Archive for the ‘Pests’ Category

CSIR warns of major resurgence of Fall Armyworm pests

Source: Ghana | Myjoyonline.com
Date: 15-09-2017 Time: 05:09:45:am
 ghana aw

Scientists at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) have warned there could be a major resurgence of the Fall Armyworm pests on farms across the country from next month.

Scientists at the country’s premier science and technology institution, therefore, want the government to immediately activate a fight back plan to avert destruction.

Fall Armyworms are pests that wreak havoc on crops if left to multiply.

The caterpillars mainly attack maize crops and eat everything in an area. Once the food supply is exhausted, the entire “army” will move to the next available food source.

Army worms -Akatsi2

Since March this year, the pests have invaded more than 115,000 hectares of farm fields leaving farmers struggling to recoup their investments.

The invasion appears to have died down as the major planting season ended last month.

Related: Fall armyworms have been defeated – Agric Minister

However, Entomologists at the Crop Research Institute of CSIR say the upcoming invasion could be worse than what farmers had to battle with a few months ago.

Dr. Kofi Frimpong Anin, an Entomologist at CSIR, said the pests are likely to strike stronger from next when a new farming season starts.

“Normally, after a major season, we have high residue of the pests in the system. So once you move into the minor season they strike and the infestation is worse compared to the major season.

“It is likely that we are going to have a worse season compared to the minor season if you don’t manage it well,” he told Joy News.

When Agric Minister, Dr. Akoto Owusu Afriyie appeared before Parliament last month to answer questions about the Armyworm invasion, he revealed that some 112,812 hectares of farmlands were affected by the fall army worm but only 14,430 hectares were destroyed.

He also indicated that the pests have been defeated, adding there is an ongoing research into biological control which will be implemented as a long term plan to rid the nation of the pest.

The Minister added that his team will create a strategic stock of chemicals in the regions and districts so control will be issued at any point in time there is another attack.

Again, farmer training he explained, is being intensified when it comes to the detection of the pest to avoid the recurring of the situation.

However, farmer unions have denounced the Minister’s declaration that the pests have been destroyed, accusing him of belittling the debilitating effects of the pests.



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An adult male coconut rhinoceros beetle. Emmy Engasser, Hawaiian Scarab ID, USDA APHIS ITP, Bugwood.org

10 years ago the Coconut Rhinoceros beetle (CRB) was first discovered on the western Pacific island of Guam. Since then, these shoe-shine black, miniature invaders have spread to all parts of the island and are laying waste to the local coconut and oil palm population. The economy, culture and ecology  of Guam and other Pacific islands are intrinsically linked to the native palm species such that the rhino beetle poses a major threat. The indigenous peoples of Guam have a long history of weaving palm fronds, an artistry that is now at risk due to the rhino beetle. These trees are a symbol of tropic paradise, a motif that drives Guam’s primary industry; tourism.

The situation

A Coconut palm damaged by CRB © Aubrey Moore

The principal method of rhinoceros beetle control is through the release of a virus specific to CRB known as Oryctes rhinoceros nudivirus (OrNV). As a biological control strategy, it has been highly effective at keeping CRB populations low and thus lessening palm damage by up to 90% (Bedford, 2013).

Up until Guam, 2007, it had been 40 years since an outbreak of CRB on an uninfested palm growing Pacific island, owing to the persistence of OrNV in beetle populations. Early attempts at disseminating the virus in the new Guam population proved surprisingly ineffective. Upon DNA analysis, the invading rhino beetles were found to be genetically distinct from CRB native to other Pacific regions. The Guam population was deemed a new biotype (CRB-Guam) and was found to be resistant to all available OrNV strains.

This resistance has proved paramount to the invasive ability of CRB. As well as Guam, the new biotype has now been logged in Papua New Guinea (2009), Palau (2014), Hawaii (2014) and the Solomon Islands (2015) (see figure 1). There is now a real threat of a Pacific-wide outbreak of CRB. Smaller islands, where traditional, palm-dependent economies still operate, stand to suffer the most.

Figure 1: “The CRB-Guam biotype has invaded five Pacific Island countries and territories in only eight years compared to the CRB-Pacific biotype, which has not had geographical range expansion for 40 years

The passing of Typhoon Dolphin over Guam in 2015 highlighted the dangers of an event like this triggering rapid growth in CRB populations. Downed trees and vegetative waste make ideal breeding sites for the beetle. A positive feedback system may be initiated whereby more breeding sites allow for larger populations which kill mature palm trees which, in turn, become breeding sites for subsequent generations.

