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NEWS RELEASE 14-MAY-2021

EurekAlert

New technology enables rapid sequencing of entire genomes of plant pathogens

AMERICAN PHYTOPATHOLOGICAL SOCIETY

Research NewsSHARE PRINT E-MAIL

Next-generation sequencing technology has made it easier than ever for quick diagnosis of plant diseases. “It’s really exciting to see how sequencing technologies have evolved and how this new technology facilitates sequencing of entire genomes in such a short amount of time,” said Yazmín Rivera, a plant pathologist with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Plant Protection and Quarantine program, who recently published a research paper on the efficacy of Oxford Nanopore Technologies protocols.

“We wanted to provide an unbiased assessment of the technology and protocols available for long read sequencing,” Rivera explained. Along with other plant pathologists, Rivera used the company’s protocols to prepare RNA and DNA libraries from virus-infected plant material and from a plant pathogenic bacterium, respectively. After one hour of data sequencing, scientists had enough data to assemble small genomes.

“Diagnosticians will welcome an objective review of this technology,” Rivera said. Rivera and her colleagues published their findings in Plant Health Progress, presenting a side-by-side comparison of the protocols that will allow the reader to identify which library preparation kit is best suited for their needs.

The ability to quickly obtain the entire genome of an organism has great implications for the plant pathology field. “Having more information readily available facilitates identification of emerging pathogens and of pathogens that are difficult to identify,” explains Rivera. For more information, read “Comparison of Nanopore Sequencing Protocols and Real-Time Analysis for Phytopathogen Diagnostics“? published in the March issue of Plant Health Progress.

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Disclaimer: Mention of trade names or commercial products in this publication is solely to provide specific information and does not imply recommendation or endorsement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.SHARE PRINT

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GarciaArocajpg.jpg

Teddy Garcia-Aroca, an LSU Ph.D. student, holds a sample of a fungus he found and named that causes the disease soybean taproot decline.Discovery just “tip of the iceberg” as scientists strive to learn more about this devastating soybean disease.

Bruce Shultz, Louisiana State University | Apr 13, 2021

An LSU graduate student has identified and named a new species of fungus that causes a devastating soybean disease. 

LSU doctoral student Teddy Garcia-Aroca identified and named the fungus Xylaria necrophora, the pathogen that causes soybean taproot decline. He chose the species name necrophora after the Latin form of the Greek word “nekros,” meaning “dead tissue,” and “-phorum,” a Greek suffix referring to a plant’s stalk. https://f51f4f44a38d9cb02edf74f97f4f06e6.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

“It’s certainly a great opportunity for a graduate student to work on describing a new species,” said Vinson Doyle, LSU AgCenter plant pathologist and co-advisor on the research project. “It opens up a ton of questions for us. This is just the tip of the iceberg.” 

Taproot decline

The fungus infects soybean roots, causing them to become blackened while causing leaves to turn yellow or orange with chlorosis. The disease has the potential to kill the plant. 

“It’s a big problem in the northeast part of the state,” said Trey Price, LSU AgCenter plant pathologist who is Garcia-Aroca’s major professor and co-advisor with Doyle. 

“I’ve seen fields that suffered a 25% yield loss, and that’s a conservative estimate,” Price said. Heather Kellytaproot decline in soybeans

Yellowing leaves are early symptoms of taproot decline in soybeans.

Louisiana soybean losses from the disease total more than one million bushels per year. 

Price said the disease has been a problem for many years as pathologists struggled to identify it. Some incorrectly attributed it to related soybean diseases such as black-root rot. 

“People called it the mystery disease because we didn’t know what caused it.” 

Price said while Garcia-Aroca was working on the cause of taproot decline, so were labs at the University of Arkansas and Mississippi State University. 

Price said the project is significant. “It’s exciting to work on something that is new. Not many have the opportunity to work on something unique.” 

Research 

Garcia-Aroca compared samples of the fungus that he collected from infected soybeans in Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama with samples from the LSU Herbarium and 28 samples from the U.S. National Fungus Collections that were collected as far back as the 1920s. 

