Archive for the ‘Emerging/invasive pests’ Category

Graduate Students in Nepal Uncover the Impacts of Climate Change and Invasive Weed Species Spread

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Integrated Pest Management Innovation Lab

Jul 27, 2021

Anju Sharma Paudel
Anju Sharma Paudel

This post is written by Sara Hendery, communications coordinator for the Feed the Future Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Innovation Lab

Virginia Tech’s Feed the Future IPM Innovation Lab is celebrating the work of 27 students funded by one of its projects. 

The IPM Innovation Lab collaborates with Tribhuvan University and the University of Virginia’s Biocomplexity Institute to assess the spread of invasive weeds over the last 30 years — based on elevation and under different climate scenarios — in central Nepal. The project has found that as climate change events continue to occur, invasive weeds are spreading faster and higher than ever before. 

Over the course of this six-year project, many research findings have been uncovered by graduate students supported by the project’s funding. Post-graduation, those students are now working at high levels within the Nepal government, universities and the private sector. They have also participated in more than 45 international and national conference presentations and published more than three dozen research papers in national and international scientific journals, with more being developed.

“Student research, with the guidance of experts and advisors, has been at the helm of some of the most exciting research to come out of this project,” said Pramod Jha, Professor Emeritus at Tribhuvan University and the project lead. “Some have uncovered, for example, incredibly valuable biocontrol options for some of Nepal’s most pressing invasive weed issues as well as assessed the shrinking land availability of critical food crops communities depend on. These students are just at the beginning of recognizing the long-term impacts of climate change and this initial research will propel them into future careers where they can actually see their work come to life.”

Take, for example, soon-to-be graduate Seerjana Maharjan. Maharjan is earning her Ph.D. from Tribhuvan University, researching the ecology and management of the invasive weed Parthenium hysterophorus, which causes human, animal and environmental health issues. Her research considers the possibility of winter rust as a biocontrol agent of parthenium and projects the increased suitable habitat of parthenium under future climate scenarios. Post-graduation, Maharjan will serve as a scientific officer in Nepal’s Department of Plant Resources, Ministry of Forest and Environment

Dol Raj Luitel also works as a senior scientific officer in Nepal’s Department of Plant Resources, Ministry of Forestry and Environment. Earning his Ph.D. at Tribhuvan University, Luitel’s research explores the impact of climate change on distribution, production and cropping patterns of finger millet and buckwheat along altitudinal gradients in Nepal. His research assesses the medicinal value of finger millet, the declining habitat of buckwheat under future climate scenarios, and the important nutrients that can be found in finger millet and soil at varying elevations.

Ghanshyam Bhandari earned his Ph.D. from the Agriculture and Forestry University, researching insect diversity of maize and eco-friendly management practices of maize stemborers. Bhandari’s research also assesses the performance of traps for capturing maize insects and farmer perception of climate change in relation to maize cultivation. As a current research officer at the Nepal Agricultural Research Council (NARC), Bhandari is assisting the IPM Innovation Lab in developing biological control efforts of the invasive fall armyworm in Nepal. 

Hom Nath Giri earned a Ph.D. from the Agriculture and Forestry University and currently serves as an assistant professor of horticulture at his alma mater. His research explores the growth of cauliflower at different ecological zones in Nepal, the effect of nitrogen on the post-harvest quality of cauliflower, and efficacy testing of pesticides against the cabbage butterfly in Nepal.

Anju Sharma Paudel earned a Ph.D. from Tribhuvan University, her research focusing on the management of the invasive weed Ageratina adenophora. Post-graduation, Paudel is continuing to develop her research, predicting the current and future distribution of Ageratina adenophora in Nepal and whether stem-galling of the invasive weed by the biocontrol agent Procecidochares utilis is elevation dependent.

The IPM Innovation Lab supported Ram Asheswar Mandal, a postdoctoral student at Tribhuvan University, over the course of the program. Mandal’s research assesses the impacts of climate change and biological invasion on livelihoods.

The IPM Innovation Lab has also supported 21 master’s-level students in the same project, many of whom now work as agricultural officers for the Nepal government or as lecturers at local universities.

Muni Muniappan, director of the IPM Innovation Lab, said the involvement of students in this project is a win-win for both students and research.

