Archive for the ‘Insects’ Category

Microscopic worms rescue cranberries

  • USDA Agricultural Research Service
  • Oct 19, 2021 Updated Oct 19, 2021

Tiny wormlike organisms called nematodes that attack cranberry pests could offer a natural alternative to using insecticides. 

  • Shawn Steffan

https://1f1e72bdfae6591b8600816cafd353b4.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.htmlhttps://1f1e72bdfae6591b8600816cafd353b4.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.htmlTownNews.com Content Exchange

Nematodes with a taste for “insect innards” may offer cranberry growers a natural alternative to fighting hungry crop pests with chemical insecticides.

Scientists with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service and University of Wisconsin are now exploring the possibility in field trials.

They’ve set their sights on redheaded flea beetles, Sparganothis fruitworms and other cranberry pests that attack the cranberry plant itself or its tart-tasting fruit. Severe infestations can force growers to apply insecticides, ratcheting up their production costs. Developing alternative controls as part of an integrated pest management approach can reduce or replace the need for insecticides, said Shawn Steffan, an entomologist with the Agricultural Research Service Vegetable Crops Research Unit in Madison, Wisconsin.https://1f1e72bdfae6591b8600816cafd353b4.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

For his part, he and UW collaborator Shane Foye are working to formulate a bio-insecticide that’s made of entomopathogenic — “insect-killing” — nematodes. One species they’re particularly excited about came from the self-same environment that cranberries thrive in — the marshland and bogs of central Wisconsin. Cranberry also happens to be the official fruit of the state, which produces 60 percent of the nation’s total crop.

Annually Americans consume 2.3 pounds of cranberries per person, primarily as juice but also in dried fruit snacks and holiday fare such as cranberry relish. However the path from bog to juice bottle can be a perilous one — no thanks to sundry insect pests whose appetites for destruction threaten the crop’s yield, fruit quality or both.

Nature, though, has seen fit to make the pests a favorite food of the nematodes Heterorhabditis georgiana and Oscheius onirici. Both species were found in the acidic wet bogs of central Wisconsin. Interestingly H. georgiana was originally discovered by David Shapiro-Ilan, who is another Agricultural Research Service scientist, in Georgia.

Steffan said, “O. onirici was originally found within caves in Italy, but clearly there are populations making a living in the marshlands of Wisconsin.”

The researchers hope both nematode species will prove to be an especially useful ally to both conventional and organic cranberry growers. Neither species is a threat to people, pets or other vertebrate animals. But what they do to their preferred prey isn’t pretty. After entering a natural body cavity, the nematodes release symbiotic bacteria that liquefy their prey’s internal organs and tissues. That creates a nutritious soup that the nematodes eat. Afterward they mate and deposit eggs inside their host’s remains. Eventually juvenile nematodes wriggle free in search of new hosts to infect, a cycle that lasts as long as their prey does.https://1f1e72bdfae6591b8600816cafd353b4.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

In field trials, spraying a solution of the nematodes onto cranberry beds reduced flea beetle numbers by as much as 93 percent. Average levels of control typically reached 60 percent to 70 percent — equal to two insecticide applications, Steffan said. In related laboratory experiments, O. onirici also proved lethal to the adult and larval stages of the spotted wing drosophila, an invasive species from Asia that’s become an established U.S. pest of many different fruit crops.

Encouraged by the results, the researchers have devised a method of rearing the nematodes by the billions and creating a clean highly concentrated mass of them that can be mixed with water and sprayed onto cranberry plants

“(And) we are trying some side-by-side trials this year involving commercial nematodes,” Steffan said. “This will give us some idea as to how our native Wisconsin nematodes compare to ‘off-the-shelf’ varieties.”

Thank you for reading kmaland.comAt KMA, we attempt to be accurate in our reporting. If you see a typo or mistake in a story, please contact us by emailing kmaradio@kmaland.com.

This article originally ran on agupdate.com.

