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Via PestNet

https://www.googletagmanager.com/ns.html?id=GTM-W3WQKKF

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Scientists urge action against insect decline

Scientists from four different institutes and nationalities came to Brussels on Tuesday, 7 November. [Pollinis]

A recent study showed a 75% decline in Germany’s insect population over a period of almost 30 years but the European Crop Protection Association (representing pesticide companies Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta, Bayer) told EURACTIV.com that the study did not identify the cause of the decline, which could therefore not be attributable to agriculture.

But Professor Hans De Kroon, one of the authors of the study, countered that.

“Knowing the exact cause is crucial to reversing this situation. But not knowing the exact cause should not be an excuse to do nothing,” he said during a debate hosted by MEP Eric Andrieu (France, S&D) and organised by French NGO Pollinis in the European Parliament on Tuesday (7 November).

Environmentalists call for pesticide ban as study shows extent of insect decline

Scientists have raised the alarm after a study 27 years in the making found the biomass of flying insects in nature protected areas has declined by more than 75% since 1990. The causes of the decline are not fully understood.

Scientific consensus

Neonicotinoids are the most used class of pesticides in the world and act on insects’ nervous systems. They can be sprayed on leaves but the most common use is seed-coating, used as a preemptive measure against pests. But when seeds are pre-coated in neonicotinoids, the plant only absorbs 2 to 20% – the rest is dispersed in the environment.

Research shows neonicotinoids have an impact the fertility of bees as well as bees’ weight and their reproductive system, reducing total population numbers, argued Peter Neumann,  chair of the Institute of Bee Health in Bern University, and author of a 2015 EASAC report which put the costs of the loss of pollination in Europe at €14.6 billion.

Neonics also have an impact on natural predators, including spiders and birds – who act as a form of natural pest-control, valued €91 billion annually worldwide – and on micro-organisms that ensure soil fertility (€22.75 billion).

Alternatives for farmers

While the data prompts to action, the scientist recognised there is a need for caution as well.

“We need to be fully aware of the consequences of a ban – what are the alternatives for farmers of an EU ban? Are they going to be reimbursed for crop loss, or can they be provided alternative molecules that target only pests?” Neuman asked.

He said “we should get over this fear of GMOs”, largely based on a lack of understanding, and invest in research which could provide an answer to pest management.

But GMOs are probably the largest EU taboo, and for the time being, farmers say a ban would leave them with less effective and more polluting alternatives.

Maize farmers on glyphosate and neonicotinoids: ‘We need to protect science’

As member states are due to vote on two key dossiers, maize farmers claim that EU regulation restricting access to plant protection products and plant genetics has reduced their competitiveness worldwide and that such regulation is not based on science.

But Jean-Marc Bonmatin, a scientist with the French National Research Committee CNRS said solutions such as integrated pest-control management, where pesticides are only used as a last resort, already exist.

And even when farmers lose their crops to pests, the Italian maize farmers’ experience shows it is less costly to insure (€3,50/ha) than to pre-emptively treat the crops with neonicotinoids (€40/ha).

An EU-wide ban

In Europe, Italy banned neonicotinoid seed treatment in 2008, citing concerns for pollinators.

France will ban neonicotinoids from September 2018, although some crops lacking alternatives will be exempted until 2020.

Following an assessment by the European Food Safety Agency EFSA in 2013 which identified “high risk to bees”, the European Commission imposed a partial ban on three neonicotinoid molecules on some crops.

But Fabio Sgolastra, a researcher at the University of Bologna and member of EFSA’s Working Group For Bee Risk Assessment, thinks this was not sufficient: “The risk is not negligible. The partial ban is not in line with science.”

EFSA just recently concluded a new risk-assessment including 100 more studies that have been published since 2013, which have confirmed the threat posed by neonicotinoids to bees and other pollinators.

The Commission will review EFSA’s risk assessment and submit a proposal to ban all uses of neonicotinoids except in greenhouses, which member states will have to vote on by the end of the month.

