Archive for the ‘Emerging/invasive pests’ Category

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

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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.

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

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Feel the Vibe: Study Shows Spotted Lanternflies Sense Acoustic Stimuli


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.



Got Spotted Lanternfly Eggs on Your Tree? Send ‘Em Through the Wood Chipper

June 20, 2018

The Spotted Lanternfly: An Invasive Insect that is Beautiful but Threatening

December 4, 2014

Spotted Lanternfly: States Urge Citizens to Report Sightings of Invasive Insect Hitchhiker

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 Grahame Jackson


 Sydney NSW, Australia

 For your information


New film aims to educate community on wide ranging impacts of Myrtle rust

Mirage News

A new film showcasing the wide-ranging impacts of the tree fungus Myrtle rust across Australia’s native environment hopes to generate better community awareness about the disease.

Myrtle rust, which now affects more than 380 Australian native species, is having significant cultural, social and ecological effects on Australia’s native environment – with at least 16 species predicted to become extinct within a generation.

The film has been produced through a combined NSW, Queensland and Commonwealth government-funded initiative, and draws on stories of Indigenous rangers, scientists and landowners’ experiences about the disease’s impact on our precious species and landscapes.

NSW DPI Forestry’s Leader Forest Health and Biosecurity, Dr Angus Carnegie, said the film’s important message included the work carried out to date to future proof vital ecosystems.

“So much effort has gone into managing this destructive disease, and by educating the community, they too can play a part in our control efforts,” he said.

“In the film we learn about efforts to bring species back from the brink of extinction and the value of protecting our unique ecosystems from biosecurity threats for generations to come.

“Time is very short for some species that are severely impacted by Myrtle rust, but there are meaningful conservation actions that can still be taken.

Dr Carnegie said the impacts of myrtle rust on Indigenous Communities are broader than just ecological and industry values as Country, Culture and Community are all connected.

He said global interconnectedness is increasing the risk of new threats to Australia’s irreplaceable biological heritage – exotic plant and animal diseases to which native Australian biota may have no adaptive resistance.

“Some of these diseases are broad-spectrum, affecting many native species.

“Myrtle rust is a threat of this type. This plant disease, caused by an introduced fungal pathogen, affects plant species in the Myrtle family (Myrtaceae), which includes paperbarks, tea trees, eucalypts, and lillypillies. These are key, and often dominant, species in many Australian ecosystems.”

People interested in seeing the film, which was launched nationally this week can see the trailer here, and the full film here here.

Partners in the film initiative include: NSW Department of Primary Industries, NSW Department of Planning and Environment (Saving Our Species), Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Australian Network for Plant Conservation, Plant Biosecurity Science Foundation, Butchulla Land and Sea Ranger, San Diego Zoo, and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.


  • Myrtle rust, caused by the exotic fungus Austropuccinia psidii, is native to South America. It was first detected in Australia in April 2010 in NSW, spreading rapidly to other parts of Australia.
  • The disease affects plant species in the family Myrtaceae and attacks new growth, with symptoms developing quickly on new shoots, and young leaves and stems.
  • Myrtle rust is already affecting more than 380 Australian species, with sixteen species predicted to become extinct within a generation and many more are in decline.
  • A National Action Plan for Myrtle Rust in Australia identifies the priority research and actions needed to tackle the environmental impacts of the pathogen

/Public Release. This material from the originating organization/author(s) may be of a point-in-time nature, edited for clarity, style and length. The views and opinions expressed are those of the author(s).View in full here.



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Sunday, 06 November 2022 09:58:58


Grahame Jackson posted a new submission ‘Banana freckle eradication plan to continue ‘


Banana freckle eradication plan to continue

Mirage News

NT Government
The Northern Territory’s plant biosecurity team will continue with a plan to eradicate banana freckle following its detection on a second commercial property.

Members of the plant biosecurity team from the Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade met with the Consultative Committee on Emergency Plant Pests on Wednesday where it was agreed that it was still feasible to eradicate the disease.

The team will now redraft a Response Plan for approval by the National Management Group later this month.

The detection of banana freckle on the second commercial property triggered a review of the response plan.

As a result, the plant biosecurity team will continue with its work to remove banana plants from infected properties.

So far infected plants have been removed from 14 properties. There have been 48 total banana freckle detections since May, of which 42 are located in the Batchelor and Rum Jungle region.

/Public Release. This material from the originating organization/author(s) may be of a point-in-time nature, edited for clarity, style and length. The views and opinions expressed are those of the author(s).View in full here.