What can be done?

Numerous management techniques have been attempted on Guam since 2007. In March 2012, the Plantwise Knowledge bank reported on a promising new biological control method, the Metarhizium fungus. The fungus is specific to rhino beetles and the CRB-Guam biotype appeared susceptible to it. Unfortunately, it has not proved as effective as once thought and the Guam beetle population persists at damaging levels.

General sanitation practices that involve keeping areas free of green waste help to reduce the number of breeding sites, invariably limiting the potential for CRB population growth. However, this task proves tricky on a 210 square mile island covered in dense jungle and off-limits military bases.

Previously, specially trained detector dogs were used to root out rhino beetle breeding sites. This method, however, proved expensive and hard to reach areas were beyond its capability. More recently, new radio tracking technology has been proposed as a more cost-effective alternative. Small radio transmitters are glued to adult rhino beetles, these are then released and tracked back to previously unknown breeding sites. In August 2015, a 10-day field trial was carried out with some success.

As concern surrounding CRB mounts, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has announced funding worth $1.7 million, to go to Hawaii and Guam, with aims at combating the spread of this tenacious pest.

For Guam at least, complete eradication seems evermore unlikely. It appears the island’s best chance is population suppression and management. Aubrey Moore, an entomologist at the University of Guam, who has been working on CRB ever since it’s first appearances on the island, says that current work focuses on finding an OrNV isolate that the CRB-Guam biotype is susceptible to.

Jack Sayers is a Biological Sciences student at the University of Edinburgh, with a particular interest in genetics. He has spent his summers working for CABI as part of the Plantwise team.


Bedford, G. O. (2013) Long-term reduction in damage by rhinoceros beetle Oryctes rhinoceros (L.) (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae: Dynastinae) to coconut palms at Oryctes Nudivirus release sites on Viti Levu, Fiji. African Journal of Agricultural Research 8(49) pp. 6422-6425

Marshall, S. D. G., Moore, A. and Vaqalo, M. (2016) A New Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle Biotype Threatens Coconut and Oil Palms in Southeast Asia and the Pacific. Western IPM Center.


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Invasive plants change ecosystems from the bottom up

Researcher says Phragmites ‘farm’ their own soil communities

September 5, 2017
University of Rhode Island
Even when two different Phragmite lineages are grown side-by-side in the same ecosystem, the bacterial communities in the soil differ dramatically. This is a discovery that will aid in understanding how plant invasions get started and the conditions necessary for their success.

In a common garden at the University of Rhode Island, Laura Meyerson has been growing specimens of Phragmites — also known as the common reed — that she has collected from around the world. And while they are all the same species, each plant lineage exhibits unique traits.

Now Meyerson, a professor of natural resources sciences, and Northeastern University Professor Jennifer Bowen have revealed that even when two different lineages grow side-by-side in the same ecosystem, the bacterial communities in the soil differ dramatically. It’s a discovery that will aid in understanding how plant invasions succeed and the conditions necessary for their success.

“It’s almost like the different lineages are farming their own microbial communities,” said Meyerson. “What’s amazing is that an invasive Phragmites population in Rhode Island and California will have microbial communities more similar than a native and invasive population living right next to each other in Rhode Island.”

The Phragmites lineage native to North America has inhabited local wetlands for thousands of years, but a lineage introduced from Europe has begun to take over many North American marshes.

“I’m interested in bacteria within salt marshes, but I’ve never thought about these particular plant-microbe interactions and how microbes in the soil work to both facilitate plant success and inhibit growth,” said Bowen. “But it turns out that the evolutionary signatures of the different plant lineages are so strong that it results in similar microbial communities in related plants that are found across the country. And that’s incredible.”

In a research paper published this week in the journal Nature Communications, Meyerson and Bowen outline their field surveys and controlled experiments on native, invasive and Gulf of Mexico lineages of Phragmites. Both methods found that the bacterial communities in the soil are primarily structured by plant lineage rather than by environmental factors, as was previously thought.

“These findings go against the general dogma that says that the environment determines the microbial community you’re going to get,” Meyerson said. “Two populations growing close to each other should have microbial communities more similar than those living farther apart. But our results say that’s not true. In this case for these plants, it’s the plant lineage — below even the species level — that determines the microbial community.”These results are important for understanding more about the success and fitness of invasive species.

“Microbes are really important in terms of determining what happens in a plant community,” explained Meyerson. “By selecting for particular microbial communities, they’re engineering their ecosystem from the bottom up. What happens at the microbial level affects the fitness and chemistry of the plants, and that affects plant interactions.”