Justice for bees: French court to look at pesticide ban

An environmental organisation has filed a lawsuit to ban sulfoxaflor, a pesticide that has fallen through the cracks of the ban on neonicotinoids. EURACTIV France reports.

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Phys.Org

https://phys.org/news/2017-11-biological-clock-fungal-parasite-zombie.html

Via PestNet

Biological clock found in fungal parasite sheds more light on ‘zombie ants’ phenomenon

November 6, 2017

ant biologicalcl

Infected ant that has latched on to a piece of vegetation after being manipulated by the parasite. Credit: Brianna Santamaria

Charissa de Bekker, Ph.D., came to UCF earlier this year to continue her research on a fungal parasite that infects ants, hijacks their brains and controls their behavior to spread its fungal spores – a phenomenon that’s led to those infected being called “zombie ants.”

Throughout her career, she’s found evidence that the parasite may manipulate the ants’ behavior, in part, by hijacking their biological clocks. In her latest research published Nov. 3 in the peer-review journal Plos One, findings show that the parasite itself has a working biological clock, too, that may be the driving force behind the timing of when and how the parasite infects and manipulates the ants.

It’s been observed that infected zombie ants wander out of their nests, climb onto a piece of vegetation such as Spanish moss or pine needle, bite down and ultimately die. Afterward, a spore-carrying stalk grows out of their heads. This is the work of the parasite manipulating the ants’ behavior to lead them away from their nest and normal routines so that the fungus can spread its spores more effectively. Now knowing that the parasite has its own biological clock, scientists such as de Bekker can hone in on answering how and why this phenomenon occurs.

“We don’t quite understand yet how parasites manipulate their hosts with such precision,” said de Bekker, an assistant professor in biology. “Even the most brilliant neurologists can’t change behavior that effectively. The goal of my lab, therefore, is to learn more about this.”

Infected ants are found in Central Florida, including the Little Big Econ State Forest near Geneva and the Arboretum at UCF. While the majority of infected ants have been found in rainforests, this phenomenon has been observed across the globe, de Bekker said.

The first hint that the fungal parasite may hijack the ants’ biological clock came from field studies that observed infected ants all actively searched for an elevated piece of vegetation to bite down on at the same time of day. Later laboratory studies showed similar results that indicated the time of day may be an important factor for the manipulating fungus.

De Bekker and her team, which consists of UCF undergraduate and graduate students, now plan to further this new avenue of research to hopefully one day better understand how biological clocks are disturbed by parasites. Scientists in Scotland are already researching how biological clocks are involved in malaria, and a team of medical researchers last month won the Nobel Prize for research on the molecular structure of the biological clock of fruit flies. De Bekker sees the role of biological clocks in infectious diseases as the next big thing for scientists to study. Scientists can better understand how diseases internally impact humans by knowing more about parasites and their impact on the biological clock.

De Bekker and her team’s research takes place in a lab at UCF, as well as in the field at Little Big Econ State Forest and the UCF Arboretum.

In the lab, ants are infected with the parasite so the team can observe their behavior in a controlled environment. Ian Will, a Ph.D. candidate and co-author of the published paper, closely watches the ants to better determine when and how ants act differently after they’re infected.

“I’m interested in uncovering the genes that are involved in parasitic behavioral manipulation and how,” he said.

Will met de Bekker in Munich, Germany, in 2014 while pursuing his master’s degree. He was also intrigued by the parasite, and followed de Bekker to Orlando after she arrived at UCF to continue the line of research together.

“In Munich, we didn’t have the ants – we had to ship them,” De Bekker said “Being here [in Florida], the ants and the fungus are all around us, which gives us all of these opportunities to work both in the lab and in the field.”

Explore further: The zombie-ant fungus is under attack, research reveals

More information: Charissa de Bekker et al. Daily rhythms and enrichment patterns in the transcriptome of the behavior-manipulating parasite Ophiocordyceps kimflemingiae, PLOS ONE (2017). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0187170

Journal reference: PLoS ONE

Provided by: University of Central Florida

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2017-11-biological-clock-fungal-parasite-zombie.html#jCp

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Organised by
Promoted by

8th International Symposium

Plant Protection and Plant Health in Europe

Efficacy and risks of biorational products in IPM strategies – acceptable?