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Sam Jones with IPS:

“Alternative tools to manage insect pest outbreaks have never been more important”

Crop protection is vital for every grower; you do not put all that effort into growing your crops just for them to get eaten or get ill. One method to fight pests is pheromones. International Pheromone Systems (IPS) develops, produces, and supplies insect semiochemical-based products and trapping systems for its customers, which “are used to monitor and control insect pests in a wide range of settings, including agriculture, horticulture, forestry, storage facilities, and in the home and garden,” Dr. Sam Jones from IPS says.

Right: Dr. Sam Jones with IPS

The importance of pheromones
“As fewer pesticides become available to growers, the availability of alternative tools such as pheromones to manage insect pest outbreaks has never been more important. Pheromone based products such as pheromone lures help growers manage pests in a sustainable and environmentally friendly manner. Although most biopesticides are not as efficient as traditional pesticides, they are far more ecofriendly and species specific, enabling growers to harness the benefits of natural predators which are often able to maintain pest populations below a harmful level. “

This is where IPS comes in. With the help of pheromones – chemical signals insects use to, for instance, find a mate – growers can fight pests and ensure healthier crops. With the aid of such pheromones, the insects are lured into a trap and can no longer hurt the crops or the pollinators buzzing around in the greenhouse. 

Trap Color Trials in aubergine – monitoring for whitefly

Sam explains in detail how two ways of using pheromones work: “Mass trapping and Mating Disruption are two strategies used by many growers to control pests. Mass trapping involves using a greater density of pheromone traps to control a pest population, whereas mating disruption uses pheromone dispensers to saturate the air with a sex pheromone. Usually, it is the male sex that uses the pheromone to locate females, which then quickly become confused by the large number of dense pheromone plumes. This results in them failing to locate a mate.”

Beneficial attractant testing in raspberry crops 

When pheromones do not work
Although pests like thrips, moths, beetles, mealy bugs, and scale insects can be fought with pheromones, not all insects are susceptible to them, Sam says. “Aphids and whitefly, for example, do not use sex or aggregation pheromones (pheromones that attract the opposite sex or both sexes respectively) and therefore monitoring of these pests predominantly relies upon the use of yellow sticky boards or rolls. Visual attraction alone is significantly less effective than a combination of olfactory (e.g. a pheromone) and visual, and yellow boards in particular are non-discriminatory, often catching high numbers of beneficial insects.”

Luckily, there seems to be an alternative: kairomones, another form of semiochemical. Unlike pheromones, which are used among individuals of the same species, kairomones are chemical signals used between different species. As Sam states, “kairomones have been successfully used to enhance attraction of many insect pests, and at IPS we are investigating whether specific chemicals can be used for pests such as aphids and whitefly.”

The pheromones can be applied in polytunnels and glasshouses, in low-tech and high-tech environments alike. Moreover, the pheromones are not only relevant for vegetable and fruit cultivators; flower growers, too, can benefit from this method as IPM produces lures for many moth pests of floral cultivation as well.

Trap/Lure testing in cucumber crops – using a pheromone lure for the Western Flower Thrip, Frankliniella occidentalis

Pesticides fall, pheromones rise
The interest in pesticide-free crops has grown considerably with consumers preferring produce that is grown in the absence of harmful pesticides. Pheromone lures and trapping systems support growers in achieving this. “Recently”, Sam explains, “the EU has banned a wide variety of different pesticides that were deemed to be hazardous to humans and the environment leaving growers with fewer options. Growers are adapting to these changes by adopting Integrated Pest Management plans with a reliance on strategies that do not use synthetic pesticides. There has been considerable growth in the biological pesticide sector in recent years as these are adopted as alternatives. While most are not as effective as conventional pesticides, the efficacy of newer products continues to improve and their increased selectivity ensures that they are better for the glasshouse ecosystem. ”

“As pesticides continue to become phased out, there will undoubtedly be considerable challenges to maintain profitable yields that are sufficient to feed a growing population. It will likely require intelligent use of all available strategies, including biological, physical, and traditional methods. Pheromones will continue to have an important role to play in achieving these goals.”

For more information:
International Pheromone Systems

Publication date: Wed 20 Oct 2021
Author: Arlette Sijmonsma
© HortiDaily.com

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Widespread Tuta absoluta outbreaks on tomatoes as rainy season gets underway

Tomato producers across South Africa are facing outbreaks of Tuta absoluta, or tomato leaf mineran aggressive pest of the Solanaceae family, despite a cold winter that generally depresses population numbers.