Some of these historical samples were collected in Louisiana sugarcane fields, but were not documented as pathogenic to sugarcane. In addition, non-pathogenic samples from Martinique and Hawaii were also used in the comparison, along with the genetic sequence of a sample from China. 

Garcia-Aroca said these historical specimens were selected because scientists who made the earlier collections had classified many of the samples as the fungus Xylaria arbuscula that causes diseases on macadamia and apple trees, along with sugarcane in Indonesia. But could genetic testing of samples almost 100 years old be conducted? “It turns out it was quite possible,” he said. 

DNA sequencing showed a match for Xylaria necrophora for five of these historical, non-pathogenic samples — two from Louisiana, two from Florida, and one from the island of Martinique in the Caribbean — as well as DNA sequences from the non-pathogenic specimen from China. All of these were consistently placed within the same group as the specimens causing taproot decline on soybeans. 

Why now? 

Garcia-Aroca said a hypothesis that could explain the appearance of the pathogen in the region is that the fungus could have been in the soil before soybeans were grown, feeding on decaying wild plant material, and it eventually made the jump to live soybeans. 

Arcoa’s study poses the question of why the fungus, after living off dead woody plant tissue, started infecting live soybeans in recent years. “Events underlying the emergence of X. necrophora as a soybean pathogen remain a mystery,” the study concludes. 

But he suggests that changes in the environment, new soybean genetics and changes in the fungal population may have resulted in the shift. 

The lifespan of the fungus is not known, Garcia-Aroca said, but it thrives in warmer weather of at least 80 degrees. Freezing weather may kill off some of the population, he said, but the fungus survives during the winter by living on buried soybean plant debris left over from harvest. It is likely that soybean seeds become infected with the fungus after coming in contact with infected soybean debris from previous crops. These hypotheses remain to be tested. 

Many of the fungal samples were collected long before soybeans were a major U.S. crop, Doyle said. “The people who collected them probably thought they weren’t of much importance.” 

Garcia-Aroca said this illustrates the importance of conducting scientific exploration and research as well as collecting samples from the wild. “You never know what effect these wild species have on the environment later on.” 

What’s next? 

Now that the pathogen has been identified, Price said, management strategies need to be refined. Crop rotation and tillage can be used to reduce incidence as well as tolerant varieties. 

“We’ve installed an annual field screening location at the Macon Ridge Research Station where we provide taproot decline rating information for soybean varieties,” Price said. “In-furrow and fungicide seed treatments may be a management option, and we have some promising data on some materials. However, some of the fungicides aren’t labeled, and we need more field data before we can recommend any.” 

He said LSU, Mississippi State and University of Arkansas researchers are collaborating on this front. 

Doyle said Garcia-Aroca proved his work ethic on this project. “It’s tedious work and just takes time. Teddy has turned out to be very meticulous and detailed.” 

The final chapter in Garcia-Aroca’s study, Doyle said, will be further research into the origins of this fungus and how it got to Louisiana. Source: Louisiana State University, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.  

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SunMedia

New app to detect plants at risk from myrtle rust

Capsules (also known as gumnuts) of Eucalyptus pilularis. Features like this can enable users of the NZ Myrtaceae Key to identify species of interest. Supplied photo.

People keen to support the fight against the fungal disease myrtle rust, which threatens many of Aotearoa-New Zealand’s native trees, shrubs and climbers, now have a new tool to help identify vulnerable plants in the myrtle family.

Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research and Biosecurity New Zealand have partnered in the development of the NZ Myrtaceae Key – a free app that makes it easy for citizen biosecurity volunteers to identify susceptible plants and keep an eye out for the fungal disease myrtle rust.

Myrtle rust has already spread across the top half of the North Island and cases have been recorded as far south as Greymouth.

“We know how much damage plant pests and diseases are causing overseas, and science partnerships, like this, will help us stay ahead,” says Veronica Herrera, MPI’s diagnostics and surveillance services director.

The NZ Myrtaceae Key is a Lucid identification tool envisaged and funded by Biosecurity New Zealand and developed by botanists from Manaaki Whenua, the National Forestry Herbarium, Unitec, and other experts.