“Students are eager to address the biggest problems of our time,” he said, “whether it be food insecurity, resource limitations, climate change impacts or other constraints. Students bring to these global challenges new perspectives and out-of-the-box thinking that is exactly what is needed to help move the science forward. In return, they receive real-life, hands-on experience in their own country as well as other countries, which further nurtures their problem-solving abilities.”

Graduating master’s students funded by the project includes:

  • Sagar Khadka, Tribhuvan University: Decomposition of Eichhornia crassipes of different fungi in Chitwan Annapurna Landscape, Nepal. 
  • Bidya Shrestha, Tribhuvan University: Impacts of climate change on biodiversity utilization by smallholder farmers. 
  • Pristi Dangol, Tribhuvan University: Changes in the life history traits of the invasive weed Lantana camara in central Nepal.
  • Yashoda Panthi, Tribhuvan University: Diversity of invasive alien plant species and their impacts on provisioning services in a village of Lamjung district. 
  • Ganga Shah, Tribhuvan University: Distribution of vulture species and its nest site from lowland to highland in Chitwan Annapurna Landscape, Nepal.
  • Vishubha Thapa, Tribhuvan University: Food access and threats to vultures in Chitwan Annapurna Landscape, Nepal. 
  • Vivekanand Mahat, Agriculture and Forestry University: Hygiene behavior of the honey bee (Apis cerana. F. and Apis mellifera L.) and diversity of flower visitors in rapeseed (Brassica campestris var. toria). 
  • Sarita Sapkota, Agriculture and Forestry University: Relative abundance of dung beetles and their role in nutrient cycling in Terai and mid hills of Nepal. 
  • Ramesh Upreti, Agriculture and Forestry University: Fruit thinning and defoliation effects on the quality and yield of papaya (Carica papaya) cv. Red Lady under net house conditions at Chitwan. 
  • Madhu Sudan Ghimire, Agriculture and Forestry University: Evaluation of indigenous cultivation of potato against late blight (Phytopthora infestance L.) in Okhaldhunga, Nepal.
  • Pratiksha Sharma, Agriculture and Forestry University: Climate resilient maize production among Chepang and non-Chepang communities in Chitwan, Nepal. 
  • Srijana Paudel, Tribhuvan University: Spatio-temporal distribution of Mikania micrantha in Chitwan Annapurna Landscape, Nepal. 
  • Abhisek Singh, Tribhuvan University: Spatio-temporal distribution of Ipomea carnea ssp fistulosa and spatio-temporal distribution of Lantana camara in Chitwan Annapurna Landscape, Nepal. 
  • Sita Gyawali, Tribhuvan University: Spatio-temporal distribution of Chromolaena odorata in Chitwan Annapurna Landscape, Nepal. 
  • Sandeep Dhakal, Tribhuvan University: Spatio-temporal distribution of Lantana camara in Chitwan Annapurna Landscape, Nepal. 
  • Sanjeev Bhandari, Tribhuvan University: Climate change and its impacts on fodder availability in Puranchaur, Kaski district.
  • Himal Yonjon, Tribhuvan University: Spatio-temporal distribution of Eichhornea crassipes in Chitwan Annapurna Landscape, Nepal. 
  • Chandra Paudel, Tribhuvan University: Impacts of Lantana camara on associated species. 
  • Binod Malla, Tribhuvan University: Impacts of Mikania micrantha on associated species. 
  • Aarati Chand, Tribhuvan University: Impacts of Parthenium hysterophorus on associated species. 
  • Nitu Joshi, Tribhuvan University: Impacts of  Chromolaena odorata on associated species.

This invasive weed modeling project is one of nine projects the IPM Innovation Lab currently manages. Since the program’s inception in 1993, it has funded the research of more than 600 students worldwide.FILED UNDER:AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTIVITYCLIMATE AND NATURAL RESOURCESEDUCATION AND EXTENSION




Satellites Capture Spread of “Mile-a-Minute Weed” from Space for Improved Food Security on the Ground


Mapping Climate Change, Invasive Species, and Semblances of Hope


IPM Program Prepares Farming Communities in Nepal for Impacts of a Changing Climate


2020 Integrated Pest Management Research, Data and Findings: A Look Back

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Fall armyworms eating rice leaves in a flooded field. Entomologists seek emergency-use exemption to help rice growers in ‘epic’ battle against armyworms.