Right: Tomasz Klejdysz | Dreamstime.com

Some tomato producers have already seen their entire tomato crop destroyed as they lose the chemical battle against exploding insect numbers, which can swiftly spill over from one farm to its neighbors. “That Tuta is a big problem and is going to become an even bigger problem is without doubt,” remarks a tomato trader. He adds that monitoring and combatting tomato leaf miner is one of the biggest costs for tomato producers, even though this insect pest was unknown in South Africa a mere six years ago. 

However, the current outbreak is not worse or more prominent than earlier outbreaks, notes a tomato specialist at a seed company. All commercial cultivars are equally susceptible to predation by the tomato leaf miner.

Over the past two weeks, tomatoes were scarce on the market, but whether that is the result of tomato leaf miner damage or whether that is the effect of a severe hailstorm that hit north of the Soutpansberg Mountains in early October is impossible to say.

Chemical resistance builds quickly
Pheromone traps for male insects are set out with new plantings, depriving female insects of seed to fertilize their eggs, but this strategy is only effective as long as their numbers are low. When the population increases, systemic chemicals are needed with simultaneous withdrawal periods. This makes it difficult to control insect numbers as they build up a resistance to chemicals quickly, tomato specialists say. Moreover, the price of chemicals to fight tomato leaf miner increased over the past few months to almost double its price 18 months ago, producers remark.

Publication date: Tue 19 Oct 2021
Author: Carolize Jansen
© FreshPlaza.com

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Stink bug discovery raises fears of threat to crops

By Helen Briggs
BBC Environment correspondentPublished1 day agoShare

Brown marmorated stink bug
Image caption,The bug produces a distinctive smell when disturbed

A stink bug that can spoil crops and infest homes has been trapped in Surrey as part of a monitoring study.

The brown marmorated stink bug is native to Asia, but has spread to parts of Europe and the US, where it can destroy fruit crops.

A lone stink bug was caught at RHS Garden Wisley this summer within weeks of the setting up of a pheromone trap.

The adult may be a stowaway brought in on imported goods or part of an undiscovered local population.

Dr Glen Powell, head of plant health at RHS Garden Wisley, said the stink bug may become commonplace in gardens and in homes within a decade.

“This isn’t a sudden invasion but potentially a gradual population build-up and spread, exacerbated by our warming world,” he said.

Dr Glen Powell
Image caption,Dr Glen Powell inspects the trap hung in a tree

It’s not yet clear if stink bugs are living undetected in parts of England or are rare visitors that hitch-hike in on imported goods or passenger luggage and survive for only a short time. So far, no eggs or immature bugs have been found that would suggest the bug is breeding and has set up home.

The bug has been caught only twice before in pheromone traps set up to lure it in by means of a natural chemical – in all cases as lone instances. The previous finds were at Rainham Marshes in Essex and in the wildlife garden of London’s Natural History Museum.

According to the department for the environment, Defra, the bug has been intercepted in the UK on several occasions – in passenger luggage flown in from the US, clothing and wood imports from the US, and stone imported from China.

The trap at Wisley is part of a national monitoring project led by a plant science research company, NIAB EMR, in Kent, and funded by Defra.

Dr Michelle Fountain, head of pest and pathogen ecology at NIAB EMR, said: “[The] brown marmorated stink bug represents a significant threat to food production systems in the UK so it is crucial that we continue to monitor any establishment and spread of the pest.”

Brown marmorated stink bug
Image caption,A single male stink bug was trapped at Wisley in Surrey this summer

There are more than 40 species of stink bugs, also known as shield bugs, already present in the UK. Most pose no threat to plant health and are not considered pests.

Brown marmorated stink bugs, which have a distinctive rectangular-shaped head, get their name from the odour they emit when threatened.

In the US, they can invade houses, clustering in their hundreds, and can be devastating for farmers, destroying fruit such as nectarines and peaches and feeding on a wide range of ornamental trees, vegetables and other plants.

