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Digital Engagement and Training Helps Increase Agro-Dealer and Farmer Knowledge on Integrated Pest Management in East Africa

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Integrated Pest Management Innovation Lab

Aug 19, 2021

A group of people training with the Tanzanian Agricultural Research Institute (TARI)

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

Given Tanzania’s diverse geographical landscape, it’s no surprise the country is among the world’s top 20 producers of vegetables. Nevertheless, farmers remain in search of ways to combat the pests and diseases that threaten crop yields every season.

Results of a survey conducted by Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Integrated Pest Management partners at the Tanzanian Agricultural Research Institute (TARI) show that the majority of Tanzanian farmers receive key knowledge on how to manage pests and disease not only from extension personnel, but often from agricultural supply dealers, or agro-dealers. While agro-dealers do carry valuable information, resources and inputs, the survey also shows that many agro-dealers have limited formal knowledge on vegetable production or protective measures for applying chemical pesticides.

To address these gaps, TARI began providing cohesive training to agro-dealers, farmers and extension officers on vegetable production and pest and disease management. Training covers such areas as Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs), Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and safe handling and use of agricultural inputs, including pesticides. Thus far, 500 participants have been trained in the Coast and Morogoro regions. The GAP training in particular helps farmers build capacity in reporting and record-keeping, assessing input quality and crop hygiene, and training in IPM provides information on bio- and botanical pesticides, pruning, developing seedlings in a nursery environment and how to apply pesticides with minimal body exposure.   

“Knowing that farmers receive their pest and disease management knowledge from agro-dealers provides us important insight into how to best reach farmers with up-to-date information,” said Dr. Fred Tairo, principal agricultural research officer at TARI-Mikocheni. “If we want farmers to adopt sustainable, climate-smart and productive inputs that might be outside of their typical use, an important pathway to reaching them is through the people that farmers already trust and are familiar with.” 

In a group of 69 agro-dealers surveyed, only 49 were registered and licensed to run agricultural shops. The 20 unregistered participants had received no formal training in crop production or pesticide safety and use, and most participants not only had no prior knowledge on how to dispose of expired pesticides, but did not sell bio-pesticides or chemical pesticide alternatives at their shops. Since registering as an agro-dealer can cost nearly $200, TARI is collaborating with the Tropical Pesticides Research Institute (TPRI), a regulatory authority for pesticides in Tanzania, to consider lowering the costs.  

TARI and the IPM Innovation Lab are increasing communication through digital platforms to reach more agricultural actors with safe and effective approaches to pest and disease management. A Kiswahili-based (Swahili) WhatsApp group named “Kilima cha Mboga kisasa,” or modern vegetable cultivation, currently shares information with 154 farmers, extension agents and agro-dealers in Tanzania who can use the app to cite crop threats and receive expert management guidance in return.

Participants post a picture or video of the crop problem for immediate diagnosis. Not only do agro-dealers in the group directly learn about farmers’ most pressing problems, but they can use the platform to market agri-inputs, including the IPM products they learn about through the platform. 

“Even if members of this group do not necessarily follow up with formal training we offer, this is a low-stakes knowledge-sharing space that they can be a part of and receive guidance from,” Tairo added. 

To increase access to information and inputs, the IPM Innovation Lab is also collaborating with Real IPM, a private company based in Kenya that develops low-cost biological and holistic crop solutions available in Kenya and Tanzania. In just one year, the company has provided training to thousands of farmers in seven counties in Kenya by targeting farmer groups, the majority of which are made up of women. Real IPM has developed training manuals on IPM, a WhatsApp group for crop health assistance and a free web portal for diagnosis and IPM recommendations of specific crop threats. 

“Our goal is to make IPM solutions more accessible,” said Ruth Murunde, research and development manager at Real IPM. “When you enter a pest or disease into our web portal, those images, diagnosis and IPM recommendations stay posted. We know that many farmers are experiencing similar issues to one another and collective action against crop threats is an effective way to combat them more long-term.”

While technology constraints remain — including smartphone, internet and electricity access — making learning spaces available for a range of crop production actors is critical to adoption of sustainable, effective farming solutions. 

Currently, the Real IPM database hosts over 7,000 participants and has collected over 200 infected crop images.

“The Real IPM technical team is actively working to support farmers by providing biopesticides as a solution for mitigating pests and diseases on vegetable crops to ensure sustainable agriculture for smallholder farmers,” added Murunde. “Our information networks help disseminate best practice methods for using those tools.”  

For more information on IPM training or Real IPM products, contact saraeh91@vt.edu.FILED UNDER:AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTIVITYEDUCATION AND EXTENSION

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Australia: Macadamia IPM

Eight trials set up in key macadamia growing areas in Central Queensland

Integrated pest management to protect macadamia orchards

The Macadamia Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Program started in 2017 to test combinations of biological, cultural and chemical controls on commercial farms and NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) research stations. Eight on-farm trials have been set up in key macadamia growing areas in Central Queensland, near Bundaberg, in the Gympie – Glasshouse Mountain area, the Northern Rivers Region and at the Mid North Coast of NSW, Nambucca Heads/ Valla/ Macksville.

DPI Entomologist Dr Ruth Huwer said monitoring is a key part of integrated pest management and it’s important to identify and understand the pest problem. “We are developing protocols and monitoring strategies to identify the best efficacy and timing for treatment of different pests, such as macadamia seed weevil and fruit spotting bug,” Dr Huwer told dpi.nsw.gov.au.

“At the DPI Centre for Tropical Horticulture in Alstonville, we have established a small-scale trial to compare IPM options with minimum broad-spectrum pesticide input with conventional treatments. “This has allowed us to test chemical best practice and to find the best fit as part of the rotation. We found that where mainly broad-spectrum insecticides are used, there is an increase in secondary pests such as scales and thrips.”


Photo source: Nl.wikipedia.org

Publication date: Mon 23 Aug 2021

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Integrated pest management for indoor cultivation pt. 1

In this new article series sponsored by Hawthorne Gardening Company, we are going to explore the biggest enemies of growers: pests. With today’s article, we start investigating the most dangerous pests for crops such as cannabis, lettuce, saffron, and so on, and how they ravage our favorite plants. In the next articles of this series, we will talk about best prevention practices, and about scouting and monitoring. But before we get to how to repel these attackers, we first have to know them!

Considering the environmental conditions needed to cultivate plants indoors, it doesn’t come as a surprise that greenhouses represent a perfect breeding ground for pests to develop. Because of that, early detection and diagnosis of pest insects are necessary to make control decisions before the problem gets out of hand and growers suffer economic loss. Some common and important greenhouse arthropod pests to keep a close watch for are: aphids, fungus gnats, thrips, whiteflies, root aphids and mites. The most frequently observed diseases are: powdery mildew, botrytis, pythium and fusarium.

Aphids
“Aphids (Hemiptera: Aphididae) are a typical insect pest of greenhouses which feed on a wide variety of plants by piercing leaf cells and sucking out their contents by means of their stylets,” Ian Bateman, technical service manager at Hawthorne Gardening Company. “Aphids also work as vectors for plant viruses, and they release honeydew waste products that can be spotted on leaves that appear as translucent, or wet spot. When a plant is heavily infested, other than the translucent spots, leaves can turn yellow as well as white skin residues can be found. Additionally, wet spots become a perfect breeding ground for mold or fungal diseases.”

Thrips
Thrips (Thysanoptera: Thripidae) are a severe insect pest of greenhouses which feed on a wide variety of plants by piercing surface cells of leaves and sucking out the cell contents by means of their stylets. “Thrips also have a very rapid life cycle, which allows for multiple generations per year,” Ian explains. “At the end of the second larval stage, thrips enter the soil or leaf litter. Thrips tend to feed on buds and new leaves – and generally speaking, they prefer to feed on the upper leaf surface of plants. Bronze or silvery leaf scars and tiny black spots of fecal excrements are evident on leaves with heavy-feeding injury.”

Whiteflies
Whiteflies (Diptera: Aleyrodidae) are white, soft-bodied, winged insects with a triangular shape, and are often found in clusters on the undersides of leaves. “Whiteflies use their piercing, needlelike mouthparts to suck sap from phloem, the food-conducting tissues in plant stems and leaves. Large populations can cause leaves to turn yellow, appear dry, or fall off plants. Like aphids, whiteflies excrete a sugary liquid called honeydew, so leaves may be sticky or covered with black sooty mold that grows on honeydew,” he continues.

Root aphids
Root aphids (some Pemphigus, Phylloxera, and Rhopalosiphum species) vary in color, but most are white, whitish yellow or brown. “Root aphids have piercing, sucking mouthparts that extract sugar-rich sap from underground structures such as roots, bulbs and rhizomes,” Ian points out. “They can produce a white, waxy secretion that covers their body and some is left behind as they move through the growing medium. This is often mistaken for mealybugs that are also covered with a white waxy or threadlike substance. It is best to use a hand lens and observe the roots to see the actual insect. Minor infections of root aphids do not cause significant plant damage, however, as the populations increase, wounds in plant roots can become entry points for root disease pathogens. Plant roots cannot take up nutrients and therefore can exhibit nutrient deficiencies in the leaves. Plants often have a lack of vigor, are smaller and can wilt, especially during the heat of the day. Root aphids do not travel rapidly, so infections are often restricted to a few plants and spread slowly initially.”

Fungus Gnats
Fungus gnats (Bradysia species) are small, delicate-bodied flies that develop in the growing medium. Adults are 3 mm long, delicate, black flies with long legs and antennae. “Larvae primarily feed on fungi, algae and decaying plant matter as well as plant roots,” Ian remarks. “The larvae are wormlike and translucent, with a black head capsule. Larvae usually are located in the top 2 to 3 inches of the growing medium, depending on moisture level. Moist growing media containing high amounts of peat moss are particularly attractive to adult females. Plants infested by numerous fungus gnat larvae can have stunted growth.”

Spider mites
Spider mites (Acari:Tetranychidae) such as the two-spotted spider mite (Tetranichus urticae) are arthropods that feed on a variety of plant species by sucking the plant cell content through a pair of sharp stylets. Spider mites are tiny (approximately 0.5 mm in length) arachnids with 8 legs and a cream color appearance. “Spider mite populations can develop exponentially in a very short period of time. Eggs are laid in clusters on the underside of leaves. The initial stage of colonization commonly starts from the bottom third of the plant. Injury initially appears as stippling or yellowish-reddish brown spots on the leaves which are located in correspondence of the colony clusters typically found on the underside of the leaf. Leaves initially turn yellow and, with high population density, desiccate and die. On mature plants, higher branches and those directly under growing lights are more likely to become infested with spider mites.”

Stay tuned for the second part of this special series on pest management, where we will discuss hemp russet mites, broad mites, powdery mildew, botrytis, pythium, and fusarium!

For more information:
Hawthorne Gardening
hawthorne-gardening.com  

Publication date: Thu 12 Aug 2021
© HortiDaily.com / Contact

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Click here to view in browser.   SIL’s NEW Soybean Rust Crash Course and Rust Spray Calculator available now!
JULY 29, 2021 Soybean field with heavy rust pressure (brown patches) interspersed with strips that were treated for soybean rust with fungicide. Photo credit: Sikora et al.   Soybean rust is one of the most significant diseases that affects soybean yield. It can spread quickly and cause up to an 80% loss in yield. It’s a frustrating challenge for producers and breeders, but there are practices and management techniques that growers can employ to ensure a good return on investment for their soybean production.

SIL’s new course, the Soybean Rust Crash Course, is designed for growers, practitioners, breeders, and researchers to learn how to identify the disease, scout for disease at the optimal stage, and manage the disease before it’s too late.     The Soybean Rust Crash Course is free and includes four modules: 1. The Pathogen and symptoms; 2. Scouting; 3. Management; and 4. For breeders and researchers, more information on data collection and varietal resistance.

Module 3 covers disease management and includes a Rust Spray Calculator, designed to aid in environmentally responsible and economically feasible decision-making on whether or not fungicides should be used to control rust outbreaks. The calculator bases recommendations on growth of the crop and rust pressure, and then determines the economic gain that can be achieved by considering a grower’s local fungicide cost, labor cost, and grain price.   The Rust Spray Calculator provides growers with evidence-based decision making on whether they should use fungicides to control rust observed in their fields.   The importance of scouting a field from beginning bloom to full seed development cannot be overemphasized. Finding the disease before it takes over provides an opportunity to spray with fungicide and save up to 80% of yield. The Soybean Rust Crash Course, combined with the Rust Spray Calculator, provides specific recommendations for growers, from scouting techniques and identification of soybean rust, to analyzing the potential economic benefits of spraying. For breeders and researchers, the course goes into more depth about plot-level data collection and the current state of varietal resistance.

Successful completion of the Soybean Rust Crash Course will result in a Certificate of Completion that can be shared on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.   SIL’s Disease Management program has several other resources that complement the new Soybean Rust Crash Course and Rust Spray Calculator including: The Field Guide to African Disease, Pests, and Nutrition Deficiencies The Guide to African Soybean Seedborne Diseases and Pests The Soybean Rust Disease Bulletin The Soybean Innovation Lab Disease and Pest ID Board on Facebook The Rust Hot Spot Map – see below You can find several other free courses at SIL-University   The Tropical Soybean Information Portal (TSIP) features a Rust Hot Spot Map. The map is a tool containing trial and operator information on rust disease incidence and severity over seven seasons and 57 locations. To view the Rust Hot Spot Map, click on the pathogen icon on the left side of the map located on the TSIP homepage.     Like On Facebook Like On Facebook Follow On Twitter Follow On Twitter Visit Our Website Visit Our Website Contact Us Contact Us   Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Soybean Value Chain Research (Soybean Innovation Lab)
1301 West Gregory Drive, Urbana, IL 61801 * Tel. (217) 333-7425 * soybeaninnovationlab@illinois.edu  

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Virginia Tech’s Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Integrated Pest Management is hiring a Country Program Manager for the Feed the Future Bangladesh Integrated Pest Management Activity (IPMA), an associate award funded by the USAID mission in Bangladesh. This activity will address managing current and emerging pest and disease threats of crops, human and institutional capacity building in Bangladesh, and developing, implementing, and scaling up IPM packages for rice, maize, mango, sesame, mung bean, sunflower, lentil, potato, groundnut, eggplant, and bananas. The Country Program Manager will manage the activity in Bangladesh and coordinate with the relevant international and national organizations/institutes/agencies in implementing the activity. See below for further details.

Virginia Tech Feed the Future Bangladesh Integrated Pest Management Activity (IPMA)

Terms of Reference (TOR)

Position:       Country Program Manager

Project:          Feed the Future Bangladesh Integrated Pest Management Activity (IPMA)

Work Site:     Dhaka city with travel to Dhaka, Khulna, and Barisal divisions, Cox’s Bazar, and Bandarban districts. In some cases, the whole country needs to be covered.

Report to:      Principal Investigator

Supervising:    Deputy Program Manager, Monitoring and Evaluation Manager, Accountant, Driver, Sweeper, Office assistants, and security guards.

Project Background: In Bangladesh, land scarcity, agricultural intensification, and rapid population growth are major issues related to food security. Pests and diseases cause nearly 50 percent crop loss. The IPMA project, an associate award funded by the USAID mission in Bangladesh, will operate for three years from August 1, 2021. It will address managing current and emerging pest and disease threats of crops, human and institutional capacity building in Bangladesh, and developing, implementing, and scaling up IPM packages for rice, maize, mango, sesame, mung bean, sunflower, lentil, potato, groundnut, eggplant, and bananas. Collaboration in-country with CIMMYT, FAO, value chains, and local institutions and agencies is required.

Job Summary: The Country Program Manager (CPM) will take guidance from and report to the Principal Investigator of the IPMA. S/he will manage the IPMA in Bangladesh and coordinate with the relevant international and national organizations/institutes/agencies in implementing IPMA. S/he will keep constant communication with the AOR of the IPMA project and the Principal Investigator. S/he will prepare and submit reports as specified in the Cooperative Agreement. 

Duties and Responsibilities:

  • Work with the Project Management team to develop a comprehensive workplan to meet the IPMA goals and objectives.
  • Coordinate with CIMMYT, FAO, and relevant Bangladesh government institutions such as the Department of Extension, academia, financial institutions, judiciary, media, private sector, and value chain actors.
  • Coordinate and prepare monthly reports, quarterly reports, annual reports, success stories, and other reports as needed.
  • Organize workshops/symposia/meetings/conferences/webinars related to the project.
  • Communicate with the AOR and Principal Investigator regularly and respond to their requests promptly.
  • Manage IPMA progress and ensure compliance with the workplan.
  • Participate in project monitoring and evaluation activities.
  • Monitor, identify, and initiate or stimulate producing scientific and/or popular publications collaboratively.

Required Qualifications and Skills:

  • Master’s Degree in a subject related to Agriculture and/or administration
  • Significant international experience in the agricultural sector
  • At least 7 years relevant professional work experience
  • Prior experience working in IPM, agricultural research or extension, value chain/market system development projects or other institutions.
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills in English
  • Experience with academic research programs
  • Evidence of inclusive leadership
  • Familiarity with project management approaches, tools, and phases of the project lifecycle
  • Ability to work effectively at all levels in an organization
  • Problem-solving and root cause identification skills; strong analytic and decision-making abilities
  • Ability to take direction and to focus on and follow through on priority activities and assignments; ability to effectively handle multiple tasks without compromising the quality, team spirit, and constructive working relationships with all colleagues
  • Excellent organizational skills, attention to detail, and flexible work style
  • Demonstrated ability to handle confidential and/or sensitive information
  • Computer Skills: Proficient in MS Office and internet applications

Preferred Qualifications and Skills:

  • PhD in a relevant field, preferably in Entomology, Plant Pathology, or a field related to integrated pest management.
  • Knowledge of and experience with USAID rules and regulations

How to Apply

To apply, please send the completed application found at this link Application and resume/CV by email to: FTFBIPMA.Employment@gmail.com, with “IPMA Country Program Manager” in the subject heading. Applications will be reviewed beginning on 1 September 2020, and the position will remain open until filled. Only short-listed candidates will be contacted. Recruitment is contingent upon the successful award of the project; this document should not be construed in any way to represent a contract of employment.

Virginia Tech is an equal opportunity and affirmative action employer. Women, minorities, individuals with disabilities, and protected veterans are strongly encouraged to apply. Anyone having questions concerning discrimination or accessibility should contact the Virginia Tech Office for Equity and Accessibility.

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Karel Bolckmans, COO with Biobest:

“AI and robotics will bring us to the Olympic version of IPM”

“Data-driven growing is a big thing in horticulture in general. Many growers are into autonomous growing, data-driven greenhouse management, and advanced analytics. We’re convinced that this revolution will impact biological crop protection as well”, says Karel Bolckmans, COO with Biobest. “After all, if artificial intelligence (AI) can help you grow more efficiently and achieve higher yields, it will definitely render further improvement to your IPM program as well.”

“Since retailers want to offer a complete produce gamma year-round of for example greenhouse tomatoes and deal with as few suppliers as possible, we’re seeing an evolution towards rapid scale increase of greenhouse operations. Growers need to grow sufficient quantities of a complete offering twelve months per year, from cherry to beef tomato and everything in between. It results in bigger, multi-site, and international companies that can be complex to control. Data-driven growing enables you to keep track”, Karel explains.

“We also see that data-driven growing performs much better than growers themselves when it comes to optimizing plant growth. We’ll be moving to grow based on hard data, not on gut feeling.”

“The same is true for IPM. The results of biocontrol-based IPM tools are largely dependent on knowing exactly what is going on in the greenhouse. The better you know how your plants and their pests and their natural enemies are doing, the more efficient and effective you will be able to deploy your crop protection tools and the less chemical pesticides you will need to use.”

Partnerships and own development
In May last year, Biobest launched Crop-Scanner, which comprises a scouting App for recording the location, severity, and identity of pests and diseases in the crop. Clearly visualizing these data via its web-based interface through heatmaps and graphs allows the grower to have a better overview of the situation in his crop while allowing his Biobest advisor to give him the best possible technical advice. More recently, Biobest also entered into a partnership with the Canadian company Ecoation, which developed a mobile data harvesting platform that combines deep biology, computer vision and sensor technology, artificial intelligence, and robotics. “We’ve been in touch for several years now and recently decided to work together on creating IPM 3.0. Their camera’s, sensors, and autonomous vehicles allow us to collect the best possible data which serve as input for an artificial intelligence-based Decision Support System (DSS) that allows us to provide the growers with the best-in-class technical advice regarding integrated pest and disease management (IPM)”, Karel explains.  “At the same time, growers have been struggling with several severe virus outbreaks, of which ToBRFV and COVID were only a few. This has made it harder for us to frequently visit our customers in person to provide them with technical advice. But how to get accurate information from growers about the situation in the crop if you can’t visit them? Ecoation’s web-based user interface allows for remote counseling, thereby rendering frequent on-site technical visits are not necessary anymore.”

There’s more… Earlier this month, Biobest announced their investment in Arugga, Israeli developer of a robotic tomato pollinator. It might look like an alternative for the Biobest bumblebees – and actually, it is. “But our goal is not to sell the most bumblebees or beneficial insects and mites. We want to be the grower’s most reliable provider of the most effective solutions in pollination and integrated pest management in a world characterized by rapid innovation.” Although this might sound like a big change in policy for the company, Karel emphasizes that it is not at all as rash a decision as it might seem. “We’re convinced that having access to more accurate information of the status of pests, diseases and natural enemies in their crop will allow growers to develop more trust in biocontrol-based IPM and therefore reach out less fast to the pesticide bottle.”

We have done extensive research for over three years, studying the available technologies and patents. That way, we concluded that Ecoation made a wonderful match, not only in terms of technology but also when it came to vision and company culture. The same goes for Arugga. Their respective technologies support the development of the horticultural business to deal with the ever-increasing challenges of scale-increase, labor shortage, and market demand.”

The technologies Biobest now participates in go beyond IPM. The Ecoation technology for example also concerns yield prediction, high-resolution climate measurements, and controlling the quality of crop work. “Through the Ecoation technology anomalies can be detected much earlier, that way predicting and preventing outbreaks of pests and diseases. Non-stop measuring everywhere is our ideal. This way we will learn more about the effect of climate on the plant and, more importantly, the effects of the crop protection measures.”

Karel notices an increasing interest of growers in this kind of technology. “There is an increasing market demand for residue-free fruits and vegetables. That’s the direction we’re heading to. Our aim is to help growers do this in the best way possible: with the support of robotics and AI.”

Data collection will convince more growers
He is convinced that the data that can be collected will convince more growers to start using the Ecoation and Arugga technologies. “We see now that pioneers in North America are highly interested and are currently successfully trialing these technologies. But it’s more than that: what we sell, is a production increase because of less plant stress from pests and diseases. Moreover, every single pesticide treatment causes plant stress and therefore negatively influences crop yield. This is very well known among experienced growers. ”

He remembers when a couple of decades ago, they saw the same when growers started switching from chemical crop protection to IPM. “I vividly remember 2006-2007 in Spain when many growers made the switch to biological control. They didn’t want to, they were forced by the retailers after the publication of a report on pesticide residues on Spanish produce by Greenpeace Germany. But at the end of that year, everybody was picking more and better peppers. In Kenya and elsewhere, rose growers who switch to biocontrol-based IPM pick more flowers, with a long stem and a better vase life. However, stories like this have never been scientifically quantified and published but are very well known to everyone in the industry. With our technologies, we will be able to immediately and continuously measure the exact effects of IPM on crop yield. Less work, more objective data. That means harvesting more kilos with less effort. AI and robotics will bring us to the Olympic version of IPM.”For more information:Biobestinfo@biobestgroup.comwww.biobestgroup.com

Publication date: Fri 25 Jun 2021
Author: Arlette Sijmonsma
© HortiDaily.com

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Greenhouse IPM

Dr Mike Bledsoe, Village Farms

“The IPM program has made an enormous impact on the industry”

Pesticides are used in agriculture to keep plants healthy from pesky pests. But, beneficial insects are also used in farming to reduce the need for chemical pesticides and help facilitate the healthy growth of produce.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a method used to reduce the need for chemicals in agriculture while optimizing plant health. Among indoor farmers, especially hydroponic greenhouse growers (and more specifically high-tech Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA), the type of farming Village Farms growers engage in) an IPM program was implemented with success in the greenhouse industry thanks in large part to the contribution of Village Farms.

Left: Dr. Mike Bledsoe; right: IPM method to reduce the need for chemicals in agriculture. 

Village Farms’ growers monitor every aspect of growth. Mike Bledsoe, PhD and vice president of food safety and regulatory affairs at Village Farms, was instrumental in developing its food safety program. He helped develop a pesticide registration solution for the greenhouse industry at large. Dr. Bledsoe, in conjunction with the IR-4 Project, who supports registrations for specialty crops like tomatoes, has worked to register biologicals for the edible plant industry. Today, the food safety team headed up by Dr. Bledsoe works with the company’s growers on an IPM program, implemented in all greenhouses in North America.

Among these insects, bees are prolific pollinators responsible for pollinating about 75 percent of the world’s crops. Village Farms employs about two Bumble beehives per acre to pollinate plants and keep them thriving.

The goal of IPM is to respond to harmful pests with effective, safe, low-risk options. When appropriate, Village Farms administers organic pesticides on crops. The Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) approved pesticides used and they have a very short half-life –meaning no residual chemicals are left by the time the produce hits the grocery store shelves.

Yamilee Galindo Colomo of Village Farms food safety team in Texas.

IPM can be used to the fullest in Village Farms greenhouses. The glass enclosure around the plants allows for growers to account for many variables. The temperature, amount of water to the plant and sunlight exposure, and more can be modified in our greenhouses to allow for optimal growth. This allows for more efficient use of resources.

“The IPM program has made an enormous impact on the industry,” says Dr. Bledsoe. “The work we have done over the past several decades has made greenhouse growing throughout North America an even more sustainable growing practice. We have been able to stay ahead of the growing safety expectations that our customers now require.”

To find out more about Village Farms’ growing methods and sustainability growing practices, check out the Good for the Earth program.

For more information:
Helen L. Aquino
Village Farms International Inc.
Tel: +1 (407) 936-1190 ext. 312
haquino@villagefarms.com  
www.villagefarms.com 

Publication date: Mon 14 Jun 2021

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Walmart introduces restoring pollinator habitat program

Imagine mornings without orange juice or summer picnics without strawberries. Such a future is possible if we don’t take collective action to begin restoring pollinator habitats worldwide.

It’s estimated one of every three bites of food we eat is possible because of animal pollinators. Yet studies show vital pollinator populations have been declining over the last 30 years due to loss of habitat, pests, pollution, pesticides and a changing climate.

To help improve pollinator health and biodiversity in the regions in which we operate, Walmart U.S. is announcing new pollinator commitments that will further our efforts to help reverse nature loss and ultimately bring us closer to meeting new nature commitments made by Walmart and the Walmart Foundation.

These commitments aim to reduce several pollinator threats through promoting integrated pest management (IPM) practices and improving and expanding pollinator habitats.

One contributor to pollinator decline is the use of pesticides. Pollinator exposure to pesticides can be reduced by minimizing the use of pesticides, incorporating alternative forms of pest control and adopting a range of specific application practices through an Integrated Pest Management system. Therefore, Walmart U.S. is committing to source 100 percent of the fresh produce and floral we sell from suppliers that adopt IPM practices, as verified by a third-party, by 2025.

We also encourage fresh produce suppliers to phase out chlorpyrifos and nitroguanidine neonicotinoids pesticides (where applicable unless mandated otherwise by law), avoid replacing them with other products with a level I bee precaution rating and assess and report annual progress.

Pollinators are fundamental for around 80 percent of all flowering plants and more than three-quarters of the food crops that feed us. Walmart U.S. will encourage fresh produce suppliers to protect, restore or establish pollinator habitats by 2025 on at least 3 percent of land they own, operate and/or invest in and report annual progress. We will also continue to avoid selling invasive plant species in our retail stores (based on recognized regional lists). And we will work with local organizations to protect, restore or establish pollinator habitats in major pollinator migration corridors.

We have also partnered with solar developers to establish pollinator habitats around solar panel arrays. We will continue looking for opportunities to establish more pollinator habitats where feasible.

Finally, the Walmart Foundation recently granted funding to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability to leverage citizen science data to monitor pollinators more cost-effectively, unlocking opportunities to improve conservation planning, farm practices and landscape management in the United States.

To help educate our customers about pollinator plants, Walmart U.S. encourages suppliers to label pollinator-friendly plants as attractive to pollinators in retail locations. Plants that attract pollinators will feature special tags to help customers grow pollinator gardens. In total, more than 1.3 million annual and perennial pollinator-promoting plants will carry tags in Walmart stores this spring.

For more information:
Gabby Ach
Walmart
GAch@golin.com 
www.walmart.com 

Publication date: Thu 15 Apr 2021

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Fall armyworm ‘worsens hunger among smallholders’

maize farm

Maize farmer inspecting her crops. Copyright: Axel Fassio/CIFORCC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Speed read

  • Fall armyworm destroys maize worth almost US$5 billion annually in 12 African countries
  • In a Zimbabwe study, the pest increased likelihood of hunger by 12 per cent
  • Farmers need cost-effective, environmentally sustainable control measures, experts say
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By: Onyango Nyamol

[NAIROBI] The invasive crop pest fall armyworm is well known for its devastating effects on maize yields in Africa, but few studies have been done on its broader impact on poverty levels and food security.

Now a study in Zimbabwe has found that smallholder maize-growing households blighted by fall armyworm are more likely to experience hunger and could see their income almost halved in severe cases, highlighting the urgency of strategies to tackle the pest.

“Our study suggests that the outbreak is threatening food security and negatively affecting farmers’ livelihoods, hence urgent actions are needed.”

Justice Tambo, CABI

According to the study, estimates from 12 maize‐producing countries in Sub-Saharan Africa including Benin, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe indicate that without control measures, the pest could cause maize losses of up to 17.7 million tonnes, translating into revenue loss of up to almost US$5 billion a year.

But researchers say that the negative impacts of the pest are far more than yield losses, with the potential to significantly impact food security and livelihoods.

The study, published in Food and Energy Security last month (15 March), shows that households affected by fall armyworm were 11 per cent more likely to experience food shortages, while their members had a 13 per cent higher likelihood of going to bed hungry or a whole day without eating. It also found that found that severe levels of infestation reduced per capita household income by 44 per cent.

“Our study suggests that the outbreak is threatening food security and negatively affecting farmers’ livelihoods, hence urgent actions are needed to address the menace posed by fall armyworm,” says Justice Tambo, the study’s lead author and a socio-economist at the Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI, the parent organisation of SciDev.Net).

According to the study, fall armyworm was first reported in Zimbabwe during the 2016 and 2017 cropping season, and has continued to spread in subsequent seasons.

Researchers used survey data from 350 smallholder maize-growing households in six of Zimbabwe’s main maize production provinces. Data was collected in September 2018 by CABI in collaboration with Zimbabwe Plant Quarantine and Plant Protection Research Services Institute.

“We decided to conduct this study to provide evidence [of] how the fall armyworm outbreak is affecting farmers’ livelihoods beyond reductions in maize yields,” Tambo says. “While fall armyworm cannot be eradicated, taking actions to at least prevent severe level of infestation can significantly reduce welfare losses in terms of income and food security.”

Boddupalli Prasanna, director of the global maize programme at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, tells SciDev.Net that fall armyworm is a serious concern to resource-constrained smallholders who have multiple challenges to tackle.

“We certainly need to provide effective, scalable and affordable technologies to the farming communities to combat the pest in a sustainable manner. Farmers cannot afford to rely on expensive chemical pesticides to and control fall armyworm,” says Prasanna, who was not involved in the study.

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Prasanna adds that there is no single specific technology that can provide sustainable control of a pest like fall armyworm.

“We need to adopt an integrated pest management (IPM) strategy, including effective integration of improved varieties with resistance to the pest, environmentally safer pesticides, biological control … and good agronomic practices,” he says. “We need to [increase] extensive awareness among extension agents and farming communities about IPM strategy for the control of fall armyworm.”

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According to Tambo, the findings have implications for policymakers, researchers and farmers. Farmers need to adopt low-risk pesticides products such as biopesticides, and combine them with safe non-chemical options including rotation and intercropping with other crops such as beans and cassava, he explains.

This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa English desk.

References

Justice A. Tambo and others Impact of fall armyworm invasion on household income and food security in Zimbabwe (Food and Energy Security, 15 March 2020)

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OPINION EXCHANGE 600042914

Minnesota is poised to lead an environmental breakthrough

Minnesota StarTribune

Pending bills would give communities local control over pesticides, safeguard protected wildlife areas and more. By Karin Winegar APRIL 6, 2021 — 5:29PM

NICOLE NERI • NICOLE.NERI@STARTRIBUNE.COMBees are one of the many pollinators harmed by pesticides.TEXT SIZEEMAILPRINTMORE

When I was a child in a southern Minnesota farm town, summers were filled with bird music, bee hum, firefly light and frog song. Then the city sprayed with what I presume was DDT. A great silence followed that fogger.

In 1962, marine biologist Rachel Carson’s bestseller “Silent Spring,” an indictment of DDT, appeared and led to a ban on the pesticide by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1972.

As an adult, I watched a growing range of chemicals being linked to rises in cancer, nerve damage, obesity, endocrine disruption, death and deformities (frogs, alligators) and die-offs (birds, pollinators, fish) in the natural world. As a journalist, I sometimes wrote about the effects of man-made chemicals and, in particular, the consequences of pesticide and herbicide use.

Now Minnesota stands on the cusp of passing some of the most enlightened legislation in the nation to protect human and ecosystem health. With a handful of bills slated to be heard in the Legislature, we may have reached a critical mass of scientific documentation, legislative smarts and public understanding that could result in a state that is cleaner, safer and healthier for people, pets and vital pollinators.

The pending bills give communities local control over pesticides (HF 718), set rules for pesticide-coated corn and soy seed to avoid contamination (HF 766), prohibit neonicotinoid systemic pesticides (aka “neonics”) and chlorpyrifos (insecticide) in protected wildlife areas (HF 1210), impose a statewide ban on chlorpyrifos (HF 670) and increase pollinator-lethal insecticide fees with revenue allocated to pollinator research (HF 408).

Decades of study by institutions including Cornell University, Harvard University’s School of Public Health, Rutgers University and consumer protection groups show correlations between pesticides and the current insect apocalypse, rises in cancer and pet illness and deaths, and damage to child development.

DDT may have gone, but neonics are far more powerful. Results of a study by the University Koblenz and Landau in Germany, published in Science magazine on April 1, finds “that the toxicity of applied insecticides to aquatic invertebrates and pollinators has increased considerably.”

“These are extremely challenging and complex issues, and Minnesota is offering a number of innovative ways to respond to much-needed protections,” says Aimée Code, pesticide program director of the nonprofit Xerces Society based in Portland, Ore. “Across the country people are seeking answers, and states are looking at what is happening in Minnesota. Minnesota has been creative in seeking solutions through such actions as the Lawns to Legumes program and efforts to label pesticides, to ratchet down pesticide use, to create more bio-sensitive and sustainable agriculture and to give farmers incentives to not use treated seed.

“Currently, [people] think pest control and pesticide are synonymous, and that pesticides should be a first line of defense, ” Code explained. “The vast majority of our invertebrates are foundational species that offer ecological services — everything from pest management, to help filtering our water, to pollination. Chemical pesticides have become ingrained in our agriculture and homeowner practices. We have to think of smarter solutions.”

As farmers, consumers and legislative bodies continue to get smarter about solutions, neonics were banned for outdoor use in the European Union in 2018. Legislation pending in New York, California, Alaska and Massachusetts would do likewise.

Mac Ehrhardt is co-owner of the Albert Lea Seed House, a third generation family firm that put certified organic seed on its menu in 1998. The latter is a small but increasing percentage of Seed House business, he says. And while a majority of farmers purchase seed there based on costs, others recognize the concerns around chemicals.

What is also new on the issue, Ehrhardt says, is “we are getting legislators brave enough to stand up and do what is right even though they know a percentage of constituents will be angry with them.”

The Minnesota bills reflect an understanding that what affects insects, plants and animals affects humans as well.

“The evidence is very clear that neonics can be found throughout the environment now in places they are not expected to be,” says Jonathan Lundgren, an agroecologist, director of ECDYSIS Foundation, CEO of Blue Dasher Farm in Estilline, S.D., and former U.S. Department of Agriculture award-winning entomologist. Lundgren’s recent study of white tail deer spleens demonstrates that the world’s most widely used pesticide class today has negative effects on mammals.

“This has implications for our ecosystem that farmers and legislators alike can appreciate. The response from the ag chem industry is to say their products are safe and helping farmers, but the data really doesn’t support that. Neonics and other chemicals simply aren’t necessary. Farmers are developing systems that make the pesticide question kind of moot. Regenerative farming is proving to be more resilient and more profitable. The scientists got it, and farmers are getting it.”

Karin Winegar, of St. Paul, is a freelance journalist and former Star Tribune staff writer.

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Part of the CGIAR International Year of Plant Health Webinar Series

https://www.cgiar.org/iyoph-2020-webinar-series/integrated-pest-and-disease-management/

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