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Diamondback-moth

CAAS Scientists Develop GE Cabbage Resistant to Diamondback Moth

Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences researchers successfully incorporated a Bt gene into cabbage plants to improve resistance to destructive pest, diamondback moth (Plutella xylostella). The results of their study are published in Scientia Horticulturae.

The researchers used Agrobacterium tumefaciens-mediated transformation to develop transgenic cabbage plants with Bacillus thuringiensis cry1Ia8 gene. The resulting transgenic plants were able to control both susceptible and Cry1Ac-resistant diamondback moth larvae.Then they analyzed the expression and inheritance of the Bt gene in four single-copy lineages and their sexually derived progenies.

Results of the analyses showed that the transgene was successfully inserted in the genome of cabbage and the inheritance of the gene in the progenies followed the Mendelian segregation pattern. These results imply that the transgenic lines exhibiting stable inheritance can be used as donor in breeding programs for cabbage.

Read the research article for more information.

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Startups focus on the microbiome as an organic solution to increase crop yields

 

One of the multi-billion dollar problems facing the world these days is how to grow more food.

As the planet approaches adding another billion or more people, and as an increasing number of those people are wealthier than they’ve been before, the question of where our food comes from and how we raise it becomes more than an academic discussion, as farming is 10 percent of the world economy.

Venture investors, who are never known to shy away from throwing money at technological solutions for multi-billion dollar problems, have increasingly been turning their attention to the ag market.

These bets encompass everything from big data technologies to new sensing equipment, and… now… the study of the microbial life that surrounds all the things that grow in the dirt.

Biome science (as Vinod Khosla has told me) is an incredibly exciting area for investors to pursue, and one of the prime beneficiaries of this attention is a company in St. Louis called NewLeaf Symbiotics.

In fact, St. Louis is an emerging hub for all sorts of food and agricultural investment activity (a story for another time).

NewLeaf, which just closed on $6 million in new money to round out a $30 million round of funding, is one of a number of companies working at the forefront of agricultural technology research into the plant biome.

“There are going to be multiple winners in the category. It’s such a broad area,” says Sanjeev Krishnan, a managing director of S2G Ventures, an agriculture and food-focused fund whose main investor is the Walton family. “There are more things living under soil than on the surface of the entire planet, [so] there’s a lot of opportunity to figure out causality.”

For NewLeaf, the discovery of a bacteria that is found on pretty much everything that grows in the soil was the “eureka” moment that led to the company’s commercialization of technologies to ensure aspects of crop health.

It’s also what attracted S2G Ventures and The Yard, a fund comprised of Harvard alums that invest in companies with a connection to the university (in this case, the CFO is a Harvard graduate).

NewLeaf’s new round comes at a critical time for the company. It’s tripled the size of its R&D facility in St. Louis and is about to bring its first products to market.

The company’s first magic microbe is an additive to soybean seeds called rhizobia, and their second is a treatment for peanuts. Both are designed to make the seeds more resistant to disease and better able to withstand certain environmental conditions.

What makes all of this so compelling to both investors and big ag companies is the fact that none of these treatments involve genetic modification.

The bacteria are naturally occurring, and part of the special sauce to NewLeaf’s tech is the company’s index of thousands of different bacteria and their effects on plants, according to chief executive Tom Laurita.

“These bacteria are cost-free to the plant, because they use biological byproducts,” he says. “In some cases the bacteria are protection against a disease or predation. There might be a disease that an insect could turn into a viral disease in a particular plant, but bacteria could make that microbial disease harmless.

As S2G joins the company’s cap table, Laurita says it’s yet another sign that the technology is maturing and that companies from Monsanto (an earlier investor) to Walmart (through the Walton family’s fund) are recognizing the benefits of biome science.

“We’re at this nexus between the ag industry looking for cutting edge innovative, natural sustainable products and the consumer looking for the same thing,” Laurita tells me. “It’s the first time these two groups have invested in the same company. It’s a harbinger of how investment in ag and food might be changing.”

