Archive for the ‘Pests’ Category


Crop scouting app for faster data collection

These days – whether it’s due to covid or other reasons – growers often have less staff at their farms. But when under pressure to deliver more with less, digitizing and expediating manual tasks is key to optimizing labor.

The FarmRoad mobile app aims to streamline crop scouting and crop registration so your team can work faster without pens or clipboards. Record crop measurements, pest numbers, and disease outbreaks using your phone. Upload photos, type comments then instantly share with your team so you can act fast to address the issues.

Speed up and simplify crop data capture
The FarmRoad mobile app provides a simple solution to streamlining crop scouting tasks. The app works on both phones and tablets and collects data on:

  • Pests
  • Beneficial insects
  • Pest traps
  • Plant diseases
  • Plant disorders

Record pest types and infestation locations
Understanding pest pressure relies on comprehensive monitoring of different types of pests (e.g., whitefly, thrips) and their numbers. Use the FarmRoad mobile app to log the location of infestations and record pest types and their prevalence to evaluate the effectiveness of your beneficial insects. 

Collect pest trap data faster
Insect traps are essential to directly reduce the populations of the insects and other anthropods that affect your crop. Using traps as part of your pest management reduces the need for pesticides. Use the FarmRoad mobile app to collect pest trap data faster.

Document plant disease threats
Managing plant disease outbreaks keeps every grower on their toes. Monitoring environmental conditions and pathogen transmission at your farm enables you to track outbreaks to keep them under control. Use the FarmRoad mobile app to upload photos, dates and write comments to keep your team updated on disease occurrences in your greenhouse.

Faster identification and communication of potential crop problems
Crop scouting is necessary to keep plants healthy and to prevent pests or pathogens from reaching dangerous levels. Arm your team of scouts with the app to record crop threats at precise locations. Staff can upload photos, comment, and share immediately so swift remedial action can be taken.

Visualize and track your scouting info
Scouting data collected with the FarmRoad Mobile app is visualized inside the FarmRoad platform. Graphing crop information helps you spot trends and patterns in the lifecycle of your crop.

Digitize crop measurements
Collecting regular crop measurements helps agronomists and farm managers understand how to steer the growth of their plants. Use the FarmRoad mobile app to digitize over 20 crop measurements with your phone to speed up crop registration.

For more information:

Publication date: Wed 25 May 2022

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Black Fig Fly: A New Invasive Pest in California


Black fig fly (Silba adipata) is a specialized pest of figs native to the Mediterranean region and first reported in the U.S. in 2021, in southern California. This fly is a threat to commercial fig production, and while little is known about it, researchers are now working to improve our knowledge of black fig fly ecology and management. Here, an adult female black fig fly is shown depositing eggs into the ostiole of a fig fruit. (Photo by Houston Wilson, Ph.D.)

By Valeh Ebrahimi, Ph.D., Kadie Britt, Ph.D., and Houston Wilson, Ph.D.

Houston Wilson, Ph.D.

Kadie Britt, Ph.D.

Valeh Ebrahimi, Ph.D.

There is always alarm when a new invasive pest makes its way into the United States. Several invasive flies have caused concern in the past, including Mediterranean fruit fly (Ceratitis capitata), olive fruit fly (Bactrocera oleae), and spotted wing drosophila (Drosophila suzukii). The newest fly pest of concern in California is the black fig fly (Silba adipata), a species that exclusively feeds and reproduces on figs.

Black fig fly is originally from the Mediterranean region and can currently be found throughout southern Europe, north Africa, and the Middle East. More recently, the black fig fly was found infesting figs in South Africa (2007), Mexico (2020), and now southern California (2021). California produces close to 100 percent of the U.S. fig crop. Luckily, the fly has not yet been recovered in the Central Valley, where a majority of commercial fig acreage is located. Following detection in Mexico, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service placed additional restrictions on the importation of fresh figs from Mexico to the United States.

In a new article published in April in the open-access Journal of Integrated Pest Management, our team at the University of California, Riverside, and UC Cooperative Extension detail current knowledge of black fig fly biology and management and efforts underway to better understand how to respond to this new invasive species.

Black fig fly (Silba adipata) is originally from the Mediterranean region and can currently be found throughout southern Europe, north Africa, and the Middle East. More recently, the black fig fly was found infesting figs in South Africa (2007), Mexico (2020), and now southern California (2021). Shown here is an adult male. (Photo by Martin Hauser, Ph.D.)

Black fig fly is a small, glossy black fly with reddish eyes and brown legs, approximately 3.5 to 4.5 millimeters long. Adults are known to feed on sap from overripe fig fruits and have shown a strong preference for the milky latex secretions coming from fruits. Females have a long, sharp ovipositor that aids deposition of egg clusters in the ostiole of fig fruits, and they appear to strongly prefer unripe fig fruits.

Larvae emerge from eggs inside of the fig and feed on internal fruit tissue, causing damage that can lead to premature fruit drop from trees. When ready, larvae make their way out of the fruit (causing a characteristic small exit hole), drop to the soil, and pupate. Pupae are the overwintering stage and in spring they emerge, mate, and begin to attack figs. Black fig fly is multivoltine and can have between four and six generations per year under a Mediterranean climate.

Adult black fig fly populations can be monitored using a McPhail-type trap baited with either torula yeast or a combination of 2 percent ammonium sulfate and hexanol. Following local reports of infestation in southern California, traps were deployed in a few locations in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties in 2021. Both lures were successful at attracting and capturing adult black fig fly.

fig damage
fig damage
fig with black fig fly exit hole
McPhail trap

There is very little current information on natural enemies. One study reported parasitization of black fig fly pupae by the wasp Pachycrepoideus vindemmiae, but implications for biological control in commercial orchards remains unclear, as this is a generalist parasitoid that attacks more than 60 different species across Europe and North America.