The app is easy-to-use, interactive and comprehensively illustrated with more than 1,600 fully captioned images built in and it is downloadable for both iPhone and Android smartphones.

“The key includes more than 100 of the most commonly found Myrtaceae species, subspecies, hybrids and cultivars in New Zealand. Of these, 27 species, such as the iconic pōhutukawa, mānuka and kānuka, are indigenous to New Zealand: others, such as feijoa and eucalyptus, are exotics of economic importance,” says Dr Herrera.

Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research researcher, Murray Dawson says the arrival of the windborne myrtle rust in 2017 gave a new importance to being able to identify Myrtaceae as heavily infected plants inevitably die.

“The disease is a threat to the important and substantial mānuka and kānuka honey industry. Using the new app to accurately identify species of Myrtaceae in New Zealand will make it easier to monitor and report cases of myrtle rust.

“By using the key, anyone, from farmers and trampers to gardeners and park users, will be able to identify plants to check for and report the tell-tale yellow spores, and diseased leaves,” says Mr Dawson.

To use the app, the characteristics of the plant being identified are entered, the app then sorts plants possessing these features, and it rejects those that don’t match. By progressively choosing additional features, the key will eventually narrow the results to just one or a few matching species.

Once you’ve correctly identified a plant in the myrtle family and if you think you see signs of the disease on it, don’t touch it.

If you have a camera or mobile phone you can take a photo and submit it to the iNaturalist website. Experts can check to confirm whether it is myrtle rust.

Capturing this information makes it available to agencies and scientists to analyse the rate of spread and observed impacts.

The NZ Myrtaceae Key is available from the Google Play (Android) store and the iPhone app store as a mobile (smartphone) app suitable for undertaking identifications in the field, or through a web-based browser hosted by Manaaki Whenua.

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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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A “superb” southwestern Missouri cicada, Neotibicen superbus

Back in the summer of 2015, I made an early August trip to the White River Hills region of extreme southwestern Missouri. I was actually looking for one of Missouri’s more uncommon cerambycid beetles – Prionus pocularis, associated with shortleaf pine in the mixed hardwood/pine forests across the southern part of the state. I did not encounter the beetle in either my prionic acid-baited pitfall traps or at the ultraviolet lights I had set up the evening before, but while I was in the area I thought I would visit one of my favorite places in the region – Drury-Mincy Conservation Area in Taney Co. Sitting right on the border with Arkansas, the rolling hills of this area feature high-quality dolomite glades and post oak savannas. I’ve had some excellent collecting here in the past and hoped I would find something of interest this time as well. I didn’t arrive until after midnight, and since there are no hotels in the area I just slept in the car.

Neotibicen superbus

The next morning temperatures began to rise quickly, and with it so did the cacophony of cicadas getting into high gear with their droning buzz calls. As I passed underneath one particular tree I noticed the song was coming from a branch very near my head. I like cicadas, but had it been the song of a “normal” cicada like Neotibicen lyricen (lyric cicada) or N. pruinosus (scissor grinder cicada) I would have paid it no mind. It was, instead, unfamiliar and distinctive, and when I searched the branches above me I recognized the beautiful insect responsible for the call as Neotibicen superbus (superb cicada), a southwest Missouri specialty—sumptuous lime-green above and bright white pruinose beneath. I had not seen this spectacular species since the mid 1980s (most of my visits to the area have been in the spring or the fall rather than high summer), and I managed to catch it and take a quick iPhone photograph for documentation. A species this beautiful, however, deserves ‘real’ photos, so I spent the next couple of hours attempting to photograph an individual in situ with the big camera. Of course, this is much, much easier said than done, especially with this species—their bulging eyes give them exceptional vision, and they are very skittish and quick to take flight. Most of the individuals that I located were too high up in the canopy to allow a shot, and each individual that was low enough for me to approach ended up fluttering off with a screech before I could even compose a shot, much less press the shutter. Persistence paid, however, and I eventually managed to approach and photograph an unusually calm female resting – quite conveniently – at chest height on the trunk of a persimmon tree.