13-14 December 2017 – Braunschweig, Germany

  Dear colleague,

We inform you about the forthcoming international symposium

to be carried out at 13-14 December 2017 in  Braunschweig, Germany.

All details concerning the topic, the venue and the organizers please find at the symposium website (www.ppphe.phytomedizin.org)

Looking forward to meeting you soon,

On behalf of the symposium committee,

Best regards

Falko Feldmann

Institut für Pflanzenschutz in Gartenbau und Forst

Institute for Plant Protection in Horticulture and Forests

Messeweg 11-12

38104 Braunschweig

Fone: 0049 -(0)531 2994406

www. julius-kuehn.de.de

Falko.Feldmann@julius-kuehn.de

 

 

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PHYS ORG News

November 3, 2017

grape
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Researchers have identified a wild yeast that is more effective than a pesticide at preventing common grape molds. The yeast strain is one of many found on wild grapes, as well as a smaller number found on farmed grapes, that can inhibit common grape molds. The study, published today in open-access journal Frontiers in Microbiology, suggests that wild yeasts could be an eco-friendly alternative to chemical pesticides.

“The ‘wild’ environment represents a huge and largely untapped source of biodiversity, which could provide a reservoir of helpful microbes for pest control,” says Ileana Vigentini, a researcher at the University of Milan.

At present, many farmers use chemical pesticides to control fungal diseases. However, pesticides leave hazardous residues in the environment that can have significant consequences for local ecosystems. Traces of pesticides can also end up in food, and could affect human health. In addition, many fungi are becoming resistant, meaning that pesticides may not work effectively.

The European Union has restricted certain pesticides, meaning that the race is on to come up with eco-friendly alternatives. One possibility is to use natural yeasts—themselves a type of fungi—to inhibit disease-causing fungi in crops. Microbes like yeasts often compete with one another, and naturally produce substances to kill or slow down their rivals. However, so far, researchers have not been able to find yeasts that are as effective as chemical pesticides.

In the study, Vigentini, Gustavo Cordero-Bueso and colleagues investigated whether yeasts isolated from the skins of wild or farmed grapes could inhibit three common molds that can ruin harvests. Initially, the research team isolated and identified yeasts from a type of wild grape in Georgia, Italy, Romania and Spain, and farmed grapes from vineyards in Italy.

The team tested whether the yeasts could inhibit mold growth in the lab, and identified the top 20 yeasts with the most potent anti-mold effects. Of these, a whopping 18 strains came from the wild grapes, suggesting that wild plants could be a promising reservoir for useful microbes.

The team went on to investigate the possible mechanisms the yeasts use to inhibit the molds. They found that many of the yeasts release enzymes that can digest the molds’ cell wall, or release substances such as acetic acid or hydrogen sulfide that can kill the molds. Finally, the researchers tested the yeasts’ ability to stop the molds from growing on grapes and compared them with a commercial pesticide.

Strikingly, one was more effective than the pesticide at preventing . Previous work has shown that this yeast strain does not interfere with wine fermentation, and can survive harsh conditions. This might make it well-suited as a biocontrol agent in vineyards, but outdoor trials are needed to confirm this.

“We plan to test some of these as a substitute for in field trials using grapevines,” says Vigentini.

Explore further: Beer yeasts show surprising diversity, genome study finds

More information: Gustavo Cordero-Bueso et al, Wild Grape-Associated Yeasts as Promising Biocontrol Agents against Vitis vinifera Fungal Pathogens, Frontiers in Microbiology (2017). DOI: 10.3389/fmicb.2017.02025

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2017-11-wild-grape-yeast-effective-pesticides.html#jCp

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basmati-farmer

A farmer in Jind, Haryana in his  basmati paddy field. (Express photo: Renuka Puri)

Pesticide residues are an issue, more so when it concerns products such as basmati rice, fetching the country annual export revenues ranging from $ 3.23 billion in 2016-17 to $ 4.52 billion in 2014-15. The burden of consignments being rejected ultimately falls on the farmer, who has to, then, use new-generation pesticides that are safer, but costlier and very often proprietary/patented molecules.