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Weevil may save Great Britain up to £16.8m a year in management of invasive aquatic fern


Weevil may save Great Britain up to £16.8m a year in management of invasive aquatic fern
The invasive aquatic fern Azolla filiculoides. Credit: CABI

A new CABI-led study suggests that a tiny weevil (Stenopelmus rufinasus) has huge benefits in saving Great Britain up to £16.8m in annual management costs of the invasive aquatic fern Azolla filiculoides.

The research, published in the journal CABI Agriculture and Bioscience, estimates that without any biocontrol the expected yearly costs of managing A. filiculoides would range from £8.4m to £16.9m.

The scientists say that the impacts of naturalized S. rufinasus populations on A. filiculoides alone could be expected to reduce management costs to £800,000 to £1.6m a year.

However, they estimate A. filiculoides management costs to be lower still due to additional augmentative releases of the weevil that take place each summer, resulting in annual management costs of £31,500 to £45,800.

Azolla filiculoides, a type of floating water fern, was introduced to Great Britain at the end of the 19th century for ornamental use in ponds and aquaria. But its introduction into the wild has meant it has spread rapidly throughout England and Wales and to a lesser degree, Scotland.

The invasive aquatic fern outcompetes native species by forming a dense covering on the surface of the water. It blocks out light and can also deoxygenate water. A. filiculoides can also block canals, drains and overflows and may lead to an increased risk of flooding. It can affect irrigation systems—both by blocking their water supply and by reducing water quality.

It has been banned from sale in England and Wales since April 2014.

Its specialist natural enemy, S. rufinasus, was first recorded in 1921. It is suspected to have been introduced from America as a stowaway on A. filiculoides. Stenopelmus rufinasus is also reported to be present in numerous additional European countries where A. filiculoides is present.

The study sought to estimate the management cost savings resulting from the presence of S. rufinasus as a biocontrol agent in Great Britain. This includes the value of additional augmentative releases of the weevil made since the mid-2000s, compared with the expected costs of control in the absence of S. rufinasus.

Corin Pratt, lead author and Invasive Species Management Researcher at CABI, said, “The unintentional introduction of the weevil S. rufinasus to Great Britain is estimated to have resulted in millions of pounds of savings annually in management costs for A. filiculoides.

“Additional augmentative releases of the weevil provide further net cost savings, tackling A. filiculoides outbreaks and bolstering naturalized populations.

“The use of herbicides in the aquatic environment is likely greatly reduced due to A. filiculoides biocontrol. Although somewhat climate-limited at present in Great Britain, climate change may result in even more effective biocontrol of A. filiculoides by S. rufinasus.

“This has been observed in warmer regions such as South Africa, where the plant is no longer considered a threat since the introduction of S. rufinasus.”

The scientists conclude by arguing that in the absence of the specialist weevil S. rufinasus, A. filiculoides could be expected to be the dominant aquatic macrophyte in Great Britain. This would require extensive, costly management and likely widespread use of herbicides in the aquatic environment.

They state that the estimated benefit to cost ratio of augmentative S. rufinasus releases to be of 43.7:1 to 88.4:1.

More information: Corin F. Pratt et al, A century of Azolla filiculoides biocontrol: the economic value of Stenopelmus rufinasus to Great Britain, CABI Agriculture and Bioscience (2022). DOI: 10.1186/s43170-022-00136-0

Provided by CABI

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Team IDs invasive tree dispersal patterns on Great Plains prairies

Nebraska Today


by Scott Schrage | University Communication and Marketing

Nebraska Sandhills

Craig Chandler | University Communication and Marketing

Cattle graze in the Sandhills near Whitman, Nebraska.


As woody vegetation marches across grasslands — encroaching on prairies that wildlife and ranchers alike have come to depend on — ecologists are studying exactly how that invasive vegetation is populating and transforming formerly intact landscapes.

Mitigating the spread of invasive vegetation, including the eastern redcedar tree now threatening Nebraska’s prairies, means understanding the dispersal of seeds that eventually mature into new trees and bear seeds of their own. To date, though, no studies have analyzed how that dispersal may be shaping the patterns of encroachment seen on the Great Plains.

So what?

Husker researchers Dillon Fogarty, Dirac Twidwell and Robert Peterson recently investigated the issue at two sites in the Nebraska Sandhills: the Nebraska National Forest at Halsey and the Samuel R. McKelvie National Forest near Valentine. Both forests were hand-planted in the early 1900s and remain surrounded by the mixed-grass prairie native to the area.