Sanborn-Phillips_2013_Fig-16

According to Sanborn & Phillips (2013, Figure 16 – reproduced above), Neotibicen superbus, is found in trees within grassland environments primarily in eastern Texas and Oklahoma, although records of it exist from each of the surrounding states – especially southern Missouri and northern Arkansas (Figure 16 below, Sanborn & Phillips 2013). Later the same day I would see the species abundantly again in another of the region’s dolomite glades – this one in Roaring River State Park further west in Barry Co., suggesting that dolomite glades are the preferred habitat in this part of its range. Interestingly, I think the Missouri records at least must be relatively recent, as Froeschner (1952) did not include the species in his synopsis of Missouri cicadas. This was all the information I had back in the 1980s when I first encountered the species in southwestern Missouri, its apparent unrecorded status in the state making it an even more exciting find at the time.

Neotibicen superbus

REFERENCES:

Froeschner, R. C.  1952. A synopsis of the Cicadidae of Missouri. Journal of the New York Entomological Society 60:1–14 [pdf].

Sanborn, A. F. & P. K. Phillips. 2013. Biogeography of the cicadas (Hemiptera: Cicadidae) of North America, north of Mexico. Diversity 5(2):166–239 [abstractpdf].

© Ted C. MacRae 2018

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Pest lens 1

Thursday, June 28, 2018 Notification

New planthopper species, Sogatella unidentata (Hemiptera: Delphacidae), described from Argentina
Source: Revista Brasileira de Entomologia
Event:  New Description/Identification

A recent publication describes a new planthopper species, Sogatella unidentata (Hemiptera: Delphacidae), from Argentina. Sogatella unidentata was collected from cultivated Oryza sativa (rice) and Zea mays (corn) plants. The genus Sogatella is listed as reportable in the PEST ID database (queried 6/27/18).

References:

  1. Mariani, R. and A. M. Marino de Remes Lenicov. 2018. A new species of Sogatella (Hemiptera: Delphacidae) from temperate Argentina. Revista Brasileira de Entomologia 62(1):77-81. Last accessed June 28, 2018, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0085562617301620.

If you have any questions or comments for us about this article, please e-mail us at PestLens@aphis.usda.gov or log into the PestLens web system and click on “Contact Us” to submit your feedback.

To access previous PestLens articles, please log into PestLens.

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From PestNet

Updated fruit fly identification handbook

Welcome resource for alert Australians

As there were several fruit fly outbreaks declared across the country in 2018, the release of an updated Australian Handbook for the Identification of Fruit Flies will be welcomed by the agricultural sector. The publication will make sorting and identifying the thousands of tephritid ‘true’ fruit flies affecting a wide variety of crops grown in Australia much easier.
The handbook is accompanied by additional online information, developed via the companion website Fruit Fly Identification Australia (fruitflyidentification.org.au) and is a handy reference for all primary producers, not just those producing commercial quantities of fruit.

Dr Mark Schutze, from the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries: “We’ve updated all the fruit fly images using fresh material and produced new, tailor made, molecular diagnostic tools that have emerged from our investment in next generation genomic research.”

According to farmingahead.com.au, over 60 target species of fruit flies are included in the handbook and website, shown both as individual flies and in groups of flies that look similar to each other. Importantly, the range of variation within species is also captured.
Find the Australian Handbook for the Identification of Fruit Flies

Publication date: 6/20/2018

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Note: The IAPPS Newsletter, edited by Manu Tamo, IITA, Benin, is published  in every issue of the Crop Protection journal. If you wish to submit an article please send to Manu at:

Manuele Tamò

Editor, IAPPS Newsletter

IITA-Benin

08 B.P. 0932 Tri Postal, Cotonou, Republic of Benin

E-mail: m.tamo@cgiar.org

If you would ike to receive the online version of the Crop Protection journal please go to http://www.plantprotection.org  and Join IAPPS

IAPPS newsletter logo

Number X                                                                                                                   October, 2018

USDA’S SYSTEMATIC ENTOMOLOGY LABORATORY DIGITAL KEYS

 The Systematic Entomology Laboratory (SEL), is part of the USDA’s in-house Agricultural Research Service. It develops and transfers solutions to agricultural problems of high national priority and provides information access and dissemination. Located in Beltsville, Maryland (left picture) and Washington, DC (right picture), SEL is involved in a range of entomological projects, including the development of a number of Lucid keys (www.lucidcentral.org) for insect and mite pests.

