried into chips to prevent them from rotting.
  2. Strains of fungi such as Metarhizium anisopliae and Beauveria bassiana also showed their effectiveness as biological control agents against some pests. For example, isolate Bb115 of B. bassiana significantly reduced D. porcellus populations and weight loss of yam chips. The fungus also had an effect on the survival of an insect species, Helicoverpa armigera (Hübner), known as the cotton bollworm. It did this by invading the tissues of crop plants that the insect larva eats. The larvae then ate less of those plants.
  3. The use of botanical extracts and powdered plant parts is another biological alternative to the use of harmful synthetic pesticides. For example, I found that botanical extracts of plants grown in Benin, Bridelia ferruginea, Blighia sapida and Khaya senegalensis, have insecticidal, repellent and antifeedant activities against D. porcellus and can also be used in powder form to protect yam chips.
  4. My research also found that essential oils of certain leaves can be used as a natural way to stop D. porcellus feeding on yam chips.
  5. I’ve done research on varietal (genetic) resistance too and found five varieties of yam (Gaboubaba, Boniwouré, Alahina, Yakanougo and Wonmangou) were resistant to the D. porcellus beetle.

Next generation tools

To develop efficient integrated pest management strategies, researchers need support and funding. They need to test these potential biocontrol methods and their combinations with other eco-friendly methods in farm conditions.

Investing in further research would help to bolster the African Union’s 2021–2030 Strategy for Managing Invasive Species, and protect farmers, countries and economies from more devastating losses as climate change brings new threats.

Initiatives like the One Planet Fellowship, coordinated by African Women in Agricultural Research and Development, have helped further the research and leadership of early-career scientists in this area, where climate and gender overlap.

But much more is needed to unlock the full expertise of women and men across the continent to equip farmers with next generation tools for next generation threats.

Provided by The Conversation 

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


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Why African farmers should balance pesticides with other control methods

University of Adelaide researchers developing gene drive technology to combat invasive mice

ABC Rural

 / By Dylan Smith and Brooke Neindorf

Posted Thu 10 Nov 2022 at 1:49amThursday 10 Nov 2022 at 1:49am, updated Thu 10 Nov 2022 at 3:32pmThursday 10 Nov 2022 at 3:32pm

five mice on top of each other
The technology aims to make future females of invasive mice species infertile.(Supplied: University of Adelaide)

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Researchers at the University of Adelaide have released their findings about the potential effectiveness of gene drive technology to control invasive mice.

Key points:

  • A South Australian research team identifies new technology it hopes will eventually curb mice numbers
  • Co-author Luke Gierus says the technology is the first feasible genetic biocontrol tool for invasive mammals
  • Researchers believe the technology can be developed to work against other invasive pests

The technology — named t-CRISPR — uses sophisticated computer modelling on laboratory mice.

DNA technology is used to make alterations to a female fertility gene and, once the population is saturated with the genetic modification, the females that are generated will be infertile.

Research paper co-first author and post-graduate student Luke Gierus said the technology was the first genetic biological control tool for invasive animals.

“So we can do an initial seeding of a couple hundred mice and that will be enough, in theory, to spread and eradicate an entire population,” he said.

“We’ve done some modelling in this paper and we’ve shown using this system we can release 256 mice into a population of 200,000 on an island and that would eradicate those 200,000 in about 25 years.”

person with facial hair in their mid 20's smiles at the camera
Paper co-author Luke Gierus says the technology has a long way to go but signs are promising.(Supplied: Luke Gierus)

The team has been undertaking the research for five years.

Mr Gierus said the next step would be to continue testing in laboratories before releasing mice onto islands where the team could safely monitor the effects.

He said the method was far more humane than other methods, such as baiting.

“It’s potentially a new tool that can either be used alongside the current technology or by itself,” Mr Gierus said.

“This is quite a revolutionary technology that gives us another way to try and control and suppress mice.”

Mice scramble over a white background
Invasive mouse species have caused millions of dollars in damages to crops in recent years.(ABC News Video)

Technology welcomed

CSIRO research officer and mouse expert Steve Henry said wiping out mice from agricultural systems would be a wonderful outcome but he could not see it happening any time soon.

“The farming community are fantastic in terms of their willingness to adopt new ideas, so while it’s really important to do this research, the time frame is long and we need to make sure we don’t say we have a solution that’s just around the corner.”

But Mr Henry believed the technology would be welcomed with open arms when it did arrive.