Dillon Fogarty


The team began by randomly picking five treeless points around each of the two forests, then drawing lines from each of those 10 points to the nearest eastern redcedar planting — the oldest feasible source of seeds in the respective vicinity. Fogarty, Twidwell and Peterson proceeded to walk those 10 transects while marking the location, sex and height of any eastern redcedar tree they encountered. By using tree height as a proxy for age, the researchers were able to chronicle the encroachment of eastern redcedar over time.

Of the 961 eastern redcedar trees sampled by the team, more than half were growing within just 40 feet of the nearest seed-bearing tree, with their density declining rapidly beyond that distance. And more than 95% were located within 200 yards of the nearest seed source, delineating a zone in which grasslands are most vulnerable to woodland conversion.

Though most eastern redcedar occurred near seed sources, the farthest-flung outliers were found more than half a mile from those sources. The team suspects that the long-distance outliers stem from grassland birds foraging on eastern redcedar’s berry-like cones before flying to areas of treeless prairie and expelling the seeds.

Mature eastern redcedar trees produce up to 1.5 million seeds a year. Fogarty said the species’ one-two punch — with local seed dispersal driving swift conversion to woodland as long-distance outliers speed expansion across large tracts of land — makes eastern redcedar a serious threat to Nebraska’s prairies.

Now what?

Efforts to defend Nebraska’s already under-siege prairie against the further encroachment of eastern redcedar should especially focus on areas within 200 yards of mature trees, the researchers said. At the same time, managers should keep an eye on treeless expanses residing far from invasive vegetation. Early detection and rapid responses that eradicate the long-distance outliers from remote tracts will prove critical to safeguarding what remains of Nebraska’s pristine prairie, the team said.






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Davao del Norte banana farmers shift to corn due to Panama disease

A local executive from Davao del Norte has called on the Filipino national government to help small-scale banana farmers address the onslaught of Fusarium wilt or Panama disease. Mayor Roland Dejesica said the Panama disease has reached alarming levels, forcing farmers to shift to corn and endangering the long term viability of the town’s banana industry.

According to Dejesica, the town of Santo Tomas accounts for at least 70 percent of the total banana planted areas in Davao del Norte. About half of that area, he said, has been converted as corn plantation. For that he reason, he warned, the province’s billion dollar earner commodity of the province is on the brink of dying, because the Fusarium wilt has not yet been thoroughly addressed.

“We already asked the national government to look at our banana industry situation. We hope that they will extend help,” Dejesica said. He asks for the government to establish a research center, in order to study and understand the causes of Panama disease.

Source: pna.gov.ph

Publication date: Fri 28 Oct 2022

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Plan to eliminate ToBRFV published

The Nederlandse Voedsel- en Warenautoriteit (Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority) has published a plan of action to eliminate the persistent Tomato Brown Rugose Fruit Virus at an infected cultivation site.

According to the latest official figures as of 1 June 2022, 41 growers in the Netherlands are infected. By far, the most infections are in the municipality of Westland. A total of 57 growers have faced infection since the first outbreak in mid-2019. Only 12 growers managed to eliminate the virus, of which another two had to deal with a new virus introduction regardless.

In Belgium, at least 15 growers have already faced an infection.

View the elimination plan published by the NVWA here.

Publication date: Wed 26 Oct 2022

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Crop disease hits production of sweet potato shochu

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Hamadasyuzou CEO Yuichiro Hamada talks about the situation facing sweet potato shochu makers in Ichikikushikino, Kagoshima Prefecture, in September.

By Masahiro Kozono / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer

15:17 JST, October 29, 2022

KAGOSHIMA — A crop disease has caused a chronic shortage of sweet potatoes, forcing producers of shochu made from the tuber to raise prices and suspend sales.

Stem rot was first confirmed in Japan four years ago. Since then, the sweet potato harvest has decreased by about 30% over three years, with no signs of the infection easing.

Shochu distiller Hamadasyuzou in Ichikikushikino, Kagoshima Prefecture, has suspended sales of some of its products. “I never thought there would be this much of a sweet potato shortage,” said Yuichiro Hamada, the CEO of the company.

Soaring prices of fuel and materials such as packaging supplies are also hurting the company. The distiller raised the prices of its shochu by about 8% on Oct. 1. “We had no option but to raise prices,” Hamada said.

Stem rot was discovered about 100 years ago in the United States before spreading to South America. In recent years, it has also been confirmed in China and South Korea.

Courtesy of the Kagoshima prefectural government
Sweet potatoes affected by stem rot

It was detected in Okinawa and Kagoshima prefectures in 2018 and has now been confirmed in 27 prefectures in Japan, including Tokyo. The spread of the disease has been attributed to the distribution of infected seed potatoes and seedlings.