The most recent example is of Tricyclazole. A single 120-gram spray of this common fungicide, against leaf and neck blast disease in paddy, hardly costs Rs 150-170 per acre. But with the European Union (EU) deciding not to allow import of any rice having Tricyclazole levels above 0.01 parts per million (ppm) from January 1, farmers would find it difficult to spray the generic chemical sold under assorted brands like ‘Sivic’, ‘Baan’ and ‘Beam’. The existing tolerance limit stipulated by the EU (which accounts for about 3.5 lakh tonnes of India’s total annual basmati shipments of 40 lakh tonnes) for Tricyclazole is one ppm or 1 mg/kg; 0.01 ppm will make it 1mg/100 kg!

With Tricyclazole ruled out, farmers may, henceforth, have to go for fungicides that are considered environmentally friendlier, though costing ten times more. These include Azoxystrobin (a single 200-ml spray, sold under the Swiss company Syngenta’s ‘Amistar’ brand, costs around Rs 900 per acre) and Picoxystrobin (the cost of a single 400-ml spray of this formulation, sold under DuPont’s ‘Galileo’ brand, comes to Rs 1,300 per acre). No less expensive is ‘Nativo’. This combination fungicide of Bayer CropScience, containing Tebuconazole and Trifloxystrobin, costs Rs 1,000 for a single 160-gram spray per acre.

However, an alternative approach to pesticide application — necessary, especially keeping in view basmati’s premium quality attributes and huge export market — is to “breed for disease resistance”. This involves transfer of specific disease-resistance genes, from both traditional landrace cultivars and wild relatives of paddy, into existing high-yielding basmati varieties. That is what scientists at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) have sought to do.

The New Delhi-based institute — under a collaborative project with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research’s National Research Centre on Plant Biotechnology — has transferred the ‘Pi9’ gene into its popular Pusa Basmati-1 variety. This gene, sourced from Oryza minuta (a wild relative of Oryza sativa, which is the normal cultivated paddy), provides “very high resistance” against leaf blast and “moderate resistance” against neck blast fungus.

The resultant variety, which is called Pusa Basmati-1637, combines Pusa Basmati-1’s high-yielding trait with resistance against a fungus that infests the leaf and neck nodes of the rice plant’s main stem, from where the grain-bearing earheads (panicles) emerge. Blast disease affecting the leaf basically damages the chlorophyll, thereby impeding photosynthesis that involves absorption of sunlight and using its energy to synthesise carbohydrates. Neck blast, if severe, can cause the stem to even break. If the panicles at that point have only partially formed grains, in their early milky stage, the yield losses can be huge.

Rajeev Kharb, a farmer from Tito Kheri village in Safidon tehsil of Haryana’s Jind district, has grown Pusa Basmati-1637 in five out of his total 80-acre holding. The latter includes 28 acres of own and 52 acres of leased land. High temperatures and humidity levels this time round has resulted in the bulk of his planted area – mainly under Pusa Basmati-1401, Pusa Basmati-1 and Pusa Basmati-1509 – suffering gardan-marod (the local term for blast, whose literal translation is “curling of the neck”) to the extent of 10-20 per cent.

“But nothing has happened to my Pusa Basmati-1637 field. This, even without spraying any Tricyclazole,” says Kharb. A loss of 10-20 per cent isn’t small. Taking per-acre yields of 22-25 quintals for Pusa Basmati-1, 25-28 quintals for Pusa Basmati-1509 and 28-30 quintals for Pusa Basmati-1401, and current average price realisations of Rs 2,800/quintal, it works out to anywhere from Rs 7,000 to Rs 14,000 per acre.

“We will continue to have to spray for other diseases (bacterial blight and sheath blight fungus) and pests (brown plant hopper and stem borer). But with this new variety, there is still significant savings from not using Tricyclazole or other expensive fungicides against blast,” points out Pritam Singh Hanjra, a progressive farmer from Urlana Khurd village in Madlauda tehsil of Panipat district.

Hanjra, who has sown Pusa Basmati-1637 in five out of his 105-acre holding (30 acres own and the rest leased), estimates expenses on crop protection chemicals at Rs 3,000-4,000 out of the total cultivation costs of Rs 20,000-22,000 per acre for paddy. “It can go up, depending on the extent of pest and disease incidence. Either way, this is the second biggest expenditure head after manual harvesting-and-threshing (Rs 4,500-5,000), and more than fertilizers (Rs 2,100-2,200),” he claims.

A K Singh, head of IARI’s Division of Genetics, notes that Indian breeders have, over a period, managed to raise crop yields. The traditional tall basmati cultivars, for instance, gave barely 8-10 quintals of paddy per acre. With improved dwarf high-yielding basmati varieties, these have gone up to 25 quintals or so. “Our challenge now is to protect these yields and preferably through breeding for resistance, as opposed to pesticide application,” he adds.

IARI is, in fact, working on transferring other blast resistance genes as well — such as ‘Pi54’, ‘Pi25’, ‘Pi2’ and ‘Pib’, all from wild relatives and land races of rice — to high-yielding basmati varieties.

“We want to do pyramiding of these genes (combining two or more of them), in order to impart more durable resistance against blast. Besides, we have already developed and released two new varieties, Pusa Basmati-1718 and Pusa Basmati-1728, both of them incorporating the Xa21 and xa13 genes that confer resistance to the bacterial blight pathogen. The first variety is basically Pusa Basmati-1121 and the second one Pusa Basmati-1401, containing both these genes obtained from Oryza longistaminata (another wild relative of paddy) and BJ1 (a traditional land race), respectively,” informs Singh.

 

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SE farm press
BASF Oliver Gernsheimer
Oliver Gernsheimer, BASF Functional Crop Care, U.S. Crop Protection, highlights BASF‘s commitment to biologicals as another important crop protection tool for farmers.

BASF releases its first proprietary biological fungicide

Serifel, which is now labeled for use as a foliar fungicide in the United States, is based on viable spores of the beneficial bacterium Bacillus amyloiquefaciens strain MBI 600.

John Hart | Oct 23, 2017

BASF is committed to biologicals as another tool for growers to battle pests and disease. The introduction of Serifel, the first proprietary biological fungicide offered by the company, is an important step into the market.

Oliver Gernsheimer, responsible for BASF’s Functional Crop Care, U.S. Crop Protection business, said there is a growing interest in biologicals, particularly among specialty crop growers. “BASF is excited about new technologies in all areas that add value to our portfolio. Wherever we see a promising product and customers who are excited about it, we invest to develop these technologies further,” he said.

 “Strong grower interest and the realization that no one has focused on exactly how biologicals work are key drivers for BASF’s commitment to increase investment, science and research behind biologicals,” Gernsheimer said, noting that the company will introduce additional biological crop protection products in the near future.

Serifel, which is now labeled for use as a foliar fungicide in the United States, is based on viable spores of the beneficial bacterium Bacillus amyloiquefaciens strain MBI 600. It is targeted to specialty crops such as lettuce, spinach, grapes, wine grapes, strawberries, onions, carrots and tomatoes. It is currently labeled for foliar users, but BASF plans to add soil users to the label. Gernsheimer said the company hopes to have a label for soil use in the U.S. by next year.

Gernsheimer emphasizes that Serifel is a preventive fungicide designed to be used in a program with conventional fungicides or in an organic program. “Serifel is not designed as a stand-alone product,” he explained.

The product is effective on diseases such as powdery mildew because of its unique formulation. “Serifel is pure which allows the bacterium to work as it would in nature, making it  more efficacious without interference,” said Gernsheimer. “BASF is also the only company to provide a true resistance-management program by killing resistant diseases to some conventional chemistries and not just a rotational resistance program.”

“Serifel works best when applied early, before moderate disease infection. Once applied, the spores multiply very rapidly, covering anywhere on the leaf that a disease may try to inhabit. If the conditions are right for disease, the conditions are right for Serifel,” Gernsheimer said. “Additionally, a special feature of Serifel is rainfastness. Of the many metabolites produced by Serifel, one in particular, surfactin, is very sticky, allowing it to adhere to the leaf even during rain or irrigation. No longer will a grower have to decide about using a biological because of impending rain or a strict irrigation schedule.”

Gernsheimer said a key aim of BASF is to increase the credibility of biologicals as part of a pest management program and to understand biologicals with as much specification as the company’s conventional chemistry.

“We need to increase the confidence level of biologicals. We know when and how to apply Serifel because of novel research that looks at a multitude of parameters that may be faced in natural field scenarios. Parameters, that until now, have not been communicated to the grower,” he said. “Serifel works differently crop by crop. It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. Every crop is a little different and every situation needs a different treatment. Helping growers to maximize the power of Serifel will give confidence in biologicals and prove that BASF is a trusted leader in this segment.”

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Reuters

October 17, 2017 / 10:22 AM / 3 days ago

Harness ‘natural enemies’ to fight pests and protect crops: World Food Prize winner

 ROME (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – African farmers can lose up to half their harvest to pests, so storing their crops in chemically-treated storage sacks and metal silos can do a lot to boost a farmer’s income, agriculture experts say.

Although these are important, the most effective way of protecting the harvest is to stop crops from being infested in the field – without using pesticides, says World Food Prize laureate Hans Herren.

“The way post harvest loss is being dealt with now is a very short term view,” said Herren, who co-chaired a major World Bank and United Nations assessment of the state of agriculture involving more than 400 scientists, published in 2008.

“(If) what you put in your bags and silos has less infestation – maybe even none” then it doesn’t need to be treated with insecticides, he said.

According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), post-harvest food losses in sub-Saharan Africa total $4 billion a year – enough to feed at least 48 million people.

About 20 percent of cereal harvests, 40 to 50 percent of tubers, fruits and vegetables, 27 percent of oilseeds, meat and milk, and 33 percent of fish, are lost, FAO says.

Pests quickly develop resistance to insecticides, and need increasingly powerful – and toxic – chemicals to kill them, Herren said. “So we get into this treadmill which has no end to it. That’s not the way to do it.”

Herren, a Swiss entomologist and farmer, and his research team have experimented with different farming methods and found they could treble the production of maize or sorghum without pesticides, herbicides or fertilisers.

The method has been tested in Malawi, Kenya, Zambia and Tanzania.

They plant the main crop with a legume, a plant which is rich in nitrogen that feeds the soil. The legume keeps away weeds, attracts insects which destroy pests, and can eventually be used to feed cattle or chickens.

Wild grasses are planted around the edge of the field, which attract pests like stem borers before they reach the maize or sorghum. After the insects have laid their eggs in the grass, it can be used to feed cattle.

“You slowly deplete the environment of pest insects, and natural enemies usually get the ones who get through the barriers and end up on the maize,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Herren also found that pests were more likely to attack new varieties of maize and sorghum than traditional ones, which have evolved mechanisms to protect themselves.

One such mechanism kicks in when an insect bites a plant, at which point the plant releases a chemical that attracts predators that kill the attacking insect, he said.

“All plants have evolved some system (of defense), you just have to look for it,” Herren said.

 The fields are also better able to cope with floods and drought, he said. “In drought, all our fields were green and all the (surrounding fields) were brown. It’s striking,” he said.

Herren won the World Food Prize in 1995 for developing a chemical-free biological control for cassava mealybug that was threatening crops in Africa, averting a potential famine.

He said a new integrated form of farming was needed to curb planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions produced by conventional farming. Agriculture contributes about 24 percent of global emissions, a figure rising every year, according to FAO.

“I don’t see how we can survive unless we change this … Time is running away. Just look around, we can see it,” he said.

Reporting by Alex Whiting @Alexwhi, Editing by Ros Russell.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change, resilience, women’s rights, trafficking and property rights.

Editor’s note: Hans Herren is the founding president of the International Association for the Plant Protection Sciences (IAPPS) <www.plantprotection.org>

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