A number of these projects have involved USDA’s Identification Technology Program as well as other collaborators. Brief details of these keys are provided below.

 Scale insect keys:

  • Since scale insects are among the most commonly encountered insects at ports of entry, a key to Scale Families (http://idtools.org/id/scales/key.php?families) was built to help identify all known families of scale insects. Despite some disagreement about the status of a few of these families, this list is consistent with the hypotheses of most coccidologists.
  • A key to Mealybug and Mealybug-like Families (http://idtools.org/id/scales/key.php?key=mealybugs) was built specifically to help identify species in three closely related scale insect families previously included in the Pseudococcidae, or mealybugs (Pseudococcidae, Putoidae, and Rhizoecidae).
  • The Soft Scales key (http://idtools.org/id/scales/key.php?key=soft) was built to help identify pest species (Coccidae). Many soft scales are serious pests, particularly as invasive species. In the United States there are 42 introduced species of soft scales and 41 of them are pests.
  • A fourth key deals with Other Scales (http://idtools.org/id/scales/key.php?key=other), pest scales in various families not treated elsewhere but which have been or thought likely to be intercepted at U.S. ports-of-entry.

 A tool for identifying aphids:

  • “AphID” (http://aphid.aphidnet.org/index.php) allows users to key the 66 most polyphagous and cosmopolitan aphid species intercepted at U.S. ports of entry. In addition to a Lucid key, AphID offers users detailed descriptions of morphological features critical to identifying aphids along with annotated photographs to help illustrate each feature. This site benefits workers in aphid taxonomy and systematics worldwide, biological control workers, extension agents, and federal and state regulatory agencies.

Mite identification:

  • “Flat Mites of the World” (http://idtools.org/id/mites/flatmites/), the result of collaborative research with the University of Maryland and USDA-APHIS, provides detailed, interactive web based identification tools and a catalog for use internationally by identifiers, regulatory officials and other plant protection professionals. The citrus-tea-coffee flat mite complex of species is the most complicated and diverse group in the flat mite family as well as being the most commonly intercepted group of mites at U.S. ports-of-entry.

Since three of the most economically important species in the family are consistently confused and misidentified, the tool helps to identify 36 genera of flat mites present throughout the world, including specific diagnostics for 13 species in the red palm mite group, 14 species in the common red flat mite complex, and mite species associated with orchid plants. Since its launch in March 2012 there have been over 123,800 visits to the website with inquiries from 180 countries.

The purpose of this interactive web based identification tool, developed in collaboration with the University of Michigan and USDA-APHIS, is to help identify 117 mite species that may be found on various types of temperate and tropical bees and in their nests. The Lucid key and a searchable image gallery of over 850 mite images helps users to distinguish harmless mites from those that might harm bee colonies. This identification tool is useful to bee keepers, scientists, extension agents, and quarantine officers worldwide: since its launch in November 2016, there have been 8115 visits to the site from 133 countries.

 Fruit fly keys:

SEL has been involved in the development of a number of fruit fly identification tools, including:

 Leaf beetle tools:

Diabrotica ID (http://idtools.org/id/beetles/diabrotica/) is an identification tool for all 125 Diabrotica species known to occur in North and Central America. Diabrotica species feed on flowers, leaves and roots of a wide variety of herbaceous plants, including agricultural crops, vegetables, fruits and ornamentals, and are vectors of viral and other lethal plant diseases. A single species, D. virgifera, is estimated to cause one billion dollars damage annually. The tool provides species descriptions, detailed illustrations and keys to help identify pest and potentially invasive species from innocuous, native US species.