A man in a hat weights a mouse at the end of a string
CSIRO researcher Steve Henry says farmers are keen on innovative solutions.(ABC News: Alice Kenney)

“While we need to be focusing on the stuff that we can use to control mice now, we also need to be looking outside of the box in terms of these new technologies … into the future,” he said.

Mr Henry said that while he did not have extensive knowledge about the technology, it was exciting.

“The other thing that is really cool is you can make it so it doesn’t affect native rodent species as well,” he said.

Farmers group welcomes research

Grain Producers South Australia chief executive officer Brad Perry said introduced mouse species could severely damage crops and equipment, and recent plagues had been destructive.

“When it comes to pests and diseases in grain and agriculture more broadly, we need to be innovative and think outside the square on prevention measures,” Mr Perry said.

He said technology such as this could help farmers save money in the long run.

a mouse held by the back of its neck stares into the camera lense
Invasive mice species can have a devastating impact on crops.(Supplied: Michael Vincent)

“Grain producers currently manage populations by minimising the food source at harvest, and if populations require [it] zinc phosphide baits are used,” Mr Perry said.

“However, using baits adds to input costs, it is not always readily available and there are limited windows to when this is effective.”

Mr Perry said many farmers would be keen to see the technology in the near future.

“We are supportive of additional tools that help reduce introduced mouse populations — particularly when it involves local world-leading research at the University of Adelaide — which is targeted, reduces inputs and is sustainable.”

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Posted 10 Nov 202210 Nov 2022, updated 10 Nov 202210 Nov 2022

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Combatting soil-borne pathogens and nematodes vital for food security

   Delhi Bureau  0 Comments CIMMYT  9 min read

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08 November 2022, Mexico: The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) coordinated the VIII International Cereal Nematode Symposium between September 26-29, in collaboration with the Turkish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, the General Directorate of Agricultural Research and Policies and Bolu Abant Izzet Baysal University.

As many as 828 million people struggle with hunger due to food shortages worldwide, while 345 million are facing acute food insecurity – a crisis underpinning discussions at this symposium in Turkey focused on controlling nematodes and soil-borne pathogens causing reduced wheat yields in semi-arid regions.

A major staple, healthy wheat crops are vital for food security because the grain provides about a fifth of calories and proteins in the human diet worldwide.

Seeking resources to feed a rapidly increasing world population is a key part of tackling global hunger, said Mustafa Alisarli, the rector of Turkey’s Bolu Abant Izzet Baysal University in his address to the 150 delegates attending the VIII International Cereal Nematode Symposium in the country’s province of Bolu.

Suat Kaymak, Head of the Plant Protection Department, on behalf of the director general of the General Directorate of Agricultural Research and Policies (GDAR), delivered an opening speech, emphasizing the urgent need to support the CIMMYT Soil-borne Pathogens (SBP) research. He stated that the SBP plays a crucial role in reducing the negative impact of nematodes and pathogens on wheat yield and ultimately improves food security. Therefore, the GDAR is supporting the SBP program by building a central soil-borne pathogens headquarters and a genebank in Ankara.

Discussions during the five-day conference were focused on strategies to improve resilience to the Cereal Cyst Nematodes (Heterodera spp.) and Root Lesion Nematodes (Pratylenchus spp.), which cause root-health degradation, and reduce moisture uptake needed for proper development of wheat.

Richard Smiley, a professor emeritus at Oregon State University, summarized his research on nematode diseases. He has studied nematodes and pathogenic fungi that invade wheat and barley roots in the Pacific Northwest of the United States for 40 years. “The grain yield gap – actual versus potential yield – in semiarid rainfed agriculture cannot be significantly reduced until water and nutrient uptake constraints caused by nematodes and Fusarium crown rot are overcome,” he said.

Experts also assessed patterns of global distribution, exchanging ideas on ways to boost international collaboration on research to curtail economic losses related to nematode and pathogen infestations.

A special session on soil-borne plant pathogenic fungi drew attention to the broad spectrum of diseases causing root rot, stem rot, crown rot and vascular wilts of wheat.

Soil-borne fungal and nematode parasites co-exist in the same ecological niche in cereal-crop field ecosystems, simultaneously attacking root systems and plant crowns thereby reducing the uptake of nutrients, especially under conditions of soil moisture stress.

Limited genetic and chemical control options exist to curtail the damage and spread of these soil-borne problems which is a challenge exacerbated by both synergistic and antagonistic interactions between nematodes and fungi.

Nematodes, by direct alteration of plant cells and consequent biochemical changes, can predispose wheat to invasion by soil borne pathogens. Some root rotting fungi can increase damage due to nematode parasites.

Integrated managementFor a holistic approach to addressing the challenge, the entire biotic community in the soil must be considered, said Hans Braun, former director of the Global Wheat Program at CIMMYT.

Braun presented efficient cereal breeding as a method for better soil-borne pathogen management. His insights highlighted the complexity of root-health problems across the region, throughout Central Asia, West Asia and North Africa (CWANA).

Richard A. Sikora, Professor emeritus and former Chairman of the Institute of Plant Protection at the University of Bonn, stated that the broad spectrum of nematode and pathogen species causing root-health problems in CWANA requires site-specific approaches for effective crop health management. Sikora added that no single technology will solve the complex root-health problems affecting wheat in the semi-arid regions. To solve all nematode and pathogen problems, all components of integrated management will be needed to improve wheat yields in the climate stressed semi-arid regions of CWANA.

Building on this theme, Timothy Paulitz, research plant pathologist at the United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS), presented on the relationship between soil biodiversity and wheat health and attempts to identify the bacterial and fungal drivers of wheat yield loss. Paulitz, who has researched soil-borne pathogens of wheat for more than 20 years stated that, “We need to understand how the complex soil biotic ecosystem impacts pathogens, nutrient uptake and efficiency and tolerance to abiotic stresses.”

Julie Nicol, former soil-borne pathologist at CIMMYT, who now coordinates the Germplasm Exchange (CAIGE) project between CIMMYT and the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) at the University of Sydney’s Plant Breeding Institute, pointed out the power of collaboration and interdisciplinary expertise in both breeding and plant pathology. The CAIGE project clearly demonstrates how valuable sources of multiple soil-borne pathogen resistance in high-yielding adapted wheat backgrounds have been identified by the CIMMYT Turkey program, she said. Validated by Australian pathologists, related information is stored in a database and is available for use by Australian and international breeding communities.

Economic losses

Root-rotting fungi and cereal nematodes are particularly problematic in rainfed systems where post-anthesis drought stress is common. Other disruptive diseases in the same family include dryland crown and the foot rot complex, which are caused mainly by the pathogens Fusarium culmorum and F. pseudograminearum.

The root lesion nematode Pratylenchus thornei can cause yield losses in wheat from 38 to 85 percent in Australia and from 12 to 37 percent in Mexico. In southern Australia, grain losses caused by Pratylenchus neglectus ranged from 16 to 23 percent and from 56 to 74 percent in some areas.

The cereal cyst nematodes (Heterodera spp.) with serious economic consequences for wheat include Heterodera avenae, H. filipjevi and H. latipons. Yield losses due to H. avenae range from 15 to 20 percent in Pakistan, 40 to 92 percent in Saudi Arabia, and 23 to 50 percent in Australia.

In Turkey, Heterodera filipjevi has caused up to 50 percent crop losses in the Central Anatolia Plateau and Heterodera avenae has caused up to 24 percent crop losses in the Eastern Mediterranean.

The genus Fusarium which includes more than a hundred species, is a globally recognized plant pathogenic fungal complex that causes significant damage to wheat on a global scale.

In wheat, Fusarium spp. cause crown-, foot-, and root- rot as well as head blight. Yield losses from Fusarium crown-rot have been as high as 35 percent in the Pacific Northwest of America and 25 to 58 percent in Australia, adding up losses annually of $13 million and $400 million respectively, due to reduced grain yield and quality. The true extent of damage in CWANA needs to be determined.

Abdelfattah Dababat, CIMMYT’s Turkey representative and leader of the soil-borne pathogens research team said, “There are examples internationally, where plant pathologists, plant breeders and agronomists have worked collaboratively and successfully developed control strategies to limit the impact of soil borne pathogens on wheat.” He mentioned the example of the development and widespread deployment of cereal cyst nematode resistant cereals in Australia that has led to innovative approaches and long-term control of this devastating pathogen.

Dababat, who coordinated the symposium for CIMMYT, explained that, “Through this symposium, scientists had the opportunity to present their research results and to develop collaborations to facilitate the development of on-farm strategies for control of these intractable soil borne pathogens in their countries.”

Paulitz stated further that soil-borne diseases have world-wide impacts even in higher input wheat systems of the United States. “The germplasm provided by CIMMYT and other international collaborators is critical for breeding programs in the Pacific Northwest, as these diseases cannot be managed by chemical or cultural techniques,” he added.

Road ahead

Delegates gained a greater understanding of the scale of distribution of cereal cyst nematodes and soil borne pathogens in wheat production systems throughout West Asia, North Africa, parts of Central Asia, Northern India, and China.