Mary Hightower, U of A System Division of Agriculture | Jul 22, 2021SUGGESTED EVENT

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University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture entomologists are seeking an emergency exemption to allow for the use of Intrepid to help control armyworms that threaten the state’s 1.24 million acres of rice. 

“This is the biggest outbreak of fall armyworm situation that I’ve ever seen in my career,” Gus Lorenz, extension entomologist for the Division of Agriculture, said Wednesday. “They’re in pastures, rice, soybeans, grain sorghum. It’s epic.”https://d4100051ff2b64e2ac90e81feaf8c9c5.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

Lorenz said the Section 18 request to enable use of Intrepid should be submitted to the Arkansas State Plant Board by Friday.

Intrepid is a growth regulator that’s approved for use in just about every other row crop but is not labeled for use in rice.

“This armyworm thing started about three to four weeks ago,” he said. “It’s continued to build from that time. It’s from the Boot heel of Missouri down to Louisiana.”

Eaten to the ground

Gus Lorenz51326207237_6519faedbd_o.png

Sweep net full of armyworms. Taken July 21, 2021.Lorenz said he received a call from a producer in “south Arkansas, that they’d eaten his bermudagrass pasture to the ground. It was a 30- to 40-acre pasture. And he wasn’t even calling about the pasture. He was calling about his rice crop. He said his rice was being eaten to the ground.”

“Fall armyworm is a particularly voracious caterpillar,” said Jarrod Hardke, extension rice agronomist for the Division of Agriculture. “They have a tendency to surprise us because adults lay very large egg masses but the earliest instar larvae eat very little. It’s not until they get older and start to spread out that they consume most of the food in their life cycle.

“This is why we go from zero to TREAT seemingly overnight,” Hardke said.

Why a Section 18?

51327145063_f633537f6a_o.jpgExtension entomologist Nick Bateman examines a rice field in Jefferson County on July 21, 2021 for fall armyworms. (U of A System Kurt Beaty)

Typically, armyworms can be managed well using pyrethroids, but Lorenz said “when this outbreak first started, we got reports out of Texas and Louisiana that they weren’t getting control. We’re getting failures.”

Lorenz said he and colleagues ran some quick tests, spraying this year’s armyworms with pyrethroids “and we got 48% control.”

In cattle-heavy parts of the state producers use another insect growth regulator called Dimilin to manage armyworms, but in row crop country, “they just don’t carry it. It’s just not available,” Lorenz said.

Fellow extension entomologist Nick Bateman said, “another problem with using Dimilin is the pre-harvest interval. The pre-harvest interval on Dimilin is 80 days which will lead to major harvest issues.”

“We’re limited on the options in control for rice,” he said. “It’s not just a problem of row rice. We are also seeing them in flooded rice, all through the field. They are eating rice all the way down to the waterline.”

Lorenz said rice growers in California sought and received a Section 18 exemptions over the last three years. “We felt like that was our best option.”

Arkansas farmers who managed to replant after the floods and heavy rain in June have young, tender plants that are highly attractive to armyworms.

“Those crops are extremely susceptible to damage from armyworms,” Lorenz said.

What’s next

“My concern is that if we get another generation of them, the next wave could be unbelievable,” he said.

The first generation of armyworms matured into moths in Texas and Louisiana and flew northward. Now that they’re in Arkansas, “We’re making our own generation, which is what makes it so dangerous,” Lorenz said.

There’s also a chance that, depending on the environment, “the population could collapse,” he said. “There are some natural controls out there. When you get a big buildup a lot of things can happen. There are a lot of naturally occurring pathogens that can help control them.”

Some agents in southwest Arkansas found armyworms that had fallen victim to a naturally occurring virus. Lorenz is hoping that virus may provide another option for control in the future.

Arkansas is the nation’s leading rice producer. 

Use of product names does not imply endorsement.Source: University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.

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July 7, 2021

James Cullum

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Update: New Pest & Disease Records (7 July 2021)

This month’s pest alerts include a new species of bark beetle in Taiwan (Image by
John Tann)

We’ve selected a few of the latest new geographic, host and species records for plant pests and diseases from CAB Abstracts. Records this month include a new species of bark beetle in Taiwan and the first record of fungi isolated from Thrips tabaci on garlic in the Philippines.

To view all search results for new geographic, host and species records for plant pests and diseases, click here or to view results by your location click here.

If there’s another new record you’d like to highlight, please post a comment.