Dr. Gary L. Miller
Research Leader
Systematic Entomology Laboratory
USDA, Agricultural Research Service
E-mail: gary.miller@ars.usda.gov

 

8TH INTERNATIONAL AGRICULTURE CONGRESS AND

6TH INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM FOR FOOD & AGRICULTURE (IAC-ISFA 2018)

We would like to invite you to the 8th International Agriculture Congress and 6th International Symposium for Food & Agriculture (IAC-ISFA 2018) to be held 13th-15th November 2018, Auditorium Rashdan Baba, TNCPI Building, Universiti Putra Malaysia UPM), Serdang, Selangor, Malaysia.

This joint symposium under the theme “Shaping the Future through Agriculture Innovation” will be co-organized by the Faculty of Agriculture, UPM and Faculty of Agriculture, Niigata University, Japan.

By 2050, a projected global population of 9.7 billion will demand 70% more food than is consumed today. Feeding this expanded population nutritiously and sustainably will require substantial improvements in the global food chain systems that are expected to upgrade the livelihood of farmers as well as providing safe and nutritious food for consumers. Having the theme “Shaping the Future through Agriculture Innovation”, the International Agriculture Congress 2018 will explore the application of cutting-edge technologies such as internet of things (IoT), simulation technology, big data analytics (BDA), digital economy, genome editing and biome sciences in shaping the future of agriculture. These include building inclusive, sustainable, efficient and nutritious food chain systems through leadership-driven, market-based action and collaboration, informed by insights and innovation for changes in food chain systems; mobilizing leadership and expertise at the global level.

The objectives of this symposium will be:

  1. To create a forum for intellectual dialogue to discuss, deliberate and disseminate innovative ideas and findings to enhance agriculture productivity.
  2. To expose delegates to advanced and proven technologies in agriculture.
  3. To showcase discoveries, innovations, strategies and policies to enhance agricultural sustainability.

Please visit the conference website at http://conference.upm.edu.my/IAC18 for online registration and more information.

Associate Professor Dr. Mui-Yun Wong

Secretary, IAC-ISFA 2018

E-mail: muiyun@upm.edu.my

The IAPPS Newsletter is published by the International Association for the Plant Protection Sciences and distributed in Crop Protection to members and other subscribers. Crop Protection, published by Elsevier, is the Official Journal of IAPPS. 

 IAPPS Mission: to provide a global forum for the purpose of identifying, evaluating, integrating, and promoting plant protection concepts, technologies, and policies that are economically, environmentally, and socially acceptable. 

 It seeks to provide a global umbrella for the plant protection sciences to facilitate and promote the application of the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach to the world’s crop and forest ecosystems.

 

Membership Information: IAPPS has four classes of membership (individual, affiliate, associate, and corporate) which are described in the IAPPS Web Site www.plantprotection.org.

 The IAPPS Newsletter welcomes news, letters, and other items of interest from individuals and organizations. Address correspondence and information to:

Manuele Tamò

Editor, IAPPS Newsletter

IITA-Benin

08 B.P. 0932 Tri Postal, Cotonou, Republic of Benin

E-mail: m.tamo@cgiar.org

 

 

 

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Plant Doctors in Vietnam go digital

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Plant clinics in Vietnam have received a major boost with the introduction of digital devices to facilitate the work of plant doctors. The use of tablets and smartphones has been proven to help plant doctors improve the quantity and quality of data generated from plant clinic operations. With improved ICTs, the captured data from plant clinics can be added swiftly to the Plantwise Online Management Systems (POMS) and managed from one device. Prior to this, plant clinic operations were dependent on a paper-based system of recording pest and disease data provided by farmers during clinics.

Earlier this month, an E-plant Clinic Pilot Workshop commenced at the Vietnam Academy of Agriculture and Sciences (VAAS), Hanoi. ICT intervention for the country is funded by the Crop Health and Protection (CHAP) and training was inaugurated in Hanoi by Dr Dao The Anh, Vice President of VAAS.

A total of 22 experienced plant doctors and 3 data managers from 4 provinces, had been nominated to launch this new approach. Plantwise distributed 15 tablets to plant doctors in 12 operational regions. These devices were pre-loaded with Plantwise apps to help plant doctors gain quick and easy access to reference materials, such as Pest Management and Decision Guides (PMDGs), fact sheets, and educational games, among other online and offline resources.