After more than 20 years of study, researchers have recognized the benefits of planting wheat varieties that are more resistant. This means placing major emphasis on host resistance through validation and integration of resistant sources using traditional and molecular methods by incorporating them into wheat germplasm for global wheat production systems, particularly those dependent on rainfed or supplementary irrigation systems.

Sikora stated that more has to be done to improve Integrated Pest Management (IPM), taking into consideration all tools wherever resistant is not available. Crop rotations for example have shown some promise in helping to mitigate the spread and impact of these diseases.

“In order to develop new disease-resistant products featuring resilience to changing environmental stress factors and higher nutritional values, modern biotechnology interventions have also been explored,” Alisarli said.

Brigitte Slaats and Matthias Gaberthueel, who represent Swiss agrichemicals and seeds group Syngenta, introduced TYMIRIUM® technology, a new solution for nematode and crown rot management in cereals. “Syngenta is committed to developing novel seed-applied solutions to effectively control early soil borne diseases and pests,” Slaats said.

It was widely recognized at the event that providing training for scientists from the Global North and South is critical. Turkey, Austria, China, Morocco, and India have all hosted workshops, which were effective in identifying the global status of the problem of cereal nematodes and forming networks and partnerships to continue working on these challenges.

Also Read: Agriculture and the agricultural economy is the strength of India: Union Agriculture Minister

(For Latest Agriculture News & Updates, follow Krishak Jagat on Google News)

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Now, an international team of experts is providing a convincing overview of the role of climate change and climatic extremes in driving insect decline.

11-07-2022

Insects need urgent help to survive climate change

ByKatherine Bucko

Earth.com staff writer

While the scientific community has previously warned about an alarming decline in insect populations, not much has been done to address this issue on a global scale. Now, an international team of experts is providing a convincing overview of the role of climate change and climatic extremes in driving insect decline. 

“If no action is taken to better understand and reduce the impact of climate change on insects, we will drastically limit our chances of a sustainable future with healthy ecosystems.” This is the warning from a paper composed by 70 scientists from 19 countries around the world as part of the of the Scientists’ Warning series. 

“Climate change aggravates other human-mediated environmental problems,” said lead author Jeffrey Harvey from the Netherlands Institute of Ecology. “Including habitat loss and fragmentation, various forms of pollution, overharvesting and invasive species.”

Insects play critical roles in many ecosystems, making this problem incredibly urgent, as ecosystem loss is on the rise.

“The gradual increase in global surface temperature impacts insects in their physiology, behaviour, phenology, distribution and species interactions. But also, more and longer lasting extreme events leave their traces,” said Harvey.

While fruit flies, butterflies and flour beetles have the capacity to survive heat waves, they can become sterilized and unable to reproduce. Bumblebees, in particular, are very sensitive to heat, and climate change is now considered the main factor in the decline of several North American species.

“Cold-blooded insects are among the groups of organisms most seriously affected by climate change, because their body temperature and metabolism are strongly linked with the temperature of the surrounding air,” said Harvey.

Insects also play a critical role in supporting the global economy through services such as pollination, pest control, nutrient cycling and decomposition of waste. These vitally important services help to sustain humanity and provide billions of dollars annually to the global economy. 

“The late renowned ant ecologist Edward O. Wilson, once argued that ‘it is the little things that run the world’. And they do!’” said Harvey.

The ability for insects to adapt to global warming is further impacted by human threats such as habitat destruction and pesticides. Heatwaves and droughts can drastically harm insect populations in the short term, making insects less able to adapt to more gradual warming.  

The paper includes solutions and management strategies. Individuals can help by caring for different wild plants, providing food and shelter for insects during climate extremes. Reducing the use of pesticides and other chemicals is also recommended. 

“Insects are tough little critters and we should be relieved that there is still room to correct our mistakes,” said Harvey. “We really need to enact policies to stabilise the global climate. In the meantime, at both government and individual levels, we can all pitch in and make urban and rural landscapes more insect-friendly.”

Check us out on EarthSnap, a free app brought to you by Eric Ralls and Earth.com.

By Katherine BuckoEarth.com Staff Writer

Potential use of entomopathogenic and mycoparasitic fungi against powdery mildew in aquaponics

Aquaponics has the potential to produce sustainable and accessible quality food through the integration of hydroponics and aquaculture. Plants take up dissolved nutrients in fish wastewater, allowing water reuse for fish. However, the simultaneous presence of fish and plants in the same water loop has made phytosanitary treatments of diseases such as powdery mildew problematic due to risks of toxicity for fish and beneficial bacteria, limiting its commercialization.