For now, and in the near future, orchard sanitation is critical and any dropped fruits should be removed and destroyed due to potential larval infestation. Currently, recommendations for chemical control are very limited. Even so, larvae are the damaging stage, and targeting them can be tough due to protection from the outer covering of the fig fruit. Insecticide baits may have greater management potential but have not been evaluated yet in California.

Information regarding general biology and phenology of black fig fly in California is currently unclear, including total number of generations per year, current geographic distribution and potential for spread, minimum and maximum temperature thresholds, and degree-day requirements across life stages. As data are generated to address these unknowns, we will have the ability to better predict the potential spread of this pest in California, as well as timing of key phenological events. More broadly, these data can be used to determine a more comprehensive risk assessment for the major fig production regions in the Central Valley, as well as areas where black fig fly has already established. For instance, one key goal would be to estimate the timing of adult emergence and possible infestation events relative to development and availability of new fig fruits.

Over the next year, data on the developmental biology of black fig fly will be generated and then used to model the potential geographic range of this invasive pest. Additionally, we plan to evaluate various trap and lure types to optimize monitoring protocols, fully delineate the current spread of this pest, and evaluate the efficacy of chemical controls, including materials approved for organic production.

In late summer of 2021, we visited fig growers in southern California and saw firsthand the damage that black fig fly can cause. This pest is particularly challenging because it is rarely evident where a female has laid eggs or where a larva is present inside of the fig. By the time infestation is evident, fig fruits have usually already fallen from the tree. As such, improving monitoring protocols is one of our highest priorities. Black fig fly will continue to be an issue for fig growers in southern California for the foreseeable future, but research is underway to address some of the most pressing questions.

Read More

First Report of Black Fig Fly, Silba adipata (Diptera: Lonchaeidae), in the United States

Journal of Integrated Pest Management

Valeh Ebrahimi, Ph.D., and Kadie E. Britt, Ph.D., are postdoctoral scholars in the lab of Houston Wilson, Ph.D., assistant cooperative extension specialist in the Department of Entomology at the University of California, Riverside. Valeh is located on the UC Riverside campus and Kadie and Houston are located off campus at the Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier, California. Twitter: @EbrahimiValeh@kadiehemp, and @treecrops. Email: valehe@ucr.edukadieb@ucr.edu, and houston.wilson@ucr.edu.

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Australia: Using BioClay technology to protect plants against whitefly

It’s one of the biggest challenges facing the environment and farmers across the globe – pest control. But now, University of Queensland scientists have developed an environmentally friendly spray that could prove to be a game-changer for the agricultural industry.

The breakthrough is part of UQ’s BioClay technology, a safe and sustainable alternative to chemical pesticides, which has been developed over the past decade by the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI) and the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN).

Professor Neena Mitter and PhD candidate Ritesh Jain discuss how BioClay repels pests such as whitefly. 

Research team leader Professor Neena Mitter said it was an important development for crop protection because it was effective against whitefly (Bemisia tabaci), a small insect responsible for the loss of billions of dollars in agricultural crops around the world.

“Silverleaf whitefly (SLW) is considered an invasive species in the United States, Australia, Africa, and several European countries, and it attacks more than 500 plant species including cotton, pulses, chili, capsicum, and many other vegetable crops,” Professor Mitter said. “The insect lays eggs on the underside of the leaves, and the nymphs and adults suck the sap from the plant resulting in reduced yields.”

In addition, whiteflies also transmit many viruses which pose a threat to healthy crops. Control of the pest has been difficult due to its ability to quickly develop resistance to traditional chemical pesticides. The BioClay spray uses degradable clay particles that carry double-stranded RNA, which enters the plant and protects it without altering the plant’s genome.

“It is the first time the BioClay platform has been used to target sap-sucking insect pests,” Professor Mitter said. “When whiteflies try to feed on the sap, they also ingest the double-stranded RNA, which kills the insect by targeting genes essential to its survival. The world of RNA is not just responsible for COVID-19 vaccines, it will also revolutionize the agricultural industry by protecting plants from viruses, fungi, and insect pests,” she said.

PhD candidate Ritesh Jain using the environmentally friendly spray. 

To identify suitable gene targets, PhD candidate Ritesh Jain went through the global database of genome sequences. “Initially, we had to screen hundreds of genes specific to SLW to see which ones would affect their growth,” Mr. Jain said. “Importantly, the double-stranded RNA proved harmless when fed to other insects, such as stingless bees and aphids.”

The Cotton Research and Development Corporation’s Senior Research and Development Manager, Susan Maas, says SLW is a major pest of cotton globally due to its ability to contaminate and downgrade lint quality. “This innovation will support the industry to maintain Australia’s reputation for producing uncontaminated, high-quality cotton in a safe and environmentally friendly way,” Ms. Maas said.

Professor Neena Mitter holding one of the crops susceptible to whitefly. 

Hort Innovation’s research and development manager, Dr. Vino Rajandran, said the spray could give the industry another tool in its biosecurity armory. “It has the potential to save growers time and money and is a great example of industry levy investment in action,” Dr. Rajandran said.

The researchers will now work with industry partner Nufarm Limited to test the whitefly BioClay formulation in real-world production systems.

Nufarm’s Global Lead for Transformational Projects, Mike Pointon, said the company was “proud to be partnering with these world leading scientists to develop cutting-edge technologies that bring new, alternative control options to farmers.”

For more information:
University of Queensland

Publication date: Thu 19 May 2022

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17 May 2022/

Ellen Phiddian

Gene-editing cockroaches with CRISPR-Cas9 – and maybe other insects

New technique a lab time-saver for world of insect experimentation.

cartoon of syringe injected into big cockroach, with arrow pointing to three baby cockroaches, one of which has white eyes

The new genetic modification method involves directly injecting CRISPR materials into cockroaches, with some of their offspring then carrying the mutation (in this case, a change in eye pigment). Credit: Shirai et al., Cell Reports Methods



Researchers have found a simpler way to genetically modify cockroaches with CRISPR-Cas9, considerably reducing the time needed to conduct insect research.

CRISPR-Cas9 is a molecule first discovered in bacteria, which has made genetic modification a much faster and more efficient process.

The new technique, called direct parental CRISPR, or DIPA-CRISPR, allows researchers to avoid having to microinject CRISPR materials into insect embryos. Apparently, this is a major inconvenience in the genetically modified insect world, and it doesn’t work for every insect. In fact, cockroaches’ odd reproductive systems prevent them from being genetically modified with embryo microinjections.

Instead, DIPA-CRISPR works by a female cockroach being injected with the relevant CRISPR tools – meaning that some of her offspring carry the induced genetic modifications.

“In a sense, insect researchers have been freed from the annoyance of egg injections,” says Takaaki Daimon, a researcher at Kyoto University, Japan, and senior author of a paper describing the research, which has been published in Cell Reports Methods.

“We can now edit insect genomes more freely and at will. In principle, this method should work for more than 90% of insect species.”

The researchers used commercially available Cas9 ribonucleoproteins (the proteins that induce genetic modification) to test this method.

They injected these ribonucleoproteins into the haemocoels (main body cavity) of two different insects: the German cockroach (Blattella germanica), and the red flour beetle (Tribolium castaneum).

They then investigated the offspring of these insects, to see whether their genetic modification had worked.

The Cas9 proteins that were designed to “knockout” genes (that is, remove a gene from a genome) were very successful, by genetic modification standards. More than 50% of the red flour beetle offspring, and 22% of the cockroach offspring, lacked the pigment-creating gene that the researchers wanted to remove.

“Knockin” modifications (introducing a new gene into the genome) were less successful, with only very low efficiency.

Read more: Resilience is in the genes for cockroach

The technique depends on the reproductive stage the adult females are at, and a strong understanding of the insect’s ovary development. Unfortunately, fruit flies – which are a model organism for lots of genetic research – won’t respond to this technique.

Nevertheless, the researchers say that DIPA-CRISPR will reduce the expense, and timeframes, of a lot of insect research.

“By improving the DIPA-CRISPR method and making it even more efficient and versatile, we may be able to enable genome editing in almost all of the more than 1.5 million species of insects, opening up a future in which we can fully utilise the amazing biological functions of insects,” says Daimon.

“In principle, it may be also possible that other arthropods could be genome edited using a similar approach. These include agricultural and medical pests such as mites and ticks, and important fishery resources such as shrimp and crabs.”

Interested in having science explained? Listen to our new podcast.https://omny.fm/shows/huh-science-explained/playlists/podcast/embed?%20style=cover&autoplay=0&list=0

Originally published by Cosmos as Gene-editing cockroaches with CRISPR-Cas9 – and maybe other insectsEllen PhiddianEllen Phiddian is a science journalist at Cosmos. She has a BSc (Honours) in chemistry and science communication, and an MSc in science communication, both from the Australian National University.

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Enviro-friendly spray targets crop killer

Canberra Times

By Liv Casben

Updated May 16 2022 – 11:06pm, first published 11:02pm


Ritesh Jain (left) and Neena Mitter say the chemical-free spray only targets silverleaf whitefly.

An environmentally friendly spray targeting one of the world’s most damaging agricultural pests has been created by Australian scientists.

Heralded as a crop production game-changer, the technology is chemical free and has been developed by University of Queensland researchers over the past decade.

Research team leader Neena Mitter said it was a breakthrough for crop protection because it was effective against silverleaf whitefly, a small insect responsible for the loss of billions of dollars in crops around the world.

The whitefly attacks more than 500 plant species including cotton, pulses, chilli, capsicum, and many other vegetable crops.

“We silence the genes of whitefly using their own RNA,” Professor Mitter told AAP.

RNA is a molecule present in all living cells that has structural similarities to DNA.

The scientists sprayed the RNA on the plant so when the insect feeds it kills them. The RNA is specific to the targeted species.

Prof Mitter said the research, published in the scientific journal Nature Plants on Tuesday, had worked out how to silence genes in the pest and is carried in an environmentally friendly clay called BioClay.

“If we want to kill whiteflies we make the RNA specific to whitefly, if we want to kill another insect we make the RNA specific to that,” she said.

“The insect lays eggs on the underside of the leaves and the nymphs and adults suck the sap from the plant resulting in reduced yields.

“The uniqueness of our technology is partnering the RNA with clay particles … which makes it possible for the RNA to last longer on the plants so it does not get washed off by rain, it sticks to the leaves and slowly releases the RNA.

“The world wants to move away from chemical pesticides and this is one of the tools.”

To identify suitable gene targets, PhD candidate Ritesh Jain went through the global database of genome sequences.

“Initially, we had to screen hundreds of genes specific to SLW (silverleaf whitefly) to see which ones would affect their growth,” Mr Jain said.

“Importantly, the RNA proved harmless when fed to other insects, such as stingless bees and aphids.”

Susan Maas from the Cotton Research and Development Corporation said silverleaf whitefly was a major pest for cotton across the globe due to its ability to contaminate and downgrade lint quality.

She said the technology was a game-changer for the cotton industry.

“It is highly specific to the target pest, in this case it is whitefly, so that any impact on beneficial crop insects is negligible,” Ms Maas said.

“It also has a very low impact on the environment with no residues remaining after application.

“BioClay sets up a framework for the potential development of other targeted pest specific products in the future, tackling different pest control challenges in a highly focused, environmentally safe way.”

Cotton Australia Chief Executive Adam Kay said growers were also involved in the project and shared their on farm experience.

“This development is an exciting breakthrough for cotton farmers and all farmers impacted by whitefly.”

Australian Associated Press


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Grahame Jackson


 Sydney NSW, Australia

 For your information

Climate change is pushing pine defoliating moth northward 50 years ahead of earlier predictions

ScienceDaily Source: University of Eastern Finland

Summary In Finland, climate change is causing the pine pest Panolis flammea, or pine beauty moth, to shift its range northward 50 years ahead of predictions. Changes in both the distribution and size of the pine beauty moth population are linked to higher temperatures, a new study shows.Share:


In Finland, climate change is causing the pine pest Panolis flammea, or pine beauty moth, to shift its range northward 50 years ahead of predictions. Changes in both the distribution and size of the pine beauty moth population are linked to higher temperatures, a new study from the University of Eastern Finland shows. The findings were reported in Scandinavian Journal of Forest Research.

“This is not unexpected, since many scientists have previously predicted that some insect pests will shift their distribution range northward as a result of rising temperatures caused by climate change. However, what is astonishing is that this is happening 50 years ahead of earlier predictions,” Doctoral Researcher Alexander Pulgarin Diaz from the University of Eastern Finland says.

The larvae of the pine beauty moth feed on the needles of different pine species across Central Europe, developing periodical outbreaks often controlled with chemical insecticides. These outbreaks co-occur with other pine insect pests and diseases and could reach thousands of hectares. Outbreaks have not been reported in Finland, but conditions for their development could become favourable as a result of increasing temperatures and forest health decline — both of which are consequences of climate change.

Earlier studies have shown that temperature is closely related to the development and distribution of insects. To study the distribution and size of the pine beauty moth population in Finland, the researchers coupled the number of captured individuals with the previous year’s thermal sums for the same location. For this, they used traps throughout Finland and found that this insect pest had spread into northern Finland, up to 68°51’N. Also, they found that its abundance was higher in warmer places, as in southern Finland.

As climate change advances and temperatures rise in Finland, the range and population density of the pine beauty moth may also increase, allowing it to become a common, abundant pine-feeder throughout the country. The results of this study on the pine beauty moth are parallel with previous findings on another major pine defoliator, the Nun moth (Lymantria monacha), which also has increased significantly in Finland since 2000.

The study was funded by the Academy of Finland Flagship Programme Forest-Human-Machine Interplay -Building Resilience, Redefining Value Networks and Enabling Meaningful Experiences (UNITE) (decision no: 337127).

Story Source:

Materials provided by University of Eastern FinlandNote: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. John Alexander Pulgarin Díaz, Markus Melin, Olli-Pekka Tikkanen. Thermal sum drives abundance and distribution range shift of Panolis flammea in FinlandScandinavian Journal of Forest Research, 2022; 1 DOI: 10.1080/02827581.2022.2060303



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In this issue:

From the President
75th Anniversary Symposium and Conference
Photo Competition

2021 Scholarship Winners 
 Members in the News
 Related Events
NZPPS Corporate Members

We look forward to your feedback.From the President
         The next conference, at the Christchurch Town Hall, in August 2022, will be a celebration of 75 years of the Plant Protection Society. Several ideas to mark the 75th anniversary are in progress, some of which are reported in this newsletter. To begin with, a special 75th anniversary logo was designed for this year, which is depicted in this newsletter and on the website. Those of you with keen eyes may notice some slight modifications to the logo. Since we engaged a professional graphic designer to create the 75th logo and a new banner, it was a good opportunity to make some improvements to the existing logo. The revised logo is higher resolution, and the arrows embracing the plant have been tightened and made more fluid. The colour version uses a two-tone approach, with light and dark green, giving a more unique and modern look.

Importantly, the logo remains the same, as it still captures the essential purpose of the Society ‘to pool and exchange information’ related to plant protection. Given the anniversary occasion, it is timely to reflect on the history and meaning of Society’s logos, past and present. In the formative years of the Society, as a weed-control conference, there was no logo but, from 1962 until 1983, the cover of the published proceedings featured an illustration of a weed or pest. In 1984, the Society developed its first logo, which was the depiction of a weed (possibly a buttercup species) and a pest (a scarab grub), contained within a hexagon. The weed was in the light (aboveground) section, and the scarab in the dark (belowground) section. At a glance, it is a literal depiction of the focus of the Society at the time, weeds and pests.However, the logo possibly had greater significance, reflecting a shift in thinking at the time, away from pesticides as the panacea, towards integrated pest management. Hexagons are ubiquitous in nature and used to symbolise harmony. And the perfectly balanced dark and light halves of the harmonious hexagon conjure a yin and yang interconnectedness.

As the scope of the society further evolved, encompassing plant protection research and extension activities in the broadest sense, a new logo was needed. In 1996, the Society adopted its current logo, which was described by the President at the time, Richard Falloon, in his Presidential Address at the 49th conference. The arrows indicate interactions and information exchange that occurs through the interdisciplinary approach to plant protection. The protective circle conveys plant health resulting from plant-protection activities, and sustained plant health is depicted as the plant grows through the circle.

I do not know who designed either of the logos, and I have possibly over interpreted the first logo. If any members know more about the logos or their designers, please get in touch. In the coming months, the Executive will be reaching out to previous Presidents and others who have had an enduring impact on the Society to invite them to share their reminiscences, learn about past success stories, and receive advice for the future. Mark your calendars, submit your abstracts, and stay tuned for more news about this year’s symposium and conference.
Mike CrippsThe NZPPS Executive are delighted to advise that theNZPPS 75th Anniversary Symposium and Conferenceare proceeding as in-person events at the
Christchurch Town Hall.
Dame Juliet Gerrard will give the  conference opening address on Tuesday 9 August.Symposium: 8 August 2022  
Plant pathogens that keep us awake: past, present and future threats to native species.
https://nzpps.org/events/nzpps-symposium-2022/A day of invited presentations focussed on microbial threats to our native taonga plants. Leading scientists, kaitiaki, international experts and representatives from government agencies will bring attendees up to date with progress on myrtle rust, kauri dieback, Pacific biosecurity, Ceratocystis, Xylella and more. The day will conclude with a networking and poster session. Those interested in submitting a poster for the symposium should submit an abstract (maximum 250 words) to Renee Johansen (JohansenR@landcareresearch.co.nz) by 31 May 2022. Conference: 9-11 August 2022
Celebrating 75 years of the New Zealand Plant Protection Society
Three full days of presentations including special sessions, conference dinner with 75th anniversary cake for dessert and a slideshow of competition photos

The first session on Tues 9 August has been reserved for participants who wish to present a talk on the symposium topic. Abstract submission for the 2022 conference is openDeadline is 30 April 2022.NZPPS 75th Anniversary
Photo Competition
 Get clicking and enter your pictures here for the 75th anniversary photo competition. The photo within each category with the most member votes wins. Categories: Plant protection in action Plant pests Plant diseases  Plant weeds The growing crop Plant protection science People in plant protection Winners and their photos will be showcased on the NZPPS website, at the conference and in the newsletter. Closing date: 30 June 2022. NZPPS Plant Protection MedalThis medal has been instituted by the New Zealand Plant Protection Society to honour those who have made exceptional contributions to plant protection in the widest sense. The medal will be awarded based on outstanding services to plant protection, whether through research, education, implementation or leadership.Details of the nomination process are available here.

Deadline 1 July 2022.2021 NZPPS Research ScholarshipAshleigh Mosen is an MSc student at Massey University.Development of a novel disease control strategy to protect Pinus radiata from Dothistroma needle blight.
The hemibiotrophic fungus Dothistroma septosporum is a foliar pathogen of Pinus radiata that causes a disease known as Dothistroma needle blight (DNB). This forest tree disease is destructive to pines, resulting in dieback of needles, premature defoliation and in severe cases tree death. Necrotic lesions, which are seen on infected needles become a brick-red colour, characteristic of the fungus producing a toxic virulence factor called dothistromin. DNB is an economically important disease impacting upon New Zealand’s forest industries, costing the NZ economy ~$20 million per year. Current control measures include copper fungicide spraying, silvicultural methods such as pruning and thinning, and breeding pine trees for increased resistance to pathogen attack. A radical new approach, spray-induced gene silencing using RNA technology, has great potential to control DNB.

 My project explores the potential for applications of this technology by using RNA molecules, that specifically target and silence pathogen genes, to effectively lower the virulence of the pathogen. The candidate genes DsAflR (dothistromin pathway regulatory protein) and eGFP (enhanced green fluorescent protein) were pursued as targets for RNA silencing trials. As a result, dothistromin production and virulence of the pathogen is expected to be reduced, and decreased DNB symptoms on pine. Confocal microscopy analyses have been performed demonstrating dsRNA uptake into fungal cells. In vitro and in planta silencing trials suggest no clear evidence whether there is knockdown of AflR and eGFP. However quantitative real time PCR analyses are in progress to determine if there is a reduction in transcript levels. Disease symptoms have been monitored on infected pine needles and are showing reduced lesions, as a result of spraying with dsRNA targeting AflR. In combination, biomass assays will verify if there is a reduction in fungal biomass and hence suppressed virulence. The effects of timing and concentration of the dsRNAs have been established to achieve maximum silencing.

By the end of my project I hope to determine if treatment with the dsRNA has had any effects in terms of suppression of the target genes and create a framework to optimise silencing in this forest pathogen for future studies. This could be an effective solution to augment current control measures and could be applicable to agricultural and horticultural disease control. My project is of great importance to NZ, its forest industries, and other plant-based industries. This will be the first study of its kind in NZ, which will be a blueprint for controlling other forest, agricultural and horticultural pathogens.Dan Watkins Scholarship in
Weed Science

Robert Gibson II is a PhD student at Lincoln University.

Establishment risk of wilding Pinus radiata and its hybrid in New Zealand high country.

Non-native conifers have been well integrated throughout New Zealand’s landscape for amenity and shelter, erosion control, and commercial forestry purposes. Unwanted individuals that self-perpetuate from these cultivations are categorised as wildings. Wildings are the largest weeds in New Zealand and one of the biggest weed problems, posing a significant threat to the biodiversity and functioning of native ecosystems, particularly on the South Island. The conifer species most tightly interwoven throughout New Zealand’s landscape, industry, and culture is Pinus radiata. As a result, P. radiata propagules are genetically bred and widely distributed across both main islands with sufficient mutualists; all factors that can increase the risk of wilding. From a commercial forestry and afforestation perspective, previous research suggests Pradiata has a limit of establishment around 700 m due to cold-intolerance (i.e. reduced germination, growth, and cone production). As a result, a natural hybrid between Pradiata and Pattenuata is being assessed as commercial forestry and afforestation programmes shift to higher elevations. The aim of this research is to assess the potential threat of wilding establishment of both taxa in high country native grasslands and shrublands. This will be achieved through evaluating the potential biotic and abiotic barriers associated with these ecosystems on the fate of seeds and seedlings along an elevation gradient from the putative limit of establishment (< 700 m) to the high country (900 m and 1100 m). Across six sites and three microhabitats, this study is investigating: 1) seed viability, seed loss to predation and the potential for deposition into the soil seed bank; 2) emergence and seedling establishment; and 3) the response of 12-month-old seedlings to herbivory, and the interaction between herbivory and climate. This study isolates each seed and seedling stage with a different experiment to disentangle the influence of different barriers and how the magnitude of those barriers may fluctuate across multiple life stages to gain insight into the big picture of what may induce establishment failure of these two taxa. Lastly, this research will determine whether the information around the elevation limitation of P. radiata establishment from commercial plantations holds under natural conditions, and whether any of those barriers may be surpassed by the inclusion of the hybrid into high country ecosystems.Members in the News2018 NZPPS Medal winner Barbara Barratt has been made a Fellow of the Royal Society Te Apārangi for pioneering internationally relevant research into the biosafety of introduced biocontrol agents for insect pests and for leading a major theme in a multi-agency research collaboration focused on border biosecurity risk assessment.  Read more here.NZPPS editor Ruth Falshaw is the latest person to be profiled in the  “Women in Horticulture” series published in the NZGrower magazine. The publisher Horticulture NZ and author Elaine Fisher have given permission for the article to be reproduced and it can be viewed hereRelated EventsCanterbury University is running a webinar entitled: Mahi Tahi: work together to build biosecurity capability on 13 April 2022. Find out more at: https://www.canterbury.ac.nz/biosecurity-innovations/news-and-events/mahi-tahi-.html12th International Symposium on Adjuvants for Agrochemicals Bordeaux 24 – 29 April 2022.  https://www.isaa2022.org/general-information/The Weed Management Society of South Australia (WMSSA), on behalf of The Council of Australasian Weed Societies (CAWS), will be hosting the 22nd Australasian Weeds Conference (22AWC) at Adelaide Oval from 25-29 September 2022. https://eventstudio.eventsair.com/22AWCThe 8th International Weed Science Congress: “Weed Science in a Climate of Change” will be held in Bangkok from 4 – 9 December 2022.https://www.iwsc2020.com/Books

For sale
There is a 10% discount for NZPPS members on NZPPS titles purchased from Nationwide Book Distributors:

351 Kirikiri Road, Oxford 7495
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Email: books@nationwidebooks.co.nz
Web: http://www.nationwidebooks.co.nzBest sellers include:
Farewell Silent Spring – the New Zealand Apple Story
An Illustrated Guide to Common Weeds of New Zealand (Third Edition)
An Illustrated Guide to Weed Seeds of New Zealand
An Illustrated Guide to Common Grasses, Sedges and Rushes of New Zealand
A Guide to the Identification of New Zealand Weeds in Colour
Free to NZPPS members:Hard copies of:

Future Challenges in Crop Protection 
Surveillance for Biosecurity2010 Microbial Products 
Paddock to PCR
The Plant Protection Data Toolbox 
Utilising Plant Defences for Pest Control 

Contact the Secretary at secretary@nzpps.org if you would like one.NZPPS Corporate MembersAgResearch Ltd
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New Zealand Apples & Pears Inc.
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UPL New Zealand Ltd
Zespri International Ltd
Dr Mike Cripps
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Vice President
Dr Hayley Ridgway
Plant & Food Research
Ph: (03) 325 9450

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Dr Eirian Jones
Lincoln University
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Mike Barley
mike@hortplus.comCommittee Members
Rebecca Campbell, Plant & Food Research, Motueka

Joy Tyson, Plant & Food Research, Auckland

Stephen McKennie, Arxada NZ Ltd, Auckland

Laura Tomiczek, Ministry for Primary Industries, Auckland

Rebecca Fisher, Horticulture New Zealand, Wellington

Dr Soonie Chng, Plant & Food Research, LincolnCopyright © 2022 New Zealand Plant Protection Society Inc.All rights reserved.

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APRIL 18, 2022

Scientists record first case of harmful bacteria in ubiquitous weed found throughout US

by University of Florida

Scientists record first case of harmful bacteria in ubiquitous weed found throughout U.S.
Credit: University of Florida

Scientists at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) have recorded the first North American case of a harmful phytoplasma disease known for its threat to fruit, vegetable and ornamental crops in South America and the Middle East.


To make matters worse, scientists confirmed the host for the disease to be one of the most noxious and rapidly spreading weeds commonly found in a wide range of environments throughout the United States and into Canada.

Findings of the “First report of ‘Cadidatus Phytoplasma brasiliense‘ in North America and in a new host, yellow nutsedge (Cyperus esculentus)” were just published in the journal Plant Health Progress.

“The host of the disease is known as one of the most widespread and problematic weeds found everywhere—called yellow nutsedge,” said Brian Bahder, assistant professor of entomology at UF/IFAS Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center. “It is one of the most aggressive weeds that commonly grows in lawns, home landscapes, vegetable and flower gardens and agricultural systems.”

The phytoplasma species called Candidatus Phytoplasma brasiliense is documented in regions of Brazil and Peru to harm hibiscus, papaya and cauliflower. Subsequently, research showed the same species infects peaches in the Middle East country of Azerbaijan.

Bahder and his team confirmed the phytoplasma and host in Fort Pierce. They found it while conducting research for a different disease—lethal bronzing—that attacks palm trees. Scientists were surveying and testing samples of grasses in hopes of finding a reservoir for lethal bronzing.

Research has shown that the adult planthopper insect that carries lethal bronzing feeds on the palm’s canopy, and the nymphs have been recorded among more than 40 species of grasses and sedges.

Because of the close association of nymphs with grasses and sedges, speculation has risen about the ability of these plants to serve as a reservoir for the lethal bronzing phytoplasma, Bahder said.

For the survey, scientists sampled three of the most abundant weeds known to serve as a host to the nymphs, yellow nutsedge being one of them.

While testing the samples, three of the outcomes resulted in a positive result.

“We thought we had found lethal bronzing in one of the grasses, so we proceeded to genetically sequence the sample,” said Bahder. “The results confirmed it was not lethal bronzing but that it was another phytoplasma.”

The DNA sequencing of that specimen confirmed their findings of a new phytoplasma in this weed, recorded for the first time in North America.

Implications of the disease and its spread through this weed cause scientists to consider it a threat to agriculture and ornamental industries. UF/IFAS scientists are seeking funding for the next steps of research.

“The next logical step is to find out which insect is spreading the disease. The good news is that we caught this early,” said Bahder. “We don’t know if this is an isolated incident or if the insect is spreading in the grass, and if it will feed on the papaya, hibiscus or cauliflower—which are economically important in Florida. The point is that we don’t know the extent of this disease in Florida or what threat it poses.”

Explore further

Palm tree disease in Florida transmitted by traveling bug from Jamaica

More information: Brandon Di Lella et al, First report of ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma brasiliense’ in North America and in a new host, yellow nutsedge (Cyperus esculentus), Plant Health Progress (2022). DOI: 10.1094/PHP-03-22-0027-BR

Provided by University of Florida 


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BCPC’s GM/Biotech Crops Report – April 2022

5th April 2022

  • GM/Biotech Crops Monthly Reports (BELOW) form part of BCPC’s free three-tier Biotech Crops Info service.
  • This service also includes a weekly round-up of news from around the globe – see BCPC Newslink GM Crops section.
  • Plus – Free access database on over 300 GM/biotech products covering 23 crops in the global market visit BCPC’s GM/Biotech Crops Manual – Register here for free access.
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GM/Biotech Crops Monthly Report April 2022

Lettuce in space

Astronauts that spend a long time in space can suffer from a loss of bone density due to the reduced gravity but now a team at the University of California have developed a genetically-modified lettuce that produces a drug that can offset this loss and that can be grown in space to provide the astronauts with fresh green leaves to eat. Pic: Mel Edwards. Full Story.

Antibiotics on crops

While Europe bans neonicotinoids to ensure no harmful effects to bees, America is spraying apple and pear orchards with streptomycin to control the bacterial disease fire blight. A study has shown that bees exposed to the streptomycin are less active and collect less pollen than those that are not exposed to the antibiotic.
Full Story.

An elixir of youth

Some people try blood transfusions from young people to recapture that youthful zest for life and now a study has produced some evidence supporting that hope. Young mice blood contains packets of chemicals (extracellular vesicles) budded off from dividing cells that, when injected in to old mice, restores grip strength, stamina and motor coordination. Sadly the effect wears off after a couple of months but another injection can restore it.
Full story

BT maize resistant to stem borer attack

An evaluation of BT maize in Uganda has confirmed a reduction of leaf damage and stem attack that has led to yield increases of 30 – 80%.
Full Story.

Salt-tolerant cotton

A relative of Arabidopsis has yielded a trait that can be used to confer salt tolerance to cotton which could allow the crop to be grown on more land but could also boost yields in areas where it is already grown.
Full Story

Herbicide-tolerant tomatoes

Scientists in Korea have used gene editing to alter three enzymes in tomatoes. The benefits of changes to PDS and EPSPS enzymes are unclear but the changes to the ALS enzyme can confer tolerance of ALS herbicides similar to the naturally-occurring tolerance recently introduced in sugar beet.
Full Story

Potato genome decoded

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute and the Ludwig Maximillian University have decoded the entire genome of potatoes and this knowledge is to be used to develop improved varieties for future cropping. The following link takes you to the German text which can be translated by computer.
Full Story

Gene expression imbalance boosts wheat yields

Researchers at Kansas University have found that varying the expression of various genes in wheat can affect the grain size and final yields. This knowledge can possibly be used to optimise yields of new varieties.
Full Story

Control of Fall Army Worm

Pilot studies in Brazil have shown that release of Oxitec’s ‘Friendly’ male army worms can reduce the populations of army worms due to the males carrying a male only trait and that this reduction will help to protect the Bt maize that is grown there from resistance developing in the wild population. It is very target specific and has no effect on other species such as bees.
Full Story

USDA approved gene-edited cattle

The USDA has decided that gene-edited beef cattle that have shorter hair than unedited cattle pose no safety concerns and can be marketed without waiting for a specific approval:
Full Story

Europe approves transgenic maize with stacked traits

The EFSA finds no safety concerns in GM maize with stacked traits for insect resistance and tolerance of glyphosate and glufosinate. This permits the import of these crops but it still does not allow them to be grown in Europe.
Full Story

Stripe rust resistance in wheat

An international team has identified the specific gene that confers resistance to stripe rust in the African bread wheat variety ‘Kariega’ and now this trait can be transferred to other varieties.
Full Story

Gene-silencing for weed control

Colorado University has developed a spray that contains antisense oligonucleotides that penetrate the leaves of the weed Palmer amaranth and silence essential genes in the weed. Palmer amaranth has developed resistance to a number of herbicides but this spray is specific to this weed and has no effect on the crop or non-target organisms.
Full Story

Nutritional Impact of regenerative farming

The University of Washington has compared crops grown on land under regenerative farming management with crops grown on adjacent conventionally farmed land and has shown that the regenerative farming crops have higher levels of vitamins, minerals and other phytochemicals. They don’t give any comparison of the yields achieved though and perhaps the higher levels of vitamins etc are simply due to them being distributed through lower yielding crops.
Full Story

Transgenic sugarcane

Sugarcane with overexpressed sucrose-phosphate synthase has been trialled in Indonesia has shown increased tiller number, height and yield than conventional varieties without affecting bacterial diversity or gene horizontal flow in the soil.
Full Story

Potato virus Y resistance

Researchers in Iran have used gene-silencing techniques to develop potatoes that exhibit resistance to potato Y virus.
Full Story

GM barley trials in the UK

Fertiliser prices have gone through the roof and NIAB in conjunction with Cambridge University at the Crop Science Centre are to trial gene modified and gene edited lines of barley to see if they can improve the nitrogen and phosphorus uptake of the plants and make them less reliant on applied fertilisers. If successful on barley, it could be rolled out to other crops.
Full Story

Palm oil replacement

Palm oil is widely used in many products but the proliferation of palm plantations is responsible for a lot of habitat loss throughout the world. Now a team at Nanyang technological University in Singapore have developed a technique for producing the oil from common microalgae.
Full Story

Corn borer resistant maize

Zhejiang University in China has developed a genetically modified maize that has insect resistant traits and a 5 year study has shown it can give up to 96% reduction in corn borer damage and a 6 – 10% yield increase over conventional varieties.
Full Story


The latest approvals of biotech crops to report this month:

• GMB151 – soybean tolerant of isoxaflutole herbicide approved for food use in Canada and for environmental use in America


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Biocontrol agent released to fight invasive weed in Australian national park

Source: Xinhua| 2022-03-24 12:47:00|Editor: huaxia


CANBERRA, March 24 (Xinhua) — Australia’s national science agency has deployed a biocontrol solution to an invasive weed that poses a major threat to shorebirds including penguins.