View past pest alertsPests and diseasescrop pests and diseasespest alertsplant healthAgriculture and International DevelopmentCrop healthPlant Sciences

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‘Coconut palm seeds thoroughly assessed before importation’ — Plant Protection Unit

10 June 202103 Share

The lethal yellowing disease has decimated the coconut palm population here in Antigua and Barbuda. Many hope that the importation and replanting exercises will be completed as soon as possible.

Authorities looking to rebound from impact of lethal yellowing disease

By Orville Williams


In a bid to restock the majestic coconut palms that once adorned Antigua and Barbuda in abundance, the government has already put plans in motion to import 100,000 coconut seeds from Costa Rica.

In light of this, the Plant Protection Unit is assuring that the seeds have been thoroughly vetted to prevent a recurrence of the devastation that nearly rid the country of the plant over the past years. 

The lethal yellowing disease – first discovered in the island in 2012 – has decimated the coconut palm population, setting back beautification efforts and impeding the efforts of small business owners whose livelihoods depend on the sale of coconuts and/or its byproducts. 

During the worst period of the outbreak, a solution was introduced and a formula – Oxytetracycline Hydrochloride (OTC) – developed to “control the amount of the disease agent in the plants”. However, that formula was rather costly and many trees were deemed too far gone to even consider the expensive treatment. 

Fast forward to early this month, the government announced plans to import the seeds from Costa Rica, “for propagation of new coconut palms”. These seeds, the government said, are expected to “produce trees resistant to [the] disease, grow about six feet tall and begin producing fruit shortly after three years of growth”.

The idea to import and replant coconut palms is not new to the government, as consideration was given to acquiring seeds/seedlings/saplings, most recently from Suriname. The Agriculture Ministry’s Plant Protection Unit opposed that idea, however, amid concerns of pests being introduced into the island as a result.

Chief Plant Protection Officer, Dr Janil Gore-Francis, had aired those concerns back then, but speaking to Observer on these current plans, she said strict measures have been enforced to ensure safety.

“There has been a process of assessment, we have done our research and our risk assessment with regard to the seeds coming from Costa Rica via the US. [The seeds] have to go through a very stringent process, they have to be certified and so on, so there are specific requirements that have to be met for those seeds to come into Antigua, and that is what has been applied. 

“Some of those seeds have come in already, they must have import permission, they have to be certified, they must be unsprouted [and] a number of [other factors] that would ensure they do not come in with lethal yellowing or any other disease that could be spread by the foliage – which is why we insist that they must come in unsprouted. 

“So, all of that would have been taken into consideration with the risk assessment that would have been done, in order for us to arrive at the approval of those specific nuts coming through that process, under very stringent conditions,” Dr Gore-Francis explained. 

She also disclosed that, based on their observations, the disease is not as prevalent at this point as it had been in the past. 

“We have not really been having as many calls as we were having [for example] back in 2019, with respect to plants that are suspected to have contracted the disease. So, I think we have reached a sort of equilibrium, where I guess those palms that have some sort of tolerance or just have not been infected by lethal yellowing are what remain right now.”

In regard to the treatment formula – OTC – a programme was put in place to provide some relief to homeowners or business operators whose coconut palms were struggling with the disease. 

The formula is injected into the trunk of the plants to keep the level of the phytoplasma down, to allow the plant to thrive. After a while, however, the amount of formula within the plant decreases, which means the plants have to be treated at regular intervals – three to four months – to maintain control of the disease and keep them alive. 

These plants are assessed after interested persons apply to the programme and depending on the condition of the plants, they are either chosen to be treated or rejected if they are “too far gone”.

The plant owners are then allowed to import the formula under specific regulations, which include refraining from using the OTC on plants that are meant for consumption. These regulations, Dr Gore-Francis says, are closely monitored to reduce the various risks associated.

The entire importation and dissemination process of the new plants can’t come soon enough for many, including Barbara Japal, the President of the local Horticultural Society. 

She told Observer, upon news of the importation, “The old saying is, ‘the palm is the charm’. Palm trees are part of the lifeblood [of the country], it’s the industry of so many people in Antigua. Coconuts provide food, they provide medicine to some [and] they provide a tourist attraction in every way.”

Similarly, ‘Granma Aki’ – who makes products including sauces and dips from coconuts – said getting the plants and the coconut industry back in full swing was vital to herself and many others. 