Entomopathogenic and mycoparasitic fungi have been identified as safe biological control agents for a broad range of pests. This study aimed to investigate the efficacy of entomopathogenic fungi, Lecanicillium attenuatum (LLA), Isaria fumosorosea (IFR), and mycoparasitic fungus Trichoderma virens (TVI) against Podosphaera xanthii. Also, we investigated the possible harmful effects of the three fungal biocontrol agents in aquaponics by inoculating them in aquaponics water and monitoring their survival and growth. The findings showed that the three biocontrol agents significantly suppressed the powdery mildew at 107 CFU/ml concentration.

Under greenhouse conditions (65-73% relative humidity (RH)), a significant disease reduction percentage of 85% was recorded in L. attenuatum-pretreated leaves. IFR-treated leaves had the least AUDPC (area under disease progress curve) of ~434.2 and disease severity of 32% under 65-73% RH. In addition, L. attenuatum spores were the most persistent on the leaves; the spores population increased to 9.54 × 103 CFUmm-2 from the initial 7.3 CFUmm-2 under 65-73%. In contrast, in hydroponics water, the LLA, IFR, and TVI spores significantly reduced by more than 99% after 96 hrs. Initial spore concentrations of LLA of 107 CFU/ml spores were reduced to 4 x 103 CFU after 96 hrs. Though the results from this study were intended for aquaponics systems, the relevance of the results to other cultivation systems are discussed.

Read the complete research at www.researchgate.net.

Folorunso, Ewumi Azeez & Bohata, Andrea & Kavkova, Miloslava & Gebauer, Radek & Mraz, Jan. (2022). Potential use of entomopathogenic and mycoparasitic fungi against powdery mildew in aquaponics. Frontiers in Marine Science. 9. 10.3389/fmars.2022.992715. 

Publication date: Wed 9 Nov 2022

Hi-tech farming robot sets about to weed parsnip field

The Robotti is an autonomous tractor which navigates with a satellite-guided accuracy of within 2 cm. It uses attachments for farm operations such as seeding, weeding and spraying. The Danish-built robot is being trialled at Frederick Hiam, a Brandon-based fresh produce business with farms in Suffolk and Cambridgeshire. The farms are growing root vegetables including parsnips, potatoes and onions.

Managing director Jamie Lockhart said he wanted to explore mechanised weeding as a way to reduce herbicide use within a ‘more preventative approach to weed control’. “We offered a 40-hectare block as part of the trial,” he said. “The Robotti has drilled [planted] the parsnips on this block and weeded them on several passes. Initially it was about getting confidence in the accuracy and reliability of a fully autonomous system. In this regard the machine hasn’t put a foot wrong and, on several occasions, we left the machine running all night whilst weeding, and the accuracy was perfect.”

Autonomous Agri Solutions will be demonstrating the Robotti machine at the Agri-Tech Week REAP Conference in Cambridgeshire on November 8, 2022.


Source: edp24.co.uk

Photo source: Agrointelli

Publication date: Wed 26 Oct 2022

Growers can use a test kit to detect ToBRFV before plants even shows signs

Knowing, for sure, that your crop is infected before the plants show signs. Growers have wanted that since the Tomato brown rugose fruit virus (TOBRFV) reared its ugly head. And preferably quickly, too. This summer, the Dutch company Spark Radar launched a grower test kit for that. Growers can use it to detect, with high reliability and within three hours, whether their crop is contaminated.

According to Spark Rader’s co-founder, Rogier van der Voort, its virus test’s reliability and sensitivity can well well-compared to that of a PCR test. “However, you don’t have to send our test’s samples to a service lab. That saves considerable time – crucial when detecting and containing a possible outbreak.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, he and Bas Rutjens, who founded Spark Genetics, put their heads together. That company has been supporting breeding companies with genetics issues since 2018. “When the pandemic began, the laboratory had to partially close. We started asking ourselves how we could offer the market something that was much needed. That had to be a reliable, sensitive pathogen test that anyone could perform on-site,” says Rogier.

Testing before symptoms show
The test works pre-symptomatically, meaning you can test for the virus’ presence early. Rogier draws a parallel with COVID-19. “You can now do a self-test for that. But, that’s an antigen test you use when you’re already showing symptoms.” In the case of the coronavirus, for example, a runny nose.

One of the ToBRFV’s symptoms is spots on the fruit or signs on leaves. “Antigen tests, however, aren’t as reliable as PCR tests, and their lower sensitivity means they don’t work pre-symptomatically. You can also only test two to three plants at once,” Rogier explains.