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In the busy streets of Hanoi, history was made last month. CABI Southeast Asia (CABI-SEA) signed a memorandum of understanding with Agricultural Multimedia Joint Stock Company (AgriMedia) – a private company working in the field of agriculture. As a pioneer in M2M applications in agriculture, AgriMedia was established in 2014 and aims to provide a […]

via Working with AgriMedia to address climate change in Vietnam — The Plantwise Blog

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The spread of pests and pathogens that damage plant life could cost global agriculture $540 billion a year, according to a report published on Thursday. The report, released by the Royal Botanic Gardens (RBG) at Kew in London, said that an increase in international trade and travel had left flora facing rising threats from invasive […]

via Pests and pathogens could cost agriculture billions — The Plantwise Blog

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How Kenya is soldiering on in war against armyworms – Daily Nation

The good, bad and ugly in fight against armyworms

Friday May 12 2017

Patrick Wanjala, a maize farmer in Namanjalala, Trans Nzoia County displays a maize plant attacked by armyworm in his farm.

Patrick Wanjala, a maize farmer in Namanjalala, Trans Nzoia County displays a maize plant attacked by armyworm in his farm. The pest has potential of causing famine since the larva not only feeds on staple food crops but also grass, pasture and any green vegetation. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By STANLEY KIMUGE
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From far, Malaki village, about some 6km from Kitale town in Kwanza in Trans Nzoia County, is lush green, with farms teeming with the maize crop. Nothing looks unusual at various fields but as one moves closer to the maize farms, a different story unravels.

The maize crop has been ravaged extensively by the fall armyworms, with the area being the worst affected by the pests.

Patrick Wanjala, a maize and beans farmer, bends for the umpteenth time looking at his crop. His face is forlorn showing the anguish and frustration that the pest has caused him.

“I have never seen anything like this before in my life as a farmer. I am not sure if I will harvest any maize this season.”

Under normal circumstances, he would have harvested between 60 and 70 90kg bags from his one-and-half-acres.

“It started with small holes on the plants’ leaves and I thought it was just the stem borer as that is the common pest here. I sprayed but nothing changed then reports of the armyworms having invaded the region filtered in,” recounts Wanjala.

In a bid to tame the notorious pest, Wanjala said he applied ash and even red soil as desperation set in.

“I tried that hoping that it would work but it was all in vain,” says Wanjala, whose crop was attacked some two months ago.

Then hope came when the government announced that it was coming up with measures to tackle the pest that is a threat to food security since it is destroying maize.

Armyworm has potential of causing famine since the larva not only feeds on staple food crops (maize, wheat, millets and sorghum) but also grass, pasture and any green vegetation mainly on the leaf lamina, leaving only the mid-rib

A team was set up at the county and national level to co-ordinate the fight against the worms.

But to date, Wanjala says he has not received any chemicals from either the county or national government as promised.

“I have been to the county offices several times hoping to get chemicals in vain. Two days ago I went there. More than 2,000 of us had turned up and the chemicals were not enough despite the little amounts they were giving,” says Wanjala, who is yet to spray any chemicals on his maize crop.

ONGOING RAINS

So far, according to the county government, some 15,000 acres of maize have been affected in the region, but the inspection of the fields is ongoing to ascertain exact figure.

The ravenous pest has fed on the “heart” of most of plants leading to stunted growth.

Trans Nzoia County, which is the country’s food basket has borne the brunt of the armyworm attack, with an estimated thousands acres of maize having been ravaged.

County’s chief agriculture officer Mary Nzomo says the county is distributing chemicals to farmers to contain the situation, though they are not enough.

“We have been able to spray about 10,000 acres out of the over 15,000 affected by the pest,” says Nzomo, noting an adult worm lays up to 2,000 eggs and it’s important to kill them before they become adults to avoid spreading. Besides spraying, she says the county has taken other measures to curb spread, which include sensitisation of farmers.

Maize crop attacked by the pest in a farm.

Maize crop attacked by the pest in a farm. Normally, the pests feed in the evenings and early morning. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

“We are holding public barazas where we also distribute educational flyers and we do on-farm demonstrations. We are currently holding talks on FM radios as well as print and broadcast media to spread the message,” she says.

She notes despite promise by the national government that they will get chemicals since it recommended the spraying be done three times, no pesticides have been distributed to them and in the nearby Uasin Gishu County.

“Those farmers that have sprayed have noticed the chemicals are working. What we are telling farmers is that if you spot the pest in your area, you need to spray all maize plants including those that have not been attacked to avoid re-infestation,” says Nzomo.

Other factors are also hampering the struggle to eradicate the pest including the rains.

“Sunny and humid conditions help control multiplication of the pest but with the ongoing rains, it becomes a challenge to spray. Normally, the pests feed in the evenings and early morning and this is the time we are asking farmers to spray, but with the heavy rains, when they spray the chemicals are washed away.”

The farmers have been advised to spray at least three times in two weeks after germination, when the crops are knee-high and during the formation of the tarsals (about the flowering stage) to control the pest.

SALVAGE CROPS

Last month, Trans Nzoia set aside Sh45 million while Uasin Gishu Sh2 million to fight the pest.

“This was to cover about 20 per cent of farmers, mainly small-scale. On average, the cost of spraying is about Sh2,000 per acre but we are assisting to do one spraying for farmers,” says Nzomo.

Joseph Cheboi, Uasin Gishu County Director of Agriculture, says that four out of six sub counties have reported armyworm infestation, with Soy and Moiben that border Trans Nzoia County being worst hit.

Bernard Kimuiguei, a farmer in Kipsombe in Soy, says that his 20 out of 40 acres under maize has been affected.

“I was given some chemicals by the county officials but they were too little. I have to dig deeper into my pockets and it is really costly,” he says.

Dr Victoria Tarus, county chief officer in-charge of agriculture, says approximately 600 acres have been infested but they are distributing chemicals to farmers.

Robert Aluda, a farmer in Namanjalala Trans Nzoia, says besides the failure to get pesticides, lack of information on how to control the pest is also the biggest setback.

Trans Nzoia County Deputy Governor Stanley Tarus, Agriculture Chief Officer in the county Mary Nzomo and farmers during the launch of Fall Armyworm Management Campaign

Trans Nzoia County Deputy Governor Stanley Tarus, Agriculture Chief Officer in the county Mary Nzomo and farmers during the launch of Fall Armyworm Management Campaign in the county on May 09, 2017. Farmers whose maize crop had been infested were given pesticides to fight the invasion. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

“If we knew from the beginning what the pest was and how to eradicate it, we would have salvaged our crops. We just heard on the radio that a pest had crossed the Kenya-Uganda border but we thought it won’t be that destructive so we did not act fast,” says Aluda, who took a bank loan of Sh50,000 and sank into the maize farm.

But it is not all gloom. Charles Sawe from Moiben says he bought himself chemicals recommended by agricultural extension officers and he has been able to clear the worms on his expansive farm.

He says that only few farmers have received the government chemicals.

UNDER CONTROL

The government recommended the following chemicals; Duduthrin, Twigapyrifos, Belt, Match, Ranger, Loyalty, Integra, Orthene, Jackpot, Imaxi. They are also using cocktails and are working well.

Other chemicals include Chlorpyrfos, Alpha Cypermerthrin , Indoxarb, Di Ubenzuron, Clorantraniliprole and Spinetoram.

At the Coast, where there was African armyworm attack, farmers have reported success in eradication of the pest. In Taita Taveta County, the armyworms invaded Njukini and Challa within the agriculturally rich Kasigau-Maktau belt and some parts of Mwatate.

Agriculture chief officer Evans Mbinga said the worms invaded 25 hectares under maize crop as well as some ranches. “At least 60 farmers were affected by the armyworms invasion, which followed rains after a prolonged drought. Following the rains, new grass sprang up and it created a conducive environment for the armyworms to multiply,” he explains.

The agriculture official says the county has brought the armyworm invasion under control after spraying pesticides on affected farms. “County field officers teamed up with farmers in spraying the pesticide known as Cypermetherin which wiped off the armyworms.”

Joseph Ivuso, a farmer in Taita, whose 2.5 acres of maize were invaded says he eradicated the pest with the help of county agricultural officers.

In Kwale County, the director of agriculture David Wanjala says the armyworms invaded 25 acres of maize in Lunga Lunga.

However, he noted that the pests did not cause a big damage. “When the farmers planted maize, the moths were at pupae stage in the soil, so when the rains started pounding the region they easily drowned.”

But despite the rains wiping away the pests, Wanjala says the county is expected to receive 1,000 litres of pesticide from the national government next week, which would be used in case the worms reappear.

