Archive for the ‘Biosecurity’ Category



Making Boots on the Ground More Effective: The Potential of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles in Agricultural Development

Apr 7, 2017 by Kathryn Clifton Comments (0)

It’s no secret field time is expensive.

Development projects that aim to improve agricultural production often have 30,000 or more farmers. It’s no surprise that when you truly target the poor, it’s often hard to reach them. You might have to arrive in an all-terrain vehicle or walk over streams. It might take an hour or more if the farmer’s field is inaccessible by motor vehicle. Maybe you have to take a donkey, as the terrain is too steep to walk easily. These are common scenarios when truly targeting the most marginalized.

 Photo: Field monitors evaluating cashew farms in Benin. Credit: CRS and NetHope staff.

A single field agent can have 50 or more farmers in such hard-to-reach places. This agent trains others on various new agriculture management practices, manages demonstration plots, delivers improved varieties of plants and conducts regular monitoring among other activities. It makes sense that, to save time and money, field agents often meet with farmers in one location and conduct project activities as a group. This can also improve the adoption rate of new practices, but that is difficult to monitor without walking each famer’s field, no matter how remote or hard to reach.

Sometimes even that isn’t enough. Take Bossou Antoinette’s cashew farm that she sharecrops in Benin. Monitoring projects usually means asking farmers if they have tried the new management practices. But this practice only measures the farmer’s perception — not the reality in the farmers’ fields or the challenges faced there. Maybe in a corner of Bossou Antoinette’s farm there are invasive weeds that keep coming back, and she gave up on that corner because nothing seems to work permanently, and the work is difficult. Perhaps she may not mention that to a project monitor. When asked, she could simply answer, “Weeding is one of my biggest problems. Cutting is a lot of work.”

 Photo: Bossou Antoinette is a cashew farmer with six children. Credit: CRS and NetHope staff.

That’s what she told me about the farm she sharecrops. We count this as a success because she tried weeding, so that box is checked. This doesn’t mean that such monitoring is bad, it just means it is subject to such human error, and we can’t always go to every corner of every farm to confirm these reports.

Technology can help. Many studies show that using images or pictures provides a more accurate measure of field conditions than even highly trained agriculture practitioners on the ground. Until recently, such high resolution imagery came from satellites and was out of the reach of many development programs because of cost and cloud cover. Now, however, the low cost of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which can fly below clouds, means that development programs can increasingly access high-resolution imagery.

 Photo: UAV operator Jacob Petersen from Danoffice IT shows CRS staff Thierry Yabi (on his left) and cashew farmers how to fly a UAV. Credit: CRS and NetHope staff.

So far UAVs have been mainly used in emergencies. But last week CRS, in collaboration with NetHope, flew a UAV over cashew farms in central Benin. The images told us immediately that there was a need to thin out trees in some places. We could see where there is space available to plant more trees and how many could be planted, where there had been burning, and identify areas for follow-up due to invasive weeds or other problems. This is just from a first look at the image. Further analysis might tell us even more. With this information, the field agent can use his or her limited and expensive time to pinpoint areas that require an in-person visit.

 Photo: UAV preparing to land. Credit: CRS and NetHope staff.

This imagery can even tell us where about a corner of Bassou Antoinette’s farm that has a weeding problem, one that we did not see even though we walked the boundary of her plot.

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Photo: ©USDA/Scott Bauer.
A female oriental fruit fly (Bactrocera dorsalis) laying eggs in the skin of a papaya.


Research findings should reduce trade barriers and boost pest control measures

28 October 2014, Rome/Vienna – Four of the world’s most destructive agricultural pests are actually one and the same fruit fly, according to the results of a global research effort released today. The discovery should lead to the easing of certain international trade restrictions and also aid efforts to combat the ability of these harmful insects to reproduce, experts said.

The so-called Oriental, Philippine, Invasive and Asian Papaya fruit flies, the study shows, all belong to the same biological species, Bactrocera dorsalis, which is causing incalculable damage to horticultural industries and food security across Asia, Africa, and the Pacific.

The international collaborative effort, involving close to 50 researchers from 20 countries, began in 2009 and was coordinated by FAO and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). It followed an integrative approach, examining evidence across a range of disciplines.