A team from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) on Thursday released the fungus Venturia paralias into Victoria’s Port Campbell National Park to prevent the spread of the invasive coastal weed sea spurge.

The sea spurge, also known as Euphorbia paralias, is a flowering plant native to Europe, northern Africa and western Asia. It can alter the structure of sand dunes and displace vegetation, disrupting the nesting patterns of shorebirds.

“The weed also has a sap which can cause irritation to animals as well as humans,” CSIRO scientist Gavin Hunter said in a media release.

“Sea spurge grows along Australia’s southern coastline and is a concern for coastal ecosystems. We’re hopeful the biocontrol agent will help reduce the dense weed from penguin nesting sites at Port Campbell, and many other beaches along the coastline where the weed occurs.

“There are many challenges with current methods for removing sea spurge so finding a biocontrol agent for the weed was important to complement existing management strategies of hand pulling and chemical sprays that are very labour intensive, costly, and can not easily be deployed in difficult-to-access beaches,” the release said.

Discovered on the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts of France, Venturia paralias causes lesions on the stems and leaves of sea spurge plants.

Following extensive tests at the CSIRO’s quarantine facility in Canberra researchers decided it was safe to release into the national park, which is a popular tourist destination due to its penguin population.

“Our research found that the fungus is highly specific toward sea spurge. Based on our results, the fungus was approved by the regulator for release in Australia,” research technician Caroline Delaisse said. ■

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CSIRO scientists develop biocontrol strategy to tackle invasive species

Alex Crowe

By Alex Crowe

March 25 2022 – 1:30pm


Gavin Hunter and the biosecurity team at CSIRO have been working on the development of a pathogen to control an invasive weed threatening beach birds. Picture: Elesa Kurtz

CSIRO scientists are coming to the rescue of baby penguins this week with a biocontrol agent produced in Canberra on its way to Victoria to save a threatened colony.

Years of research has culminated in the agent being deployed to Australia’s southern coastline, as part of a wider effort to kill an invasive species affecting birds beach nesting.


The fungus from France will fight sea spurge, a weed introduced from Europe in the 1930s, which has spread right along the south coast from Western Australia and now into NSW.

Growing up to 120 centimetres high, sea spurge can get so dense it makes it difficult for shorebirds to nest. When the plant is damaged, it oozes a latex which is an irritant to both humans and animals, impacting the appeal of Australia’s great tourism asset.

The CSIRO biocontrol team at Black Mountain has collaborated with colleagues in Brisbane, Western Australia and Montpellier in France to import the biocontrol agent from Europe.

A little penguin chick at Port Campbell National Park. Picture: Supplied

Releases have already been made in Tasmania and now the three year trial will begin at London Bridge, a natural offshore arch in Port Campbell National Park in Victoria.

The NSW government will provide funding for the trial as part of its effort to reduce sea-spurge seeds spreading north via ocean currents.


CSIRO research scientist Dr Gavin Hunter said adult sea-spurge plants produce up to 20,000 seeds and can maintain viability in the ocean for a long period of time.

Dr Hunter said the current “zero tolerance policy” to control sea spurge was manual removal of the plant and the application of herbicide.

“There’s an active management going on in NSW, but any other strategy that can be used to prevent sea spurge coming into NSW is obviously valued, this potentially could represent one of those strategies,” he said.

The fungus has been grown in a petri dish at the CSIRO laboratory in Canberra where it is mass cultured, dried and then sent to community participants to be sprayed on the invasive weed.

At the end of the three year trials in Tasmania and Victoria, it will be decided whether the fungus can be used to tackle sea spurge infestations across Australian beaches.

It is one of several biocontrol strategies the CSIRO currently has in development to combat invasive species, including African boxthorn and flaxleaf fleabane.

Researchers estimate weeds, Australia’s most economically destructive species, cost the economy around $5 billion per year.

Grain growers alone spend more than $2.5 billion per year on weed control, according to the CSIRO.





Dr Hunter said biocontrol was an effective tool against a growing problem, however, development was arduous, as had been the case with the fungus to tackle sea spurge.

Initial surveys to find pathogens of the plant began in Europe in 2009, he said.

“Those surveys resulted in the collection of a couple of insects and fungal pathogens of sea spurge and one of those agents was a fungal pathogen that showed promise,” he said.

In 2017, funding was secured to transport the candidate from Europe to the quarantine facility in Canberra.

“We went through a two and a half year period of intensive experimentation with the fungal biocontrol agent in our quarantine facility,” he said.

Sea spurge or Venturia paralias has spread right along the coast. Picture: Supplied

“Then we applied to release the agent in Australia as a bio control agent.

“Now we’re kind of really in the end phase of the whole process.”

Dr Hunter said while biocontrol does not offer a silver-bullet solution, it does provide a promising defence against the increased threat of invasive species.

“Due to climate change and due to the increased movement of goods and people across borders, the chance of introducing an inverse organism or an invasive species into Australia is really high,” he said.

“If there are any invasive organisms that do get into Australia, biocontrol is one tool that we can use to mitigate the further spread and impact that invasive plants could have on our environment.”

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