Leaf material
Currently, growers can test 60 plants at a time using Spark Radar test kits. Testing can be done in three ways. “We started with leaf samples. A piece of leaf the size of a fingernail is enough. Growers collect the leaf sample in a bag we provide, and once collected, testing can begin.”

The test kits include the test material and hardware so that growers can run the tests themselves. “We’ve developed equipment to read the tests. We use magnetic and sensing racks for that. The magnetic rack lets us extract the virus from the sample, which helps ensure our tests’ high sensitivity,” Van der Voort continues.


A part of the test kit. The white container is lined with magnets. Detection is done using a different rack.

Surface and water tests
Growers, however, prefer to test more than just leaf material. “There’s plenty of market demand for swab tests too, which allows for testing for the presence of the virus on things like carts or blades. It’s like the cotton swab you use in your throat and nose when doing a COVID-19 self-test.”

They developed a third testing protocol for water. “Growers can test for the ToBRFV in, say, their drainage system,” Rogier elaborates. These last two testing methods are currently in their final market introduction stages. “We’re fully in the testing phase for these new applications and are using trial feedback to make the swab and water test kits are durable as possible.” The company plans to market these two testing kits in December commercially.

International
Spark Radar also wants to start offering the kits internationally, and this fledgling company has taken the first steps toward that. “A large North American party has been using our test for several months. They want to deploy it more widely during the next harvest period. We have a commitment from a Dutch party with overseas farms too. They want to use our tests outside the Netherlands,” states Rogier.

A virus test must be reliable. The test kits, thus, include a clear manual (you can also watch an online video). For now, it is in Dutch and English, but the company wants to include other languages as well. “We’re currently focusing on producing the tests. We’ve gained new clients after presenting the test at a recent event.”

Testing for other pathogens
ToBRFV is undoubtedly receiving global attention. That begs the question: Does Spark Radar have the clout to help growers combat this virus? Spark Radar’s co-founder thinks so. “We were recently chosen to participate in the Foodvalley and government investment fund, InvestNL’s Fast Lane program. We had to give an answer to what’s needed to become even more influential, scale up and maintain our test’s current and projected speed.”

That speed does not only apply to the ToBRFV but to other plant viruses, bacteria, and fungi. Spark Radar is also working on a test kit for cucumber fur virus and Pepino mosaic virus in tomatoes. “Those will be similar tests to the ToBRFV ones,” concludes Rogier.

For more information:
Rogier van der Voort
Spark Radar
8 Padualaan
3584 CH, Utrecht, NL
Email: rogier@sparkgenetics.com 
Email: info@sparkradar.bio 
Website: www.sparkradar.bio

Publication date: Fri 25 Nov 2022

Saturday, 19 November 2022 15:31:49

Grahame Jackson posted a new submission ‘Effect of marigold (Tagetes erecta L.) on soil microbial communities in continuously cropped tobacco fields’

Submission

Effect of marigold (Tagetes erecta L.) on soil microbial communities in continuously cropped tobacco fields

Nature Scientific Reports

Scientific Reports volume 12, Article number: 19632 (2022) Cite this article

Abstract

Root-knot nematode disease is a catastrophic soil-borne disease in tobacco production. The regulation of natural microbial communities is considered a good disease management approach to suppress the incidence of soilborne diseases. In this study, the effects of tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum L.)-marigold (Tagetes erecta L.) rotation on the diversity and structure of soil microbial communities in continuously cropped tobacco fields were analyzed to manage this devastating pathogen. The results showed that the soil bacterial OTUs increased after marigold rotation and that the bacterial Shannon, ACE, Chao1 index, and fungal Shannon index were higher in the tobacco-marigold rotation fields than in the continuously cropped tobacco fields by 3.98%, 10.37%, 5.46%, and 3.43%, respectively. After marigold rotation, the relative abundances of Actinobacteria, Acidobacteria, and Ascomycota increased by 28.62%, 107.50%, and 57.44%, respectively, and the proportion of beneficial bacterial genera such as NocardioidesGemmatimonas, and Bradyrhizobium increased. In addition, our results also showed that rotation of marigold could effectively reduce the incidence of root-knot nematodes in the next crop of tobacco. These results indicate that marigold rotation had a positive effect on the soil microecological environment of continuously cropped tobacco fields, reducing the obstacles to continuous cropping of tobacco.

Read on: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-022-23517-x

Insect DNA barcoding results delight UniSC entomologist

  • Education
  • 14 Nov 2022 2:18 pm AEST

University of the Sunshine Coast

Insect DNA barcoding results to be released publicly today show exciting progress in the tri-state Insect Investigators project, coordinated across regional Queensland by a UniSC entomologist.