The ability to precisely identify pests is central to pest management, including quarantine measures or bans applied to internationally traded food and agriculture products such as fruit and vegetables.

Keeping exotic fruit flies out is a major concern for many countries. The study’s findings mean that trade restrictions linked to the Oriental fruit fly should now fall away in cases where the insect is present in both the importing and exporting country, according to Jorge Hendrichs from the Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture in Vienna.

“This outcome has major implications for global plant biosecurity, especially for developing countries in Africa and Asia,” said the study’s lead author, Mark Schutze, from the Plant Biosecurity Cooperative Research Centre (PBCRC) and the Queensland University of Technology (QUT).

“For example, the Invasive –now Oriental — fruit fly has devastated African fruit production with crop losses exceeding 80 percent and has led to widespread trade restrictions with refusal of shipments of products into Asia, Europe and Japan, and significant economic and social impacts on farming communities,” Schutze added.

Using sterilized males to mate with wild females

The findings of the study will also simplify techniques like the use of sterilized males to prevent the growth of pest populations.

A form of insect birth control, the sterile insect technique involves releasing mass-bred male flies that have been sterilized by low doses of radiation into infested areas, where they mate with wild females. These do not produce offspring and, as a result, the technique can suppress, if applied systematically on an area-wide basis, populations of wild flies in an environmentally friendly way. The FAO/IAEA Agriculture and Biotechnology Laboratories have demonstrated that the four fruit flies freely interbreed, which means that instead of using males from the four supposedly different species, mass-produced sterile Oriental fruit fly males can now be used against all the different populations of this major pest.

“Globally, accepting these four pests as a single species will lead to reduced barriers to international trade, improved pest management, facilitated transboundary international cooperation, more effective quarantine measures, the wider application of established post-harvest treatments, improved fundamental research and, most importantly, enhanced food security for some of the world’s poorest nations,” Schutze said.

The findings of the FAO/IAEA coordinated study, published in the journal Systematic Entomology means that the four, previously considered distinct fruit-fly species, will now be combined under the single name: Bactrocera dorsalis, the Oriental fruit fly.

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Philippines Invasive Species Aug  2014-5a

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See video on coconut rhinoceros beetles:



Troubling new developments unfold in war against invasive pest

Posted: Apr 30, 2014 2:06 AM CDT
Updated: Apr 30, 2014 4:05 AM CDT
By Chelsea Davis

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) –
Coconut Rhinoceros Beetles (CRB) have been captured in new areas around O’ahu.

The latest detection was Tuesday afternoon at Ke’ehi Lagoon Park.

So are we losing the war against them?

The battle against the CRB began right before Christmas.

Now it has spread from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam to other areas outside the base.

They’re a threat to an iconic image of Hawaii because the tiny pests have a voracious appetite for palm trees.

“The adult beetle will bore into the crowns of coconut trees and if enough damage is done to the coconut tree, it can actually kill the tree,” said Darcy Oishi, Hawaii State Plant Quarantine Manager.

Efforts to eradicate the pests are increasing.

In fact, traps have popped up all around the island.

Between April 12th and April 25th, surveyors found 26 adults beetles. All but two were at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. One was found at Iroquois Point, the other at Ke’ehi Lagoon Park.

“That number of detections since we started the program is actually an indicator that we’re doing a pretty good job on containing the problem,” Oishi said.

The origin of the Rhino beetle still remains a mystery.

Oishi says trying to control population and eventually eradicate the pests is priority.

“This is gonna be a long project, it’s gonna be a three year project once we eliminate all the breeding sights that we know of to monitor and make sure there are no beetles,” he said.

State quarantine officials say it’s too early to say if the beetles are here to stay.

If you see the beetle or traps that have fallen, you are asked to call the pest hotline at (808) 643-PEST.



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Policy paper
Plant biosecurity strategy for Great Britain
Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs and Forestry Commission
Page history:Published 30 April 2014 Policy:Sustaining and enhancing trees, forests and woodland
Overview of the activity that Defra and the devolved administrations are undertaking to improve plant biosecurity.

Protecting Plant Health: A Plant Biosecurity Strategy for Great Britain
Ref: PB14168
PDF, 685KB, 34 pages



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