“It’s very urgent and small producers like me, we are suffering. The products that we use coconuts for are in demand, great demand. So, I suppose, if we don’t have any coconuts, they have to come from abroad, the price is going up [and] the quality is not so good.”

As Dr Gore-Francis mentioned, some of the seeds have already arrived in Antigua, but there is no indication as to when the entire bunch will be on island. 

‘Granma Aki’ would certainly hope that it’s sooner, rather than later. 

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PepMV brings a halt to New Zealand tomato exports

New Zealand tomato exports to six countries have been stopped, after the pepino mosaic virus (PepMV) was discovered on crops.

According to local website www.rnz.co.nz The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has notified Australia, Japan, Thailand, Fiji, Tonga, and New Caledonia about the disease affecting New Zealand tomatoes, because these countries consider PepMV a quarantine risk. MPI had temporarily suspended export certification to these markets, the ministry’s response controller David Yard said.

Discovery of PepMV
For some weeks Biosecurity New Zealand and the tomato industry have been investigating the discovery in New Zealand of the pepino mosaic virus (PepMV). The virus was first detected in an Auckland glasshouse operation and has subsequently been found in a handful of tomato production facilities in the wider Auckland region.

The premises where PepMV has been found are able to continue operating and selling fruit under strengthened hygiene conditions. However, there may be restrictions on exporting to markets who are known to consider PepMV of quarantine concern.

PepMV is a virus that can cause pepino mosaic disease – predominantly in tomatoes, but potentially in other solanaceous plants including potatoes and eggplants. “It’s not yet certain how badly PepMV would affect tomato crops in New Zealand. It appears to have minor foliage effects on younger plants, but as the plant ages, can cause mottling of the fruit itself,” the team with TomatoesNZ shares. They have developed advice on Pepino Mosaic Virus for growers.  

“Now the virus has been confirmed in several facilities, it is considered possible that it may be distributed more widely in the country’s tomato growing operations. For this reason, we strongly encourage all growers of tomatoes to follow careful biosecurity procedures on their properties,” they say. The virus can be asymptomatic or have very mild symptoms so it is important that you remain vigilant with hygiene, especially with equipment, plant material and people that are moving on and off site.   

The risk of transmission of the disease through selling fruit is considered low. 

It is important to note that while PepMV can affect tomato production, it does not present any food safety concern or risk to people. New Zealand grown tomatoes are perfectly safe to eat.

Read more about the precautions and the actions to take at TomatoesNZ.

Publication date: Fri 25 Jun 2021

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Photo via Wikimedia Commons, credit to Seychelles Island Foundation

“Crazy” ants that kill birds eradicated from Pacific atoll

Friday, June 25th 2021, 12:09 PM CDT

Honolulu, Hawaii (AP)– An invasive species known as the yellow crazy ant has been eradicated from a remote U.S. atoll in the Pacific.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Wednesday that the ants have been successfully removed from Johnston Atoll National Wildlife Refuge.

The ants stalk seabirds on the uninhabited atoll and prevented nesting on about 70 acres of land.

“This is the first time an invasive ant species has been eradicated on such a large land area in the U.S,” said Kate Toniolo, superintendent for the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, in a statement. “To ensure the eradication was successful, the teams have been monitoring, searching, and surveying for yellow crazy ants.”

For about a decade, the ants have threatened the seabirds by swarming their nests — and anything else on the ground. The ants spray formic acid on the birds, causing injuries including blindness and even death, Fish and Wildlife Service officials said.

Volunteers and federal workers comprised so-called Crazy Ant Strike Teams that experimented with baits and other techniques to get rid of the pests. After the teams killed off the yellow crazy ants, two dogs trained to sniff out the species were brought in to search the grounds. The dogs sniffed nearly 120 miles without finding any ants, according to federal officials.

“While the mission of the Crazy Ant Strike Team is complete, the (U.S. Fish and Wildlife) Service will continue to focus on habitat restoration, preventing the spread of other invasive species,” said Stefan Kropidlowski, deputy superintendent for the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument. “For now, we celebrate that the refuge is once again a safe haven for the amazing seabirds that call this incredible place home.”

Johnston Atoll is a refuge for tens of thousands of seabirds from 15 different species, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It’s home to the world’s largest colony of red-tailed tropicbirds and is the only seabird habitat in over 570,000 square miles (nearly 1.5 million square kilometers) of open ocean.