“I’m absolutely blown away by the results to date, and by the enthusiasm of school students and teachers to engage in insect research,” said insect ecology researcher Dr Andy Howe of the University of the Sunshine Coast’s Forest Research Institute.

Seventeen Queensland schools (listed below) are among 50 schools involved in the ongoing citizen science project, led by the South Australian Museum.

Only about 30 percent of the estimated 225,000 insect species in Australia are formally named and described.

Thousands of new insects have now been successfully recorded in the project, which connects regional and remote school students with researchers to learn about Australia’s rich biodiversity.

Beerwah State High School was among those that set a Malaise trap on their grounds in March to collect and monitor local insects over a four-week period. It was one of many that Dr Howe has visited across the state to provide updates on insect species through the taxonomic process.

“It makes so much sense to engage our schools in research on insect taxonomy; schools are located throughout many environment types, which means they can collect a huge diversity of insects, simultaneously,” Dr Howe said.

“We can then use the data to not only name undescribed species, but importantly contribute to distribution maps of thousands of insects and spiders, which contributes to managing the environment sustainably.”

Overarching project leader Dr Erinn Fagan-Jeffries said more than 14,000 insect specimens were selected to be DNA barcoded by the Centre for Biodiversity Genomics at The University of Guelph in Canada, and today the DNA barcoding results will be released.

Dr Fagan-Jeffries said DNA barcoding involved sequencing a small section of the genome and using the variation among these barcodes to discriminate species.

“While the gold standard is always going to be identifying and describing insects using DNA data in combination with their physical characteristics, the DNA barcodes provide a fast and cost-effective way of shining a light on the remarkable diversity of insects in Australia that we know so little about,” she said.

Through Insect Investigators, participating schools have added more than 12,500 new DNA barcodes to the international online repository, the Barcode of Life Database.

The variation among these barcodes suggests that there are more than 5,000 different species present among the specimens, and just over 3,000 of those are brand new records on the database.

Each of these DNA barcodes relates back to an individual insect specimen that will be deposited in the entomology collections at the South Australian Museum, Queensland Museum and the Western Australian Museum.

Taxonomists from around Australia will then be able to examine and determine if they represent undescribed species.

“It is highly likely that all contributing schools have found species new to Western science which is really exciting, but how many of these species we are actually able to describe is dependent on the resources and support available for taxonomy,” said Dr Fagan-Jeffries.

“Despite there currently being many more insect groups than taxonomists, we are hopeful that the taxonomists will be able to spot some new species that can be described, and in those cases, the students will then be invited to name the unique species that they have discovered.”

Participating Queensland schools:

  • ​Back Plains State School
  • ​Beerwah State High School
  • ​Belgian Gardens State School
  • ​Blackall State School
  • ​Cameron Downs State School
  • ​Columba Catholic College
  • ​Gin Gin State High School
  • ​Glenden State School
  • ​Kogan State School
  • ​Mornington Island State School
  • ​Mount Molloy State School
  • ​Prospect Creek State School
  • ​Springsure State School
  • ​St Patrick’s Catholic School, Winton
  • ​Tamborine Mountain State School
  • ​Yeppoon State High School
  • ​Yeronga State School

Dr Howe, whose PhD in 2016 examined an exotic ladybird in Denmark, said students enjoyed the information in his talks, designed to be entertaining as well as inspiring.

He said increasing Australia’s knowledge of its insect species could have benefits ranging from better management of the environment and effects of climate change and natural disasters to controlling pests and developing new medicines.

The DNA barcoding results will be released on the website https://insectinvestigators.com.au.

Insect Investigators received grant funding from the Australian Government, is led by the South Australian Museum, and involves 17 partner organisations.

Feel the Vibe: Study Shows Spotted Lanternflies Sense Acoustic Stimuli

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In a new lab study, spotted lanternflies moved toward the source of a nearby 60-hertz vibration. Further field experiments could reveal whether “vibrational trapping” might be a new tool for managing the invasive pest. Spotted lanternflies are known for massing on tree trunks and other surfaces. Chemicals released by the insects’ honeydew may help trigger these conventions. The new research suggests that vibrations may also play a role. (Photo by Richard Gardner, Bugwood.org)

By Ed Ricciuti

Ed Ricciuti

The world of insects is filled with communicative vibrations, some good, some bad. The sound of a male cricket rubbing its wings together, carried through the night air, is good news to females in the mood to mate. Not so the vibrations of an ant struggling in the sandy trap of a hungry antlion larva—for the ant, at least. Like the antlion, an estimated 200,000 species of insects can sense vibrational messages traveling though the ground, water, plants, and other substrates. And, according to new research published in October in the Journal of Economic Entomology, the invasive spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) may also be one of them.