Kagoshima Prefecture, which boasts the largest sweet potato production in the nation, harvested 278,300 tons in 2018, but the figure has decreased every year since then, slumping to 190,600 tons in 2021, down by 30% from 2018.

According to the Kagoshima prefectural government, stem rot has been confirmed at least once in as much as 75% of the farmland in the prefecture. As a result, the size of the harvest has decreased and prices have gone up.

The situation is a massive blow to sweet potato shochu producers.

Shochu makers started raising prices in spring, with the price of a bottle going up by about 10%, according to the Kagoshima Shochu Makers Association and others.

Satsuma Shuzo in Makurazaki, Kagoshima Prefecture, raised prices by an average of 8% in October. Most manufacturers in the prefecture will likely follow suit by the end of the year.

The nation’s largest distributor of sweet potato shochu, Kirishima Shuzo Co. in Miyakonojo, Miyazaki Prefecture, raised the price of its mainstay Kuro Kirishima in September. In October, Unkai Shuzo Co. in Miyazaki City also increased its prices.

Efforts to stop the rot

The central government and the Kagoshima prefectural governments are urging farmers and others to install a vapor heat treatment system that disinfects seed potatoes, and equipment costs are being subsidized.

Pathogen-free seedlings are also thought to be an effective way to combat the disease.

A national research organization has developed a new sweet potato variety called michishizuku, which shows high disease resistance and has a flavor similar to that of koganesengan, a mainstay variety used to make shochu.

However, the association believes the tough times will likely continue for a while as it will take at least three years for these measures to bear fruit.

Shochu made from sweet potato grown in Kagoshima Prefecture, part of which comprised an old province called Satsuma, has been marketed as Satsuma Shochu since 2005 under Japan’s Geographical Indication system.

However, Kagoshima producers have expressed concern that the current situation will have an impact on the reputation of the regional label. Some have told the association they will have no option but to use sweet potatoes produced outside the prefecture if the situation continues.

“The ‘brand’ we have built will be severely affected,” said Hamada, who heads the association. “If consumers continue to shift away from Satsuma Shochu, it could get even worse. We have no choice but to strive to develop products consumers will choose even after we raise prices.”

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HLB and Canker Incidence Increasing in Brazil


The average incidence of HLB rose from 22.37% in 2021 to 24.42% in 2022 in Brazil’s citrus belt, an annual survey by Fundecitrus shows. That’s an increase of 9.16%.

Inadequate psyllid control is a major reason that HLB is on the rise in Brazil.

In the regions of Brotas, Limeira and Porto Ferreira, where the incidence was already high in previous years, HLB increased to even more worrying levels of 49.41%, 70.72% and 74.05%, respectively. HLB is also commonly called greening disease.

“We are seeing the disease grow at a worrying speed,” said Fundecitrus General Manager Juliano Ayres. “However … the results obtained in properties in regions that have registered a decline or stabilization of the disease reinforce our confidence that the measures to combat greening are effective. This has always been the way and always will be, until we manage to reach plants resistant to the disease. However, we need more efforts” to control HLB.


Fundecitrus reported that most regions have a favorable climate for HLB. Additionally, most regions have a high density of orchards and a large number of medium and small properties. Those factors make it difficult to coordinate joint actions for the regional management of the disease.

Most importantly though, Fundecitrus stated, in most orchards in production, diseased trees are not being eliminated, and control of HLB-spreading psyllids has been inadequate. Inefficient spraying has also contributed to the increase in HLB.

“This work has not been done with the necessary frequency, especially in the sprouting seasons,” said Fundecitrus researcher Renato Bassanezi. “Failures in spray coverage have also been observed, mainly at the top of the canopy of adult trees and in dense orchards.”

Also impairing the effectiveness of psyllid control is the repetitive use of insecticides from the pyrethroid group without adequate rotation with insecticides with other modes of action, Fundecitrus stated. That has led to the detection of psyllid resistance to the pyrethroid group in some places.


The Fundecitrus survey also showed growth in the incidence of canker in orchards. According to the new survey, the disease is present in 18.77% of the trees, an increase of 74.44%.

Canker accounts for just 0.21% of fruit drop across the citrus belt. The low rate is related to studies carried out by Fundecitrus that adjust the use of copper in the management of the disease. That adjustment doesn’t impact the effectiveness of the treatment and generates savings of 56% in the amount of product used per hectare.


The incidence of CVC remains low throughout Brazil’s citrus industry, with an incidence of just 0.80% in 2022. About 20 years ago, the disease was present in 46% of the trees. The significant reduction is mainly due to the evolution of research and management practices disseminated by Fundecitrus.

Source: Fundecitrus

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