The yellow crazy ant is native to Southeast Asia but has been unintentionally introduced to other parts of the Pacific, including Hawaii.

Yellow crazy ants “are a widespread and extremely harmful invasive ant. They have spread throughout all the main Hawaiian Islands and cause significant ecological harm to plants and animals, like the endangered Hawaiian yellow-faced bee and nesting birds,” said Sheldon Plentovich, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Pacific Islands Coastal Program Coordinator.

Plentovich said the ants have not made their way to Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, but they “are very good hitchhikers and we are vigilant about biosecurity and monitoring for early detection within the monument.”

Plentovich said crazy ants got their name because of their fast and erratic movements, especially when disturbed.

Johnston Atoll is one of the most isolated places on Earth and part of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument. It’s about 820 miles (1,320 km) southwest of Honolulu.

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Jorge Hernando Pedraza, the president of the CAN, is traveling to Ecuador where he’ll meet with the banana sector

“20 months ago the Fusarium pest was 1,200 kilometers away from Ecuador and now it’s 350 kilometers”

Jorge Hernando Pedraza, the Secretary-General of the Andean Community (CAN), arrived in Ecuador with a priority agenda: agreeing on actions to prevent the advance of Fusarium race 4 (which was detected in Piura, Peru, in April) in the region.

“We must recall that there was an outbreak in Colombia 20 months ago and that we immediately took actions to prevent it from advancing. The CAN held meetings in Quito that were attended by 18 ministers of Agriculture, from Mexico to Patagonia, delegates from the FAO and other organizations, as well as representatives from the banana productive sectors. At that time the experts warned that the pest could reappear at any moment. Two months ago it reappeared in Piura. Twenty months ago it was 1,200 kilometers away from Ecuador and now it is 350 kilometers away, so urgent measures must be taken to avoid the collapse of the crop,” he said.

“We started to work from the first moment we found about this. The four Ministers of Agriculture of Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, and Bolivia were summoned. Peru has done an important job. I’ll discuss the issue with the Minister of Agriculture and will raise the issue at the Andean presidential summit, on July 2, in Villa de Leyva, where President Guillermo Lasso will assume the pro tempore presidency of the CAN, from the hands of President Ivan Duque. The day after tomorrow I will meet with the entire banana cluster in Guayaquil, to take measures and coordinate commitments with multilateral organizations to obtain resources to preserve the banana sector, which is a very important source of income for Ecuador (about 3.4 billion dollars) and for the CAN.”

“In addition, we are going to continue carrying out programs that came from the pro tempore presidency of Colombia, emphasizing the improvement of relations with Europe and opening up solid relations with Eurasia (a bloc of five countries: Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Belarus, and Armenia), which is important to increase the business relationship. We have worked a lot on competitiveness, on the training of MSMEs, and on the recovery of the post-pandemic economic apparatus. Issues that Ecuador considers important.”

In fact, the CAN has not been an exception and the pandemic has hit the region hard, both in its health and economic level. “In 2018 our exports amounted to 120,000 million dollars and we were the eleventh world economy. In 2019 we reached 115 billion, and in 2020 we fell to 97 billion, with an impact of 12%. However, we think we could have a 5% recovery this year,” stated Jorge Hernando.

Source: eluniverso.com 

Publication date: Mon 28 Jun 2021

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University of Massachusetts Amherst

Reactive and inconsistent practices hamstring efforts to manage invasive plants in the US

New research from UMass Amherst suggests that communication is the key to success

23-Jun-2021 1:25 PM EDT, by University of Massachusetts Amherstfavorite_border

Newswise — AMHERST, Mass. – As summer unfolds, more than 500 species of invasive plants will be taking root in fields, lawns, and gardens across the US. As plants continue to move north driven by climate change, the number of invasives will only increase. Unfortunately, inconsistent regulations that vary from state to state means that invasive plants have an edge on our attempts to control them. However, new research from the University of Massachusetts Amherst recently published in the Journal of Applied Ecology suggests that we already have an answer in hand – communication.

“We know that invasive plants are causing both ecological and economic harm in the US,” says Emily Fusco, one of the paper’s lead authors and a postdoctoral research fellow in the department of environmental conservation at UMass. One of the best tools that invasive-species managers have are prohibited plant lists, which are compiled and maintained by state and county-level officials to prevent intentional introductions of known invasive and weedy plants. Unfortunately, a lack of overall coordination lends a patchwork quality to efforts to control invasive plants.

The study’s authors found that states in the lower 48 have listed anywhere between zero invasive plants and 162. Even worse, contiguous states often regulate very different sets of species: on average, only 20% of the plants listed as invasive in one state will show up on their neighbors’ lists. Finally, states are failing to get ahead of emerging invasive plants: 90% of the time states only list a plant as invasive once it has already become present in their state, making it more difficult to eradicate. “We’re missing an opportunity to prevent invasions before the species are widespread,” says Fusco. “These prohibited plant lists are one of the most useful tools we have for preventing plant invasions, but our work shows that states are not creating these lists in a proactive way.”

Yet, there’s a bright side to all this: “It’s not that the states are doing a bad job,” says Evelyn Beaury, the paper’s other lead author and a graduate student in organismic and evolutionary biology at UMass. “We don’t need to reinvent the wheel – we just need to have more conversations about what happens across state borders. We need to give managers the infrastructure and resources to work together.”

In fact, such work is already happening at the Northeast RISCC Network. RISCC (Regional Invasive Species and Climate Change) is a coalition of invasive species managers from throughout the Northeast who work with researchers and each other to identify and respond to new threats posed by invasives in a changing climate. “State officials want to improve coordination and share resources across borders,” says Bethany Bradley, senior author and professor of environmental conservation at UMass. Bradley is also one of the cofounders of RISCC and says that the invasive species managers she works with through the network “are thrilled to have more ways to exchange information.”

“We have a real chance to get ahead of the climate change/invasive species curve,” says Beaury. “We need to get more people on board and that begins with starting conversations that cross state borders.”






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Israeli scientists find way to detect weevil infestations with AI, Google

Red palm weevils are a notorious invasive species that are among the worst pests for palm trees. They are devastating in the damage they cause, spread very quickly and are difficult to detect.

By AARON REICH   MAY 27, 2021 17:31



Red palm weevil. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Red palm weevil.(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons) Countries all over the world are battling another major pandemic: Red palm weevils. Originating from Asia, the insect soon made its way across the world and became a major invasive species, wrecking severe havoc on palm trees and other agriculture across the planet.But now, scientists from Israel’s Ben-Gurion University of the Negev may have found a way to automatically detect red palm weevil infestations.Read More Related Articles

The red palm weevils have only become more widespread in the last decade. Studies have shown that these weevils target 19 different types of palm trees, making them one of the worst palm tree pests worldwide. These insects tend to go to lay their eggs in trees. Their larvae is actually considered a delicacy in some countries, but farming them is also strictly banned in some places like Vietnam due to the damage they can cause to plantations. This is because of how they grow. After hatching, the larvae eat through the tree as they grow, creating tunnels inside the trees and weakening them, sometimes even causing them to break and completely collapse.A date palm killed by red palm weevils is seen in Kfar Saba, Israel. (Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)A Date palm killed by red palm weevils is seen in Kfar Saba, Israel. (Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)And with the sheer number of these weevils and how widespread they are, these damages aren’t a minor issue. In Spain and Italy alone, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization has projected that pest management and tree replacement will cost €200 million by 2023.Infestations have happened in Israel before. In 2015, the Tel Aviv Municipality warned of the presence of these insects within the city, and urged homeowners to take measures to protect trees on their property so they don’t become a danger. In 2013, the Agriculture Ministry warned of a possible major infestation throughout the North down to Hadera. The year prior, several trees collapsed due to the weevils, but no one was injured. 

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food tank

Virginia Tech Research Explores Climate Change and the Future of Food in Nepal

When you think of Nepal, you might imagine people climbing Mount Everest, the world’s highest mountain above sea level. However, people aren’t the only ones scaling the vast and varied elevations of the Southeast Asian country—so are invasive weeds.

Recent research from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Integrated Pest Management (IPM Innovation Lab) shows that invasive weeds have rapidly spread over time in Nepal. One of the major push factors of this spread is climate change. As Nepal’s temperature is projected to increase significantly in the next 50 years, invasive species are spreading more rapidly, which puts at risk crop production, livelihoods, biodiversity, and food security.