Additional reporting by Mathias Ringa

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Springtail Is an Unexpected Vegetable Pest | Growing Produce May 14, 2017

Springtail Is an Unexpected Vegetable Pest

In the vegetable fields in California’s northern Salinas Valley, a springtail species (Protaphorura fimata) feeds on the germinating lettuce and broccoli seeds, which lead to poor crop stand. Photo from Shimat Joseph

You normally would not think of springtails — which are found in diverse habitats such as pastures, compost pits, and agriculture lands — as much of a pest. They can be nuisance organisms, but are rarely considered a pest that cause economic damage.

Springtails are generally considered to be beneficial creatures because they help break down decaying plant material by feeding and excreting, thereby participating in the nutrient cycle, which in turn helps improve soil health and structure.

In the vegetable fields in California’s northern Salinas Valley, however, one springtail species (Protaphorura fimata) feeds on the germinating lettuce and broccoli seeds, which lead to poor crop stand.

A few other springtail species have been associated with feeding germinating seeds such as sugar beet, bean and weeds. Also, lucerne flea (Sminthurus viridis) and garden springtail (Bourletiella hortensis) attack the foliage of several plant species, including lucerne and clover.

The springtail species Protaphorura fimata. Photo from Shimat Joseph.

Quick Facts on Protaphorura fimata

Physical characteristics. The springtail that attacks germinating lettuce seeds is less than 2.5 mm long, white, lacks eyes and the jumping organ found in most springtails, the furcular. That means, when disturbed, it does not jump, but instead curls up.

Reproduction. It is unclear if this springtail reproduces after mating. A closely related species has been reported to reproduce without mating.

Origins. Although the same species is present in Europe, there were no detection from agricultural areas. Also, it is not clear whether this springtail was introduced to the U.S. from Europe, or vice versa.

Control Tips

Timing. Germinating seeds (one- or two-day-old lettuce seedlings) are the most vulnerable stage to springtail feeding, resulting in reduction in seedling growth. Thus, it appears that once the roots are established in the soil, lettuce is less susceptible to springtail feeding injury.

Because the germinating phase of the plants is more likely to be injured, springtail monitoring activity should start prior to planting the seeds to determine the presence of springtail in the soil.

The role of temperature. Typically, insects are not very active in cooler temperatures. The springtail, however, is active and feeds on plant tissue at temperatures as low as 41°F, even though seeds germinate slowly in the cooler temperatures.

This suggests that lettuce seedlings might require prolonged protection from springtail, with additional insecticide sprays until the seedlings are established in the cooler temperatures, especially in spring and early summer (January to May).

In the later part of summer, an at-plant application of insecticide is likely to provide adequate springtail control and multiple applications may not be required.

Baits. Beet or potato slice baits attract springtail if placed in the top layer of the soil; thus, these baits could be used for monitoring springtail activity in the soil. If the soil is not moist, the baits may not capture springtails and their activity may go undetected.

Impact of soil moisture. Lettuce fields are heavily irrigated at least once before and up to three weeks after planting the seeds for uniform seed germination and seedling establishment. High moisture content in the soil will favor springtail feeding on the germinating lettuce seeds. In the Salinas Valley, before the lettuce seeds are planted, fields are pre-irrigated to aid land preparation and bed shaping. It has been observed that the springtail density increased from the sub-surface of soil when the field was recently irrigated or after a rain event. This cultural practice which maintains high moisture levels for seed germination on the sub-surface profiles of the soil might be favoring the faster buildup of springtail populations.

Controls. Studies suggest that management of springtails may not be that difficult. Pyrethroid (zeta-cypermethrin, bifenthrin, lambda-cyhalothrin) and neonicotinoid insecticides (dinotefuran, thiamethoxam, and clothianidin), as well as chlorpyrifos, tolfenpyrad, and spinetoram were effective in reducing springtail feeding on germinating lettuce seeds.

As an IPM approach, these insecticides should be used along with a proper monitoring program (i.e., using beet or potato slice baits).

The effectiveness of insecticide use can be enhanced by properly timing the application at planting the seeds

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By Sam Otieno. Reblogged from SciDevNet A facility has been launched in Kenya to aid commercial production of a protein bait to control fruit flies in Sub-Saharan Africa. The US$250,000 facility, which resulted from public-private partnership involving the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe) and Kenya Biologics Ltd, will enable smallholders control fruit flies that devastate their fruits […]

via Kenya gets new production facility to control crop pest — The Plantwise Blog

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