Researchers at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) have found that spotted lanternflies actively respond to substrate-borne vibrational signals broadcast during laboratory experiments. That may be good news for pest managers, who increasingly see acoustic signals as a way to control pests while reducing the use of chemical agents. Research into the role of substrate vibrations on behavior of lanternflies could enable scientists to “develop better tools that rely on modulating their behaviors (attraction, repulsion) for survey, detection, and control,” says Miriam F. Cooperband, Ph.D., entomologist at the USDA Forest Pest Methods Laboratory in Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts, who designed the experiment.

Some insects deliberately produce vibrations, like the cricket’s chirp. Others, like those from a trapped ant, are incidental. Either way, substrate-borne messages can trigger aspects of insect behavior such as mating, predation, avoiding predators, or foraging. Understudied, the role of vibrations that use substrates as a channel for insect communication is receiving increasing interest from researchers, including its potential to modify insect behavior for integrated pest management (IPM).

Pest control researchers are working feverishly to come up with effective IPM for the spotted lanternfly. Since its arrival in Pennsylvania in 2014, the lanternfly (really a planthopper in the infraorder Fulgoromorpha) has spread to more than a dozen other states. With its piecing-sucking mouthparts, it can reach and swill the sap out of more than 100 different plant species, from grapes to hardwoods. The feeding damage significantly stresses the plants, which can lead to decreased health and potentially death.

As the lanternfly feeds, it excretes sugary glop called honeydew, which makes a gooey mess, attracts bees and wasps, and promotes the growth of sooty mold, a gross blanket over ornamental plants, patio furniture, cars, and anything else on which it grows. The honeydew problem is aggravated when lanternflies congregate, as they commonly do.

In a study of how spotted lanternflies (Lycorma delicatula) respond to acoustic stimuli, individuals were placed at the center of a circular surface with a 60-hertz tone broadcast nearby. In these charts, open circles show where the individual lanternflies moved and reached the edge of the circle, and red lines indicate the average direction of all individuals observed. (Length of the red lines indicates magnitude of the average direction as a proportion of the circle radius; the maximum magnitude of the full radius would be obtained if all insects exited the test circle at the same angle.) (Image originally published in Rohde et al 2022, Journal of Economic Entomology)

Spotted lanternflies are becoming famous—or, rather, infamous—for gathering like flash mobs, massing on tree trunks and backyard furniture, even ending up in people’s clothing and entering buildings. Chemicals released by honeydew may help trigger these lanternfly conventions. The new research suggests that vibrations may also play a role in these get-togethers, which occur prior to mating. Their egg masses, which adhere even to the tires of vehicles, enable the spotted lanternfly to travel well.

After hatching, a lanternfly goes through four instars, or stages in nymph development. Nymphs as well as adults attack plants. The USDA experiments were conducted on fourth instars and adults, both of which have receptors on their bodies that sense substrate vibration. Results showed that both were attracted to and walked purposefully toward broadcasts of 60-hertz (Hz) vibroacoustic stimulus. This frequency, the so-called “60-cycle hum,” can interfere with audio equipment. During the experiments, volume was set below the range of human hearing.

The nuts-and-bolts experiments were conducted by USDA technician Isaiah Canlas, alone in a room due to pandemic precautions, with equipment designed by Cooperband, who with the other authors analyzed the results. Lanternflies were placed in an arena floored by white paper atop a plywood platform covered by tulle fabric. The observer was hidden. When the vibrations were broadcast, the insects clustered toward the signal, dispersing when it stopped.

Based on their findings, the USDA team suggests next conducting field studies to monitor vibrations in trees where lanternflies are congregating and mating. Eventually, such studies could perhaps lead to development of what pest control managers call “vibrational trapping.”

Read More

Evidence of Receptivity to Vibroacoustic Stimuli in the Spotted Lanternfly Lycorma delicatula (Hemiptera: Fulgoridae)

Journal of Economic Entomology

Ed Ricciuti is a journalist, author, and naturalist who has been writing for more than a half century. His latest book is called Bears in the Backyard: Big Animals, Sprawling Suburbs, and the New Urban Jungle (Countryman Press, June 2014). His assignments have taken him around the world. He specializes in nature, science, conservation issues, and law enforcement. A former curator at the New York Zoological Society, and now at the Wildlife Conservation Society, he may be the only man ever bitten by a coatimundi on Manhattan’s 57th Street.

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