“The basis of our research includes looking at how invasive weeds spread along elevations under past and current climate scenarios,” said Pramod K. Jha, Professor Emeritus at Tribhuvan University in Nepal, which implements the project locally. “We use satellite images to capture these changes throughout the Chitwan Annapurna Landscape in central Nepal. Making observations about how our land changes over time is crucial for identifying vulnerable areas and developing strategies to address them.”

Jha noted that of the seven invasive weeds the project tracks, all but one has dramatically increased in spread over the last 30 years—and they will continue to spread if no mitigation efforts are made.

One of those weeds, for example, is Parthenium hysterophorus. Under future climate scenarios, its range is expected to expand significantly in all regions of the Chitwan Annapurna Landscape (CHAL). The weed, native to the New World, causes human health issues such as rashes and respiratory difficulty, taints livestock milk, and disrupts valuable farmland. With the weed’s habitat suitability projected to expand into protected areas including Langtang National Park, Annapurna Conservation Area, and Manaslu Conservation Area, valuable biodiversity is at stake.

Ageratina adenophora, also known as Crofton weed, is another invasive species the program studies. Crofton weed reduces crop yields, displaces native plants, and affects the carrying capacity of grazing lands. Under future climate scenarios, the program has predicted the weed will expand its elevational range and all regions except the Middle Mountain region are expected to gain suitable areas in which the weed will expand its reach.

Invasive species are capable of quickly adapting to climatic changes, hence their ability to push native species out. Muni Muniappan, Director of the IPM Innovation Lab, said that central Nepal’s ecological richness—unique biodiversity hotspots and topography, subtropical to alpine climates, elevations that range from 200-8091m above sea level—is both what makes it an ideal place to study climate change impacts as well as what puts it most at risk of climate change impacts.

“All of the invasive weeds this program studies are originally sub-tropical and tropical in nature,” Muniappan said, “so they initially invaded tropical zones of Nepal, such as the lowlands. Now, however, we are seeing them gradually spread to new habitats, like the mountains. This is especially detrimental because the mountains house some of the most resource-poor communities in Nepal. These communities heavily rely on natural resources, so these consequences of climate change will have a disproportionate impact.”

One of those threatened resources is finger millet, Nepal’s fourth most important crop. Considered a “poor man’s crop,” remote mountain communities of the country depend on finger millet because it can grow in rain-fed, subsistence farming conditions. Communities also rely on it as an important source of protein, fiber, calcium, and iron. The Virginia Tech-Tribhuvan University program measured that nearly 40 percent of area of Nepal is highly suitable for finger millet, but under future climatic conditions, where invasive weeds will be more widespread, the suitable area of finger millet would shrink by 4 to almost 9 percent in 2050 and nearly 9 to 10.5 percent by 2070. Because of the climate crisis and its resulting impacts, mountain communities that rely on this crop may be in even greater danger of food insecurity.

As climate change persists, developing countries stand to lose the most from its impacts, including the rampant spread of invasive species. Among 124 countries, Nepal has the third highest threat to agriculture sectors from invasive species spread. While the IPM Innovation Lab measures invasive species spread, it also aims to improve resiliency against them. One such approach is implementation of “IPM packages,” or suites of holistic techniques farmers can choose from to address crop threats. Application of biocontrol, for example, is one IPM package component that could safely and economically mitigate the spread of the invasive Parthenium weed.

“Sustainably addressing climate change and its impacts remains a top priority of the IPM Innovation Lab,” said Muniappan. “Through modeling invasive species spread, we gain early knowledge on their projected pathways, but this information also gives us valuable insight for designing the most productive measures for managing their spread. This is only the beginning – an important aspect of this work is garnering the interest of other institutes, organizations, and universities as well. Fighting climate change and its impacts requires a united effort.”

The Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Integrated Pest Management currently works in seven countries in Asia and Africa on a range of topics, including improving food security, increasing farmer income, gender equality in development, among others. Since its inception in 1993, it has been housed at Virginia Tech’s Center for International Research, Education, and Development.TweetShareShare

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Sara Hendery
Sara Hendery

 Sara Hendery is a Communications Coordinator for the USAID-funded Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Integrated Pest Management and the Center for International Research, Education, and Development, both housed at Virginia Tech. Hendery earned a BFA in English and Creative Writing from UNC Wilmington and an MFA in Nonfiction Writing from Columbia College Chicago.

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