The researchers noticed that the microbes associated with the native Phragmites had more kinds of bacteria that are used to defend the plant from enemy attackers than the microbes associated with the invasive variety, which left most of its enemies behind in its native environment.

“The invasive plants didn’t need to cultivate these defense mechanisms among their microbial communities,” Bowen said. “What our research shows is that these plants are successful as invaders, in part, because they are freed from the need to cultivate a microbial defense shield.”

Meyerson said her results provide a new perspective for those managing land and trying to control invasive plants.

“It’s another reason to be cautious about invasive species,” she said. “We have to look beyond what’s going on above ground. We also have to look below at the microbial communities and how they affect ecosystems from the bottom up.”

Story Source:

Materials provided by University of Rhode Island. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Jennifer L. Bowen, Patrick J. Kearns, Jarrett E. K. Byrnes, Sara Wigginton, Warwick J. Allen, Michael Greenwood, Khang Tran, Jennifer Yu, James T. Cronin, Laura A. Meyerson. Lineage overwhelms environmental conditions in determining rhizosphere bacterial community structure in a cosmopolitan invasive plant. Nature Communications, 2017; 8 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-00626-0

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Video: How insect-resistant Bt GMO eggplant rescued Bangladesh’s staple crop


[Editor’s note: Pamela Ronald is plant pathologist and geneticist. She is a professor in the Genome Center and the Department of Plant Pathology at the University of California Davis.]

Eggplants are the most important vegetable crop in Bangladesh, India. Serious pests in the region have the ability to destroy an entire eggplant crop, so farmers fight back by heavily spraying insecticide. Many of these insecticides are unregulated and very dangerous, resulting in illness and death to those who come in contact with the chemicals. Pamela Ronald explains in this episode of Startalk (a podcast hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson) how Bangladeshi and Cornell scientists teamed together to fight pests by developing GMO eggplants.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis. Read full, original post: Genetic engineering saved the Bangladeshi eggplant industry

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CAAS Scientists Develop GE Cabbage Resistant to Diamondback Moth

Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences researchers successfully incorporated a Bt gene into cabbage plants to improve resistance to destructive pest, diamondback moth (Plutella xylostella). The results of their study are published in Scientia Horticulturae.

The researchers used Agrobacterium tumefaciens-mediated transformation to develop transgenic cabbage plants with Bacillus thuringiensis cry1Ia8 gene. The resulting transgenic plants were able to control both susceptible and Cry1Ac-resistant diamondback moth larvae.Then they analyzed the expression and inheritance of the Bt gene in four single-copy lineages and their sexually derived progenies.

Results of the analyses showed that the transgene was successfully inserted in the genome of cabbage and the inheritance of the gene in the progenies followed the Mendelian segregation pattern. These results imply that the transgenic lines exhibiting stable inheritance can be used as donor in breeding programs for cabbage.

Read the research article for more information.

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World Policy Blog

Stopping the Menace of the Fall Armyworm

By Esther Ngumbi

All over Africa, countries are battling fall armyworms. These crop-eating larval caterpillars are ravaging food supplies and posing major geopolitical challenges on the continent. Because the worms feed on over 80 plant species and develop into moths that can fly long distances, combating them requires coordinated, multi-pronged efforts.

Since 2016, fall armyworms have invaded over 20 African countries including Kenya, Ghana, and Ethiopia; damaged over 1.5 million hectares of land; and destroyed staple crops like corn, sorghum, and pasture grasses. As a result, many countries are expected to suffer from food insecurity both this year and next. Some farmers have attempted to use chemical pesticides to fight the worms, but they’ve proven ineffective. Unless the insects are systematically stopped, problems will only intensify.

Many research institutions and African countries, as well as the African Union and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) have proposed and implemented sustainable control measures to contain outbreaks and stop them from spreading further. The FAO, for instance, has convened meetings in Harare, Nairobi, and Accra, bringing together government officials, scientists who specialize in fall armyworms, and representatives from Africa’s premier research institutions to formulate a region-wide framework for managing the infestation.

On the country level, Ghana has set up a national taskforce to monitor and detect early attacks on farms; to educate farmers about the pest; and to undertake research aimed at finding short- and long-term solutions, such as identifying appropriate pesticides and biological means of control. Kenya has also committed around $291,000 (SH 300 million) to fighting the spread of fall armyworms, and to awareness campaigns aimed at informing farmers about the rapidly spreading pest. In Ethiopia, the government has pledged just under $2 million (45 million birr) to the problem.