Invasive species cost the UK economy over £1.8bn a year and can threaten the survival of other plants and animals. A Defra spokesperson said: “The brown marmorated stink bug is not a significant threat to our crops – but as with all pests and diseases we will continue to monitor any threats closely.”

Anyone finding what they believe to be a brown marmorated stink bug is asked to take a picture and report the sighting at BMSB@niab.com or via email to Entomology@rhs.org.uk.

Follow Helen on Twitter.

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Ava-Asaja demands drastic measures to prevent the advance of the insect

Trioza erytreae, the vector that transmits HLB, arrives in the Portuguese Algarve

The Valencian Association of Farmers (Ava-Asaja) demands that the Spanish Government and the European Union (EU) assess and implement drastic measures to prevent the advance of the Trioza erytreae insect, the vector of the Huanglongbing (HLB) disease -the most devastating disease for citrus in the world that is known as citrus greening or yellow dragon disease- after learning that this insect had already reached Algarve, in southern Portugal. This insect’s advance from the north and center of the Portuguese country to the citrus fruits of the Algarve increases the possibility that this transmitting vector and the HLB bacteria will reach the citrus farms of Huelva and the rest of Spain and Europe.

Female Trioza erytreae.

Ava-Asaja urged authorities to take all the scientific actions possible to stop the spread of this plague or, at least, to slow down the speed of its geographical progression. The agrarian organization highlighted an ambitious plan endowed with community funds aimed at promoting lines of research, breeding, and carrying out a massive release of highly effective parasitoids against HLB transmitting vectors.

In this regard, the Tamarixia drii predator has managed to reduce the presence of Trioza erytreae by more than 90% in the citrus farms investigated in the Canary Islands. Meanwhile, there are international studies on parasitoids that could also combat the other HLB vector, Diaphorina citri, which is even better adapted to the Mediterranean climate.

In the event that the bacteria arrive, the association urges the exploration of stronger complementary measures such as cutting down infested trees because, just as with Xylella fastidiosa, there still is no cure for this disease that has caused unaffordable losses for citrus growers and the uprooting of trees in the countries it has affected. Finally, Ava-Asaja asked the Spanish Government to work hand in hand with the Portuguese executive so that they are informed of the evolution of the situation and can act in the most coordinated and forceful way possible.

“The terrible news we’ve received about the HLB vector is further proof of the little seriousness and rigor with which the European Commission toys with agricultural pests and diseases. In recent years, they have been unable to prevent the entry and expansion of many pests and diseases coming via imports from third countries, such as Xylella fastidiosa, South African cotonet, or the almond wasp. Now we are facing the worst threat to the world’s citrus industry. In the absence of curative solutions, the best medicine for HLB is prevention. However, that may not be enough so we might have to take stronger measures,” stated the president of Ava-Asaja, Cristobal Aguado.

For more information:

Tel.: +34 963 804 606

Publication date: Mon 4 Oct 2021

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Registration is open for the IPPC webinar series on Fall Armyworm Training Material

Posted on Mon, 27 Sep 2021, 16:16Responsive image

IPPC Secretariat invites interested users to register for the “Fall Armyworm Training Material: FAO/IPPC Prevention, Preparedness, and Response Guidelines for Spodoptera frugiperda webinar series. (Please register individually for all three sessions in the series)

Webinar 1: 22 October 12:00-13:30 (CET) Register here

Content: Introduction, General launch and guidelines presentation, including FAW distribution and biology

Webinar 2: 19 November 12:00-13:30 (CET) Register here

Content: Fall Armyworm Prevention and Preparedness (When FAW is still absent from a country)

Webinar 3: 10 December 12:00-13:30 (CET) Register here

Content: Fall Armyworm Response and Communication (When FAW has been officially detected and confirmed by a country)

Webinars are addressed to Quarantine and biosecurity experts, NPPOs and RPPOs staffs, researchers supporting NPPOs, producer associations, technical assistance organizations, manufacturers of technical means of control, and surveillance.

The webinar will be held in English with simultaneous interpretation into French and Arabic.

To consult the detailed program and more information, please visit: https://www.ippc.int/en/news/workshops-events/webinars/fall-armyworm-faw-training-part-1-22-october-part-2-19-november-and-part-3-10-december/…..

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The Conversation

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

September 17, 2021 8.15am EDT


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

Disclosure statement

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


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

The culprit: the fall armyworm.

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

The invader

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An invasive species

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

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

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

This year’s ‘perfect storm’

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

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

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

How do we control the invasion?

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

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

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

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

Fall armyworm on damaged corn. ossyugioh/Getty Images

The cost – and the future

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

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

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

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

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Amplicon technology: a new way to detect tobacco whitefly resistance

Tobacco whitefly (Bemisia tabaci) is a harmful pest distributed globally and can have a serious impact on vegetable production. Its resistance to crop protection is one of the difficulties in practice. Therefore, the detection of the resistance gene mutations can provide an important reference for pest management. However, the individual Bemisia tabaci is small, with a body length of less than 1mm. The traditional single-head sequencing operation is difficult, and often a small amount of gDNA is obtained, but it consumes a lot of time and resources, and new detection methods are urgently needed in scientific research.

© Tomasz Klejdysz | Dreamstime.com 

The Vegetable Pest Research Laboratory has established a method to detect gene mutation frequencies in micro-insects using amplicon technology and detected the frequency of two pyrethroid resistance-related point mutations of sodium ion channel genes in the Bemisia tabaci population. The method is efficient and reliable and solves the problem of detecting gene mutation frequency of micro-insects.

Amplicon sequencing was originally used to detect the community composition of soil, plant, or animal gut microbes, which can be used to analyze the interaction between microbes and animals and plants. The amplicon sequencing method is based on the Next-generation Sequencing technology, which has high sequencing efficiency and can perform centralized detection of a large number of samples.

The team established an efficient approach for detecting the frequency of mutation by amplicon sequencing. The frequencies of L925I and T929V in VGSC associated with pyrethroid resistance were detected in this study, which could provide foundational data for resistance management of B. tabaci.

This research provides an efficient and reliable method for detecting the frequency of gene mutations in micro-insects and is helpful to the development of pest control in the field. The research was published in the entomology professional journal Pest Management Science (impact factor 3.75), Q1 of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The first author of the thesis is Wei Yiyun, a postdoctoral researcher at the Lab. Associate researcher Wang Ran, Dr. Qu Cheng, and Dr. Guan Fang from Nanjing Agricultural University participated in part of the work. Researcher Luo Chen is the corresponding author of the paper.

Source: https://doi.org/10.1002/ps.6327

Wei, Y., Guan, F., Wang, R., Qu, C. and Luo, C. (2021), Amplicon sequencing detects mutations associated with pyrethroid resistance in Bemisia tabaci (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae). Pest Manag Sci, 77: 2914-2923. https://doi.org/10.1002/ps.6327 

Publication date: Thu 30 Sep 2021

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Alliance for Science

GMO eggplant is documented win for resource-poor farmers


SEPTEMBER 16, 2021


Insect-resistant brinjal, or eggplant, is arguably the most impactful project to bring agricultural biotechnology to resource-poor farmers.

Studies show that Bangladesh farmers, who began growing Bt brinjal  commercially in 2014, have enjoyed a sizable increase in income, a receptive market and significantly reduced pesticide use. It is now on its way to commercialization in the Philippines, where it was recently approved for human food and livestock feed.

The crop has been genetically modified to contain a protein from Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), a naturally occurring soil bacterium used widely in organic agriculture. It reduces pesticide use by providing inherent protection against the destructive eggplant fruit and short borer (EFSB). Field trials conducted in Bangladesh, the Philippines and India demonstrated that Bt eggplant is virtually immune to EFSB, safe for humans and the environment and welcomed by farmers.

While a number of studies have been published on Bt brinjal topics ranging from reduced pesticide use to market and farmer acceptance, a comprehensive documentation of the history and success of the project can only be found in Bringing Bt Eggplant to Resource Poor Farmers in Bangladesh and the Philippines. Thirteen authors, led by Cornell entomologist A. M. Shelton, offer a unique and detailed assessment of the project from its inception to the present.

Their account, recently published in a book titled Genetically Modified Crops in Asia Pacificdiscusses the environmental and human health damage of using frequent insecticide sprays — sