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Archive for the ‘Pest damage’ Category

15/02/22

Invasive species prevention ‘could save trillions’

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The army fall worm, an invasive species that causes degradation of ecosystems and threaten the lives and livelihoods of people. Copyright: CABI

Speed read

  • Invasive species damages cost ten times more than prevention – study
  • Control, eradication measures often come too late
  • Losses hit agriculture, forestry, fisheries, and health systems

By: Claudia Caruana

 The cost of damage caused by invasive species around the world, including to agriculturefisheries, and forestry, is at least 10 times that of preventing or controlling them, an international study suggests.

The research, published in Science of the Total Environment earlier this month, highlights the huge economic burden of invasive species and says their prevention could save trillions of US dollars.

Invasive species are non-native species that often harm the new environment they populate. They are a threat to biodiversity, can cause degradation of ecosystems and, in some regions, threaten the lives and livelihoods of people affected.

Lead researcher Ross Cuthbert, from the School of Biological Sciences at Queen’s University Belfast, in Northern Ireland, said: “Once invasive species have established and are spreading, it can be difficult to eradicate them. Delayed control measures often are not only costly, but frequently are unsuccessful in the long-term.”

The research team, consisting of scientists from 17 institutions, constructed and used a global database compiling economic costs of invasive species, which enabled comparisons to be made across different scales and contexts.

“It is difficult to convince decision-makers to invest in something that is not yet a problem, but our research clearly shows the value in taking a preventative approach.”

Ross Cuthbert, lead researcher, School of Biological Sciences, Queen’s University Belfast

They found that since 1960 the global management of invasive species has cost at least US$95 billion worldwide, while damage costs have reached at least US$1,131 billion over the same period.

Losses have hit the agriculture and forestry sectors in the form of production declines and infrastructural damage, as well as global healthcare systems through the spreading of diseases, the researchers said.

The team quantified costs according to different management types at a global scale and developed and applied a model to predict the additional costs of management delay, using the available data.

Only a fraction of the expenditure on invasive species management went on proactive prevention measures, the study found. Most ($73 billion) was spent on control or eradication measures when damage is already underway.

“By the time we see the impact that invasive species are having on the environment, it is often too late as they have already established and spread widely,” said Cuthbert.

“It is difficult to convince decision-makers to invest in something that is not yet a problem, but our research clearly shows the value in taking a preventative approach.”

Biological invasions are one of the largest threats to biodiversity, but there has been insufficient investment to reduce rates of invasion and their impacts on ecosystems and economies, he added.

The researchers found that developing countries in particular are investing little in the management of biological invasions.

According to CABI, the parent organisation of SciDev.Net which works to address environmental challenges such as invasive species, millions of the world’s most vulnerable people face problems with invasive weeds, insects, plant diseases and animals.

“These alien species arrive in different ways, including ballast water and wood packing materials,” said Cuthbert, warning: “In the future, as trade, tourism, and material transport intensify to these regions alongside economic development, more invasive species will establish and cause adverse impact because invasions are closely linked to globalisation.”

He said Africa, Asia, and South America had incurred hundreds of billions of dollars in damage from invasions but had invested only a few million in pre-invasion management.

“Without more effective prevention measures pre-invasion, these costs will continue to rise and hamper their sustainable development,” he added. “Developing countries must improve their capacity to respond to and manage biological invasions to avoid being disproportionately impacted in future.”

Investments should focus on measures such as effective biosecurity to prevent invasive species from arriving in the first place, as well as research to record new invasions, develop management measures, and understand the economic and ecosystem impacts, the researcher suggested.

Lee Hannah, a senior scientist at Conservation International’s Betty and Gordon Moore Center for Science, in the US, told SciDev.Net: “The bottom line is that we are spending far too little to care for nature by preventing species invasions, and we are paying trillions of dollars in damages as a result.”

Hannah cited South Africa as an example where the costs of managing invasions have exceeded the alternative costs of prevention. He said the country spends more than $25 million each year removing aggressive invasive plants such as the black wattle (Acacia mearnsii) tree, which has a number of harmful environmental impacts.

“This makes sense because replacing black wattle with native species increases water available from watersheds and the removal programme creates jobs,” said Hannah. “But a less expensive answer would have been to guard against black wattle spread from forestry plantations in the first place. A few million dollars invested in keeping black wattle from spreading could have avoided hundreds of millions in damages.”

This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Global desk.

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Minimizing Further Insect Pest Invasions in Africa

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Esther Ngumbi

Jun 20, 2018

Photo: Tamzin Byrne/ICIPE

This was written by Esther Ngumbi, and appeared on Sci Dev Net

USAID recently offered prize money for the best digital tools that can be used to help combat the fall armyworm (FAW), an invasive pest that has spread across Africa. The winners will be announced in the coming months.
 
Identified in over 35 African countries since 2016, the FAW is expected to continue to spread, threatening food security and agricultural trade in African countries.

Map of areas affected by Fall Armyworm (as of January 2018)


Map of areas affected by Fall Armyworm (as of January 2018) Credit: FAO

But this is not the first invasive pest the African continent is dealing with. Just a few years ago, African smallholder farmers battled the invasive South American tomato moth, Tuta absoluta. According to recent research, five invasive insect pests including T. absoluta cost the African continent US$ 1.1 billion every year.
 
Around the world, invasive pests are causing US$ 540 billion in economic losses to agriculture each year despite the fact that many countries are doing their best to prevent insect invasions now and into the future.
 

Tackling invasive pests reactively

To deal with invasive insects, African countries assisted by other stakeholders, including aid agencies such as USAID, research institutions such as the International Center for Insect Physiology and Ecology, the Center for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI, the parent organization of SciDev.Net) and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UN FAO) have repeatedly taken a reactive rather than a proactive approach in tackling the invasive pests only after they have established a foothold and caused considerable damage.
 
Ghana, for example, established a National Taskforce to control and manage FAW after the worms had invaded local fields. This taskforce mandate includes sensitizing farmers and making them aware of the symptoms of armyworm attacks so they can report infestations to authorities and undertake research aimed at finding short and long term solutions to combat the spread of FAW.

“While many of these strategies are working, one cannot help but wonder what it would take for African governments to get ahead of this problem.”

Esther Ngumbi, University of Illinois

Malawi’s government prioritized the use of pesticides as an immediate and short-term strategy to fight the FAW after many of their smallholder farmers lost crops to this invasive insect. Further, the government intensified training and awareness campaigns about this pest and installed pheromone traps to help monitor the spread only after the pest had established a foothold.
 
The FAO, a leader in the efforts to deal with invasive pests in Africa, has spearheaded many efforts including bringing together experts from the Americas, Africa and other regions to share and update each other on FAW. The FAO has launched a mobile phone app to be used as an early warning system tool. But again, many of these efforts happened after the first detection of the FAW.
 
While many of these strategies are working, one cannot help but wonder what it would take for African governments to get ahead of this problem. How can aid agencies such as USAID, UN FAO and other development partners that are currently spending billions to fight the invasive FAW help Africa to take the necessary steps to ensure that it is better prepared to deal with invasive insects now and into the future?
 

Anticipate and prepare

Recent research predicts that threats from invasive insects will continue to increase with African countries expected to be the most vulnerable. African governments must anticipate and prepare for such invasions using already available resources.
 
Early this year, CABI launched invasive species Horizon Scanning Tool (beta), a tool that allows countries to identify potential invasive species. This online and open source tool supported by United States Department of Agriculture and the UK Department for International Development allows countries to generate a list of invasive species that are absent from their countries at the moment but present in “source areas,” which may be relevant because they are neighboring countries, linked by trade and transport routes, or share similar climates. Doing so could allow African countries to prepare action plans that can be quickly rolled out when potential invaders actually arrive.
 

Learn from other regions

Africa can learn from other regions that have comprehensive plans on dealing with invasive insects and countries that have gone through similar invasions. The United States and Australia are examples of countries that have comprehensive plans on preventing and dealing with insect invasions, while Brazil has gone through its own FAW invasion.

“African governments must learn to be proactive rather than reactive in dealing with invasive insects.”

Esther Ngumbi, University of Illinois

Through workshops and training programs that help bring experts together, African countries can learn how to prevent and deal with future insect invasions. Moreover, key actors should help organize more workshops and training programs to enable African experts to learn from their counterparts overseas. At the same time, the manuals, and all the information exchanged and learned during such workshops, could be stored in online repositories that can be accessed by all African countries.   
 

Strengthen African pest surveillance

A recent Feed the Future funded technical brief, which I helped to write, looked at the strength of existing African plant protection regulatory frameworks by examining eight indicators including the existence of a specified government agency mandated with the task of carrying out pest surveillance.
 
It reveals that many African countries have weak plant protection regulatory systems and that many governments do not carry out routine pest surveillance which involves the collection, recording, analysis, interpretation and timely dissemination of information about the presence, prevalence and distribution of pests.
 
The International Plant Protection Convention offers a comprehensive document that can help African countries to design pest surveillance programs. Also, the convention offers other guiding documents that can be used by African countries to strengthen their plant protection frameworks. African countries can use these available documents to strengthen national and regional pest surveillance abilities.
 

Set up emergency funds

Invasive insects know no borders. Thus, African countries must work together. At the same time, given the rapid spread of invasive insect outbreaks, the African continent must set up an emergency fund that can easily be tapped when insects invade. In dealing with the recent FAW invasion, it was evident that individual African countries and the continent did not have an emergency financing plan. This must change.

By anticipating potential invasive insects and learning from countries that have comprehensive national plant protection frameworks, Africa can be prepared for the next insect invasion. African governments must learn to be proactive rather than reactive in dealing with invasive insects.
 
Doing so will help safeguard Africa’s agriculture and protect the meaningful gains made in agricultural development. Time is ripe.
 
Esther Ngumbi is a distinguished postdoctoral researcher with the Department of Entomology at the US-based University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, a World Policy Institute Senior Fellow, Aspen Institute New Voices Food Security Fellow and a Clinton Global University Initiative Agriculture Commitments Mentor and Ambassador. She can be contacted at enn0002@tigermail.auburn.edu 
 
This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa English desk. 
 

References

[1] USAID: Fall Armyworm Tech Prize (USAID, 2018). 
[2] Briefing note on FAO actions on fall armyworm in Africa (UN FAO, 31 January 2018) 
[3] Corin F. Pratt and others  Economic impacts of invasive alien species on African smallholder livelihoods (Global Food Security, vol 14, September 2017).
[4] Abigail Barker Plant health-state of research (Kew Royal Botanic gardens, 2017).
[5] US Embassy in Lilongwe United States assists Malawi to combat fall armyworm. (US Embassy, 13 February 2018).
[6] Joseph Opoku Gakpo Fall armyworm invasion spreads to Ghana (Cornell Alliance for Science, 19 May 2017). 
[7] Kimberly Keeton Malawi’s new reality: Fall armyworm is here to stay (IFPRI, 26 February 2018).
[8] Malawi’s farmers resort to home-made repellents to combat armyworms (Reuters, 2018). 
[9] Fall Armyworm (UN FAO, 2018). 
[10] FAO launches mobile application to support fight against Fall Armyworm in Africa (UN FAO, 14 March 2018).
[11] Dean R. Paini and others Global threat to agriculture from invasive species (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 5 July 2016).
[12] CABI launches invasive species Horizon Scanning Tool (CABI, 2018).
[13] United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service(USDA APHIS, 2018).
[14] Australia Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (Australia Government, 2018).
[15] Plant protection EBA data in action technical brief (USAID FEED THE FUTURE, 26 January 2018).
[16] Guidelines for surveillance (International Plant Protection Convention, 2016)FILED UNDER:AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTIVITYMARKETS AND TRADEPOLICY AND GOVERNANCERESILIENCE

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Western flower thrips infest chilli crops in thousands of acres in Nalgonda

Chilli farmers are facing huge losses in Nalgonda and Suryapet districts due to infesting of western flower thrips to the horticulture crop in thousands of acres of land. The farmers took up cultivation of chilli crop in 27,472 acres in Suryapet district and in 3,073 acres on Nalgonda.

More than 28 thousand tonnes of chilli crop is estimated to be produced in Suryapet and Nalgonda districts. On an average, around 12 tonnes of chilli crop would be produced per an acre. But, the farmers could get just 10 percent of the expected yield i.e. around six quintal per acre due to infesting of western flower thrips. The situation also shown impact on the green chilli prices in the vegetable markets. The price of green chilli was increased to Rs 80 per kg. The price of red chilli may also become dearer in the next couple of months.

A farmer Aludasu Venkaiah, who was native of Loyapally in Suryapet district, has leveled his four months old chilli farm in his one acre agriculture land using a tractor due to infestation of western thrips. He spent Rs 1.7 lakhs for investment of chilli cultivation, but resorted to act after losing hope that he would get even get one quintal of chilli.

Speaking to Telangana Today, Venkaiah said that he purchased chilli nurseries from a nursery in Khammam district. Infest of the thrips was impacting the chilli farms at the flowering stage. Labour charges for plucking of chilies would be more than the price to get from the crop, hence he has decided to remove the chilli farm. He requested the State government to extend compensation to save the farmers.

Read more at telanganatoday.com

Publication date: Mon 7 Feb 2022

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HLB can infect an entire tree weeks before symptoms become apparent

Brazilian scientists have been able to measure the speed of a bacterium that causes the incurable citrus greening disease (Huanglongbing). HLB is the most devastating citrus disease in the world. Afflicted trees grow yellow leaves and low-quality fruit and eventually stop producing altogether.

Silvio A. Lopes, a plant pathologist based at Fundecitrus, research institution maintained by citrus growers of the State of Sao Paulo in Brazil: “We found that CLas can move at average speed of 2.9 to 3.8 cm per day. At these speeds a tree that is 3 meters in height will be fully colonized by CLas in around 80 to 100 days, and this is faster than the symptoms appear, which generally takes at least 4 months.”

Lopes and colleagues also studied the impact of temperature on the speed of colonization. They already knew that CLas does not multiply well in hot or cold environments, but now they have more specific data.

“We estimated that 25.7°C (78°F) was the best condition for CLas to move from one side to the other side of the tree,” said Lopes. This is the first time impact of temperature on plant colonization of CLas has been experimentally demonstrated. “The grower can use this information to select areas less risky for planting citrus trees.”

Source: eurekalert.org

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Learnings From Latin America: Potential Risk of Helicoverpa armigera to U.S. Soybean Production (entomologytoday.org)

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From Mapping to Management: A Revision of Soybean Caterpillar Pest Information for U.S. Soybean

ENTOMOLOGY TODAY1 COMMENT

Lepidopteran pests of soybean—such as the green cloverworm (Hypena scabra), shown here—are growing in importance in the U.S., and a pair of articles in the Journal of Integrated Pest Management provides updated guidance on biology, distribution, and management options for five leading caterpillar pests of soybean. (Photo by Adam Varenhorst)

By Erin Hodgson, Ph.D., and Anders Huseth, Ph.D.

Anders Huseth, Ph.D.

Erin Hodgson, Ph.D.

There never seems to be a dull summer when you’re an extension entomologist of field crops. Like Coolio said, there is always “sumpin’ new” happening in agriculture. Fluctuating pest populations and invasive species make our jobs interesting. Add in new chemistries and technology updates, and it’s hard to keep up with everything.

When a pest does establish and become a problem, we want to provide accurate identification and timely management recommendations. Unfortunately, many of our tried-and-true resources are becoming out of date. New extension folks have been especially frustrated by a lack of current resources. In particular, there is not enough current information on caterpillars feeding in soybean, though these pests are becoming more economically important in the U.S. and around the world. So, a few of us decided to create an update for some of the most prominent species in U.S. soybean. We represent five states spread across the nation: Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, Minnesota, and North Carolina.

caterpillar pests of soybean
corn earworm (Helicoverpa zea)
thistle caterpillar (Vanessa cardui)

To start, we surveyed field crop entomologists in all soybean-growing states to better understand current pest occurrence and abundance in soybean (approximately 83 million acres). We compiled data from all 31 soybean-producing states during the winter of 2020. Data indicated five species that consistently bubbled to the top of the list: green cloverworm (Hypena scabra), soybean looper (Chrysodeixis includens), corn earworm (Helicoverpa zea), velvetbean caterpillar (Anticarsia gemmatalis), and painted lady (Vanessa cardui, also known as thistle caterpillar in its larval form).

After summarizing survey information, we decided to write profiles on these species to improve identification, distribution, and scouting guidelines. Our group used older research and recent field observations to develop profiles of these key pests. Last, we wanted to focus on management, especially highlighting insecticide resistance issues starting to become prominent in some states. The results of this work are shared in two articles published earlier this year in the Journal of Integrated Pest Management—one on identification and biology and another on distribution and population persistence—with a third article still in the works.

Results from our survey provide a contemporary assessment of distribution and persistence of lepidopterans in soybean. Like the aforementioned rap artist says, field crop extension entomology is a “fantastic voyage,” and we hope the articles help provide updated information for caterpillar identification and management.

Read More

Identification and Biology of Common Caterpillars in U.S. Soybean

Current Distribution and Population Persistence of Five Lepidopteran Pests in U.S. Soybean

Journal of Integrated Pest Management

Erin Hodgson, Ph.D., is a professor and extension entomologist at Iowa State University. Email: ewh@iastate.eduAnders Huseth, Ph.D., is an assistant professor and extension specialist at North Carolina State University. Email: ashuseth@ncsu.edu.

Soybean Gall Midge: Discovery of a Delicate and Destructive New Species

March 9, 2021

New Guide Offers IPM Tips for Japanese Beetles in Soy and Corn

April 29, 2019

Learnings From Latin America: Potential Risk of Helicoverpa armigera to U.S. Soybean Production

February 1, 2021

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The Conversation

The fall armyworm invasion is fierce this year – and scientists are researching how to stop its destruction of lawns, football fields and crops

September 17, 2021 8.15am EDT

Author

  1. Scott D. StewartProfessor of Entomology and Director of the West Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center, University of Tennessee

Disclosure statement

Scott D. Stewart’s research and extension programs at the University of Tennessee are partially supported by grants and contracts from Tennessee cotton, corn and soybean commodity boards, the USDA, and from various seed and pesticide companies for evaluation of their technologies.

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Across the Northeast, Midwest, South and Southwest United States, homeowners are watching with horror as their lawns turn from green to brown, sometimes in less than 48 hours, and wondering, “What happened this year – and how did it happen so fast?”

The culprit: the fall armyworm.

As an entomologist, I can attest that their appearance is nothing new: They’re an annual problem, but the scale of this year’s invasion is unprecedented. These voracious feeders are destroying lawns and grasses, attacking golf courses, pastures, football and soccer fields – and they can completely defoliate rice, soybean, alfalfa and other crop fields within days. They are called armyworms because of their habit of marching across the landscape.

The invader

The fall armyworm, Spodoptera frugiperda, isn’t a worm. It’s a striped caterpillar, the larvae of an ordinary and benign brown moth. It’s native to the Americas and is extremely adaptable, thriving everywhere from lush forests to arid regions and in pristine, disturbed and urban landscapes.

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The armyworms’ impact on lawn grass can be dramatic. Scott D. Stewart, Author provided

This moth survives year-round in warmer locales, from the tip of South America to the southern U.S. Each year they invade more northern regions until cold weather ends their occupation.

From larvae to moth, its entire life cycle is about 30 days during the summer and 60 in spring and fall. Adult moths survive just two weeks. During that time, a female lays up to 2,000 eggs, deposited underneath leaves in clusters of 100 to 200.

The moths aren’t the problem; it’s their larvae. When eggs first hatch, the tiny caterpillars are barely noticeable, about one-sixteenth of an inch long. By the time the caterpillars reach full size – an inch and a half – they’ve become ravenous eaters.During its short life cycle, the fall armyworm can devastate important crops.

Depending on the season, the armyworms eat and grow for 14 to 30 days. Initially, they chew holes in leaves, sometimes reducing them to a lacework skeleton. If they run out of food, they become cannibals, with the larger armyworms preying on the smaller ones.

Then they burrow into the ground, encase themselves in a cocoon and pupate. When they emerge as moths, the cycle repeats, with the next generation propelling their expansion across the country.

An invasive species

Meanwhile, fall armyworms have spread across the globe as an invasive species, reaching the Near East, Asia, Australia, Africa and India. Without its native complement of parasites, predators and diseases to control it, these rapacious caterpillars pose a serious agricultural threat to these newly invaded countries.

Farming practices have fueled their proliferation. Most of these countries do not grow armyworm-resistant GMO crops and many have limited access to newer insecticides and modern application equipment.

Armyworms have been particularly destructive in sub-Saharan Africa, where they devour maize, the continent’s staple crop. Damage is estimated at US$2 billion per year. It also causes major damage to corn, rice, sorghum, sugar cane, vegetable crops and cotton.

This year’s ‘perfect storm’

Entomologist David Kerns sounded the alarm in June, warning that armyworms in Texas were bad and heading north and east. They’d gotten off to an early start, aided by good weather in their winter home range.

Once the moths are on the move, they leave their natural enemies behind, taking their new territories by surprise. They can migrate hundreds of miles, riding the winds to reinfest the northern part of their domain. But with an early start this year, they rode the winds farther than normal. By the end of August, much of the southern U.S. east of the Rocky Mountains had suffered serious assault, akin to a plague of locusts.

An adult armyworm moth (genus Spodoptera) Scott D. Stewart, Author provided
Newly hatched armyworms. Scott D. Stewart, Author provided

How do we control the invasion?

There are two ways to deal with an infestation: Wait it out, or fight. For those concerned about lawns, waiting may be the answer. Armyworms don’t feast on all grasses, and a well-established lawn will often recover, though it may not look great for a while. However, armyworms particularly love freshly laid sod, which may sustain irreparable damage.

Waiting it out isn’t an option for farmers. Applying insecticides is the only way to save crops, which may prove difficult as pandemic-fueled disruptions have left some insecticides in short supply. Success is a numbers game: Killing 80% of a group of 100 armyworms controls them, but with larger numbers of armyworms, killing 80% still means many crops will be devastated.

Some evidence also suggests that fall armyworms may be developing more resistance to certain insecticides, and it wouldn’t be the first time. This pest is infamous for developing resistance to the insecticidal proteins from Bacillus thuringiensis produced by genetically modified crops. My colleague Juan Luis Jurat-Fuentes is trying to understand how the fall armyworm becomes resistant to Bt toxins in Bt corn and cotton.

His work is also revealing how insecticidal protein-resistant armyworms are spreading their genes across the Americas. We are currently collaborating on a project using gene silencing to help control outbreaks of fall armyworm. The technique can turn off specific genes, including those that make the fall armyworm resistant to insecticides. The goal is to develop extremely specific and effective insecticides that have minimal impact on the environment and other wildlife species.

Fall armyworm on damaged corn. ossyugioh/Getty Images

The cost – and the future

The economic costs of fall armyworm invasions are high. This year alone they have preyed upon millions of acres of crops, hayfields, lawns and turfgrass. Farmers, homeowners and businesses have spent tens of millions of dollars on insecticide applications. Some farms have suffered major crop losses.

The battle is not quite over. It will continue for a few more weeks as the fall armyworm continues to spread farther north and east.

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Was this “year of the armyworm” a fluke? Will they be back? The answer to both questions is probably yes. We don’t know why fall armyworms started off en masse in 2021, but the extreme infestations were hopefully a rare anomaly. There is concern, however, that a warming climate will allow these and other subtropical and tropical insects to expand their territories northward.

We do know that armyworms will reinvade much of the Southern U.S. every year as they always have, and northern states should expect more frequent incursions from insect neighbors to the south.

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Tomato fruits send electrical warnings to the rest of the plant when attacked

A recent study in Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems shows that the fruits of a type of tomato plant send electrical signals to the rest of the plant when they are infested by caterpillars. Plants have a multitude of chemical and hormonal signaling pathways, which are generally transmitted through the sap (the nutrient-rich water that moves through the plant). In the case of fruits, nutrients flow exclusively to the fruit and there has been little research into whether there is any communication in the opposite direction–i.e. from fruit to plant.

“We usually forget that a plant’s fruits are living and semiautonomous parts of their mother plants, far more complex than we currently think. Since fruits are part of the plant, made of the same tissues of the leaves and stems, why couldn’t they communicate with the plant, informing it about what they are experiencing, just like regular leaves do?” says first author Dr. Gabriela Niemeyer Reissig, of the Federal University of Pelotas, Brazil. “What we found is that fruits can share important information such as caterpillar attacks–which is a serious issue for a plant–with the rest of the plant, and that can probably prepare other parts of the plant for the same attack.”

To test the hypothesis that fruits communicate by electrical signals, Niemeyer Reissig and her collaborators placed tomato plants in a Faraday cage with electrodes at the ends of the branches connecting the fruits to the plant. They then measured the electrical responses before, during and after the fruits had been attacked by Helicoverpa armigera caterpillars for 24 hours. The team also used machine learning to identify patterns in the signals.

The results showed a clear difference between the signals before and after attack. In addition, the authors measured the biochemical responses, such as defensive chemicals like hydrogen peroxide, across other parts of the plant. This showed that these defenses were triggered even in parts of the plant that were far away from the damage caused by the caterpillars.

Read the complete article at www.eurekalert.org.

Reissig Gabriela Niemeyer, Oliveira Thiago Francisco de Carvalho, Oliveira Ricardo Padilha de, Posso Douglas Antônio, Parise André Geremia, Nava Dori Edson, Souza Gustavo Maia, “Fruit Herbivory Alters Plant Electrome: Evidence for Fruit-Shoot Long-Distance Electrical Signaling in Tomato Plants” Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems 5 (2001) DOI=10.3389/fsufs.2021.657401 https://www.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fsufs.2021.657401

Publication date: Mon 9 Aug 2021

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Jun 26, 2021 – Energy & Environment

West coast drought leads to grasshopper plague

Oriana Gonzalez

Picture taken up-close of a grasshopper

Photo: Edwin Remsberg/VW PICS/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

As the Southwest remains stuck in the most intense drought of the 21st century, a plague of grasshoppers has emerged, threatening farmers’ rangelands, AP reports.

Driving the news: The Department of Agriculture has responded by launching an extermination campaign against grasshoppers, the largest since the 1980s. Authorities have started to spray thousands of square miles with pesticide to kill immature grasshopper before they become adults.

  • But, but, but: Some environmentalists worry the pesticides could kill other insects, including grasshopper predators and struggling species such as monarch butterflies, AP notes.
  • The USDA said it would spray rangelands in sections to prevent other insect wildlife from being affected by the pesticide.

State of play: The USDA released a grasshopper hazard map that shows some areas have more than 15 grasshoppers per square yard in Montana, Wyoming, Oregon, Idaho, Arizona, Colorado and Nebraska.

Why it matters: “Left unaddressed, federal officials said the agricultural damage from grasshoppers could become so severe it could drive up beef and crop prices,” AP writes.

What they’re saying: “Drought and grasshoppers go together and they are cleaning us out,” Frank Wiederrick, a farmer in Montana, told AP.

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science daily

Nanosensor can alert a smartphone when plants are stressed

Carbon nanotubes embedded in leaves detect chemical signals that are produced when a plant is damaged

Date:
April 15, 2020
Source:
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Summary:
Engineers can closely track how plants respond to stresses such as injury, infection, and light damage using sensors made of carbon nanotubes. These sensors can be embedded in plant leaves, where they report on hydrogen peroxide levels.
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MIT engineers have developed a way to closely track how plants respond to stresses such as injury, infection, and light damage, using sensors made of carbon nanotubes. These sensors can be embedded in plant leaves, where they report on hydrogen peroxide signaling waves.