The training was facilitated by Ms. Claire Curry and Dr. Manju Thakur, from CABI’s Plantwise Knowledge Bank team. The National Coordinator for Plantwise Vietnam, Dr Tran Danh Suu, said he will be able to monitor the flow of plant clinic data and plant clinic activities using this new ICT. All the plant doctors in training were keen and excited to work on this new approach to the extension system in Vietnam.

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How does communication and its technical content shape farmer responses to plant clinic advice?

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A recent study led by CABI and published in International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability, explores how communication and its technical content shape farmers’ response to advice delivered at plant clinics. How willing were farmers to accept or reject the technologies recommended at plant clinic consultations? And what were the reasons? The research was carried out in Malawi, Costa Rica and Nepal, with the team visiting one plant clinic in each country.

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In Malawi, Violet (right) spends a long time listening, and explaining her recommendation to the farmer, Joseph.

Advice given in plant clinics in all three sites was found to be generally clear and open with plant doctors speaking in the local language in a respectful and accessible manner. This was followed up with a written ‘prescription’ which outlined a number of options for a single problem (consistent with IPM principles). This allowed farmers to choose their preferred recommendation, even if it was intended as more of a to-do list rather than a “menu” of choices. The written prescription ensures that the communication is lasting after farmers leave the clinic; not only does it enable farmers to remember the advice but they can also take the prescription to suppliers when buying pesticides. Clinics, therefore were found to have engaged in sound didactic teaching (where the required theoretical knowledge is provided); once the farmers had received their prescription, they were able to subject those recommendations to further environmental learning (e.g. experimenting with new techniques) back home.

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A handwritten recommendation in Nepal which can be taken to suppliers.

 

 

 

As  extensionists became plant doctors, they had to quickly adapt to diagnosing plant health problems on dozens of crop species and provide sound advice on multiple pests and diseases. This is a huge challenge. Earlier studies indicate that plant clinics did not consistently give accurate diagnoses or recommendations. In this study, there were relatively few misdiagnoses or gross errors of communication. In addition, the plant doctors were able to contact experts to help improve their diagnoses via digital platforms such as WhatsApp or Facebook groups.

Farmer responses to the clinic advice proved too complex to be labelled dichotomous (accept/reject). Their decisions are more nuanced, based generally on the fit of the technology and how well the innovation was communicated.  The research did discover problems with the communications and recommended ways in which it could be improved, for example:

  • The Plantwise prescription forms include a number of tick boxes which facilitate data input after the consultation. However this is not of much use to the farmers and leaves only a small section for the recommendation. Not all plant doctors remember to write down the diagnosis. The forms could be improved, making them easier to read and printing them in the local language rather than in English.
  • Problems with terminology were identified, such as using units of measure (e.g. grams or millilitres) that farmers find difficult to replicate at home without the right equipment. In addition, it was difficult for them to extrapolate further information from this, such as how much they should dilute the chemicals. Measurements must always be communicated in volumes that rural people understand such as a ‘spoonful’ rather than 15ml.
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In Costa Rica, Don Gerardo grows ginger
plants under his blackberries to control pests

Farmers learn from other people such as plant doctors or fellow farmers, but in addition, they are also actively experimenting with the advice they receive. Experimenting and learning from others are complementary and is part of the process of developing novel techniques that work for each farmer. What is fundamental for farmers is harvesting a healthy and profitable crop. This means that while the research can ascertain whether technologies were adapted (or not) and why, it doesn’t necessarily define whether the crop problems were actually solved. More research is required to understand not only which options farmers accept from plant clinics but also the extent to which these solved farmers’ problems. As the the research surmises, ‘odds are that farmers temper outsiders’ advice for technical reasons, not because of mis-communication.’

Read Farmer responses to technical advice offered at plant clinics in Malawi, Costa Rica and Nepal in full with open access →

Read the country reports in full, including individual testimonies and photos:

 

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