Efforts are underway to curb this flying menace, but they can go further.

First and foremost, African countries can learn to effectively manage the fall armyworm from North and South American countries that that have gone through similar invasions. Brazil, for example, has been successfully dealing with the pest for many years using biological control agents and resistant maize varieties.

Informational exchanges between these regions are already starting to happen. During the FAO meetings, experts from Brazil and the United States were invited to join African researchers and share some of the practices that have worked best in their own countries. The FAO should continue to reach out to experts and broaden this network. Similarly, the Center for Agriculture and BioScience International (CABI) in Wallingford, England, is planning to use lessons gleaned from Brazilian farmers to train African agricultural extension workers. These farmers, in turn, are expected to pass on the lessons to other African farmers.

Second, academic studies should also help African countries in their quest to find sustainable means of controlling the pests. For example, recent research from Auburn University, where I work, has shown that when applied as seed treatment, beneficial soil microbes can alter how and when fall armyworms lay eggs. This shows that microbial pesticides can be employed to fight fall armyworm invasions. African researchers should follow this lead, and look for similar solutions.

Third, countries need to continue to strengthen their national surveillance and forecasting capabilities, and coordinate their strategies for curbing the spread and impact of this destructive pest. At the same time, they need to come up with innovative ways of disseminating information about available and effective solutions.

Finally, as farmers prepare for the next planting season, there are simple practices that they can implement to reduce the impact of the fall armyworm. These include planting early to allow crops to mature before pest populations build up, planting diverse crops, and inter-cropping maize with plants like sunflowers and beans, which makes it harder for the armyworms to target the main host crop.

Of course, as countries rush to implement preventative measures and solutions, it is important to keep farmers in mind. Can farmers afford these solutions? Do they know enough about suggested management practices and how to implement them on their farms?

Battling the fall armyworm in Africa requires the participation and collaboration of all affected countries. At the same time, governments must continue to work with researchers to pursue lasting solutions, and help millions of people avoid food insecurity.



Esther Ngumbi is a post-doctoral researcher at the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology at Auburn University in Alabama. She serves as a 2017 Clinton Global University (CGI U) Mentor for Agriculture and is a 2015 Food Security New Voices Fellow at the Aspen Institute.

[Photo courtesy of USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab]

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Fall armyworm could cost Africa $2bn+ in lost harvest

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Last week, CABI confirmed that since it arrived in Africa in 2016, the Fall Armyworm (FAW) has been reported in 28 African countries, presenting a now permanent agricultural challenge for the continent. FAW mainly affects maize and can cut yields by up to 60%. In research funded by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), CABI estimate that, if not properly managed, the pest will cost 10 of Africa’s major maize producing economies a total of $2.2bn to $5.5bn a year in lost maize harvests.

“Enabling our agricultural communities with quick and coordinated responses is now essential, to ensure the continent stays ahead of the plague,” said Dr Joseph DeVries from the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).

As countries turn to pesticides to reduce the damage, farmers face the risk of the pest developing resistance to treatment, which has become a widespread problem in the Americas. Biopesticides are a lower risk control option, but few of the biopesticides used in the Americas are yet approved for use in Africa, raising the need for urgent local trials, registration and the development of local production.

  1. cabi postersExtension workers in Ghana sharing information and spreading the word about fall armyworm © CABI

“Maize can recover from some damage to the leaves. So when farmers see damaged leaves, it doesn’t necessarily mean they need to control. Research is urgently needed, and a huge awareness and education effort is required so that farmers monitor their fields, and can make decisions on whether and how to control,” said Dr Roger Day, CABI’s Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Coordinator.

“There are natural ways farmers can reduce impact, including squashing the eggs or caterpillars when they see them, and maintaining crop diversity in the farm, which encourages natural predators.”

CABI has also warned of the need to address the human health issues raised by extensive use of chemical pesticides. “Resource poor farmers are often unwilling or unable to buy the appropriate safety equipment and in some cases they use pesticides without appropriate application equipment. Farmers may also be disinclined to use safety equipment when hot weather makes it extremely uncomfortable. Recognising that farmers will still want to use pesticides, specific measures are needed to make lower risk biopesticides more accessible,” said Dr Day.

Agricultural researchers are also now working to identify a natural biological control agent, such as a parasitic wasp that lays its eggs inside the FAW eggs. Dr Day hopes that in time, this may provide the most sustainable solution to Africa’s newest pest infestation.

To find out more about what CABI is doing in the fight against FAW please visit www.cabi.org/fallarmyworm

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