Plants use hydrogen peroxide to communicate within their leaves, sending out a distress signal that stimulates leaf cells to produce compounds that will help them repair damage or fend off predators such as insects. The new sensors can use these hydrogen peroxide signals to distinguish between different types of stress, as well as between different species of plants.

“Plants have a very sophisticated form of internal communication, which we can now observe for the first time. That means that in real-time, we can see a living plant’s response, communicating the specific type of stress that it’s experiencing,” says Michael Strano, the Carbon P. Dubbs Professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT.

This kind of sensor could be used to study how plants respond to different types of stress, potentially helping agricultural scientists develop new strategies to improve crop yields. The researchers demonstrated their approach in eight different plant species, including spinach, strawberry plants, and arugula, and they believe it could work in many more.

Strano is the senior author of the study, which appears today in Nature Plants. MIT graduate student Tedrick Thomas Salim Lew is the lead author of the paper.

Embedded sensors

Over the past several years, Strano’s lab has been exploring the potential for engineering “nanobionic plants” — plants that incorporate nanomaterials that give the plants new functions, such as emitting light or detecting water shortages. In the new study, he set out to incorporate sensors that would report back on the plants’ health status.

Strano had previously developed carbon nanotube sensors that can detect various molecules, including hydrogen peroxide. About three years ago, Lew began working on trying to incorporate these sensors into plant leaves. Studies in Arabidopsis thaliana, often used for molecular studies of plants, had suggested that plants might use hydrogen peroxide as a signaling molecule, but its exact role was unclear.

Lew used a method called lipid exchange envelope penetration (LEEP) to incorporate the sensors into plant leaves. LEEP, which Strano’s lab developed several years ago, allows for the design of nanoparticles that can penetrate plant cell membranes. As Lew was working on embedding the carbon nanotube sensors, he made a serendipitous discovery.

“I was training myself to get familiarized with the technique, and in the process of the training I accidentally inflicted a wound on the plant. Then I saw this evolution of the hydrogen peroxide signal,” he says.

He saw that after a leaf was injured, hydrogen peroxide was released from the wound site and generated a wave that spread along the leaf, similar to the way that neurons transmit electrical impulses in our brains. As a plant cell releases hydrogen peroxide, it triggers calcium release within adjacent cells, which stimulates those cells to release more hydrogen peroxide.

“Like dominos successively falling, this makes a wave that can propagate much further than a hydrogen peroxide puff alone would,” Strano says. “The wave itself is powered by the cells that receive and propagate it.”

This flood of hydrogen peroxide stimulates plant cells to produce molecules called secondary metabolites, such as flavonoids or carotenoids, which help them to repair the damage. Some plants also produce other secondary metabolites that can be secreted to fend off predators. These metabolites are often the source of the food flavors that we desire in our edible plants, and they are only produced under stress.

A key advantage of the new sensing technique is that it can be used in many different plant species. Traditionally, plant biologists have done much of their molecular biology research in certain plants that are amenable to genetic manipulation, including Arabidopsis thaliana and tobacco plants. However, the new MIT approach is applicable to potentially any plant.

“In this study, we were able to quickly compare eight plant species, and you would not be able to do that with the old tools,” Strano says.

The researchers tested strawberry plants, spinach, arugula, lettuce, watercress, and sorrel, and found that different species appear to produce different waveforms — the distinctive shape produced by mapping the concentration of hydrogen peroxide over time. They hypothesize that each plant’s response is related to its ability to counteract the damage. Each species also appears to respond differently to different types of stress, including mechanical injury, infection, and heat or light damage.

“This waveform holds a lot of information for each species, and even more exciting is that the type of stress on a given plant is encoded in this waveform,” Strano says. “You can look at the real time response that a plant experiences in almost any new environment.”

Stress response

The near-infrared fluorescence produced by the sensors can be imaged using a small infrared camera connected to a Raspberry Pi, a $35 credit-card-sized computer similar to the computer inside a smartphone. “Very inexpensive instrumentation can be used to capture the signal,” Strano says.

Applications for this technology include screening different species of plants for their ability to resist mechanical damage, light, heat, and other forms of stress, Strano says. It could also be used to study how different species respond to pathogens, such as the bacteria that cause citrus greening and the fungus that causes coffee rust.

“One of the things I’m interested in doing is understanding why some types of plants exhibit certain immunity to these pathogens and others don’t,” he says.

Strano and his colleagues in the Disruptive and Sustainable Technology for Agricultural Precision interdisciplinary research group at the MIT-Singapore Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART), MIT’s research enterprise in Singapore, are also interested in studying is how plants respond to different growing conditions in urban farms.

One problem they hope to address is shade avoidance, which is seen in many species of plants when they are grown at high density. Such plants turn on a stress response that diverts their resources into growing taller, instead of putting energy into producing crops. This lowers the overall crop yield, so agricultural researchers are interested in engineering plants so that don’t turn on that response.

“Our sensor allows us to intercept that stress signal and to understand exactly the conditions and the mechanism that are happening upstream and downstream in the plant that gives rise to the shade avoidance,” Strano says.

The research was funded by the National Research Foundation of Singapore, the Singapore Agency for Science, Technology, and Research (A*STAR), and the U.S. Department of Energy Computational Science Graduate Fellowship Program.


Story Source:

Materials provided by Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Original written by Anne Trafton. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Tedrick Thomas Salim Lew, Volodymyr B. Koman, Kevin S. Silmore, Jun Sung Seo, Pavlo Gordiichuk, Seon-Yeong Kwak, Minkyung Park, Mervin Chun-Yi Ang, Duc Thinh Khong, Michael A. Lee, Mary B. Chan-Park, Nam-Hai Chua, Michael S. Strano. Real-time detection of wound-induced H2O2 signalling waves in plants with optical nanosensors. Nature Plants, 2020; 6 (4): 404 DOI: 10.1038/s41477-020-0632-4

Cite This Page:

Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “Nanosensor can alert a smartphone when plants are stressed: Carbon nanotubes embedded in leaves detect chemical signals that are produced when a plant is damaged.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 April 2020. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/04/200415133512.htm>.

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International Conference on Global Crop Losses Caused by Diseases, Pests, and Weeds

An international conference on global crop losses was organized by Inra in Paris on three days (October 16 – 18, 2017).  The aim of this conference was to assess how plant diseases, pests, and weeds negatively affect crop health, crop performances, ecosystems and society. Although these negative impacts are well recognized, their quantification is still fragmented or incomplete.

Septoria tritici sur feuille de blé.. © INRA, SIMON J.C.
Updated on 01/23/2018
Published on 11/07/2017

The conference brought together key players in global agricultural and crop health research in order to explore and discuss opportunities related to analyzing, quantifying, and modelling crop losses to diseases and pests.The conference involved some 80 participants from 20 countries.

  • NEW : the final report is available HERE

The event was organized by INRA, through its Flagship Meta-Programs SMaCH (Sustainable Management of Crop Health) and GloFoodS (Transitions to Global Food Security), in partnership with Cirad and the ISPP  and support from the international networks AGMiP and MacSur. See details below.

Key questions addressed by the conference were:

  • What are the effects of diseases, pests, and weeds, on crop performances?
  • How can we understand, quantify, assess, and model these effects?
  • How and what can modelling contribute in the assessment of the impacts of diseases, pests, and weeds, especially on food security?
  • What could be the effects of climate and global changes on crop losses caused by plant diseases, pests, and weeds?

Eight keynotes were presented to address different aspects of crop loss quantification, modelling, and understanding:

  • Impacts of disease and pest crop losses on crop yields and agrosystem performances (K. J. Boote, University of Florida, USA)
    > See the slide show here.
  • Overview of approaches to quantify and model disease and pest losses (S. Savary, INRA, France)
    > See the slide show here.
  • Economic implications of disease and pest losses – modelling and analytical approaches (J. Antle, Oregon State University, USA)
    > See the slide show here.
  • Plant diseases in a changing climate, approaches to assess and estimate future crop risks (A. Von Tiedemann, University of Göttingen, Germany)
    > See the slide show here.
  • Pests and diseases data in the context of yield gaps – the Global Yield Gap Atlas (M. van Ittersum, Wageningen University, The Netherlands)
    > See the slide show here.
  • Linking crops with pests and diseases (K. C. Kersebaum, ZALF, Germany)
    > See the slide show here.
  • Past and ongoing experiences in developing open source online scientific data bases (A. Nelson, University of Twente, The Netherlands and J. Koo, IFPRI, USA)
    > See the slide show here.
  • Importance of disease and pest losses on key world crops – priorities (L. Willocquet, INRA, France)
    > See the slide show here.

> See the extended abstracts here.

These keynotes provided the background for three work groups, which addressed the themes of “Crop Loss Definition”, “Models for Crop Losses”, and “Data: Sources and Sharing”. Work conducted in each of these work groups will lead to a series of reports, including a white paper on crop loss data ontology.

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Scientific contact(s):

On the subject of

The event was organized by INRA, through its Flagship Meta-Programs SMaCH (Sustainable Management of Crop Health) and GloFoodS (Transitions to Global Food Security). The conference was organized in partnership with Cirad and the ISPP (International Society of Plant Pathology), and support from the international networks AGMiP http://www.agmip.org/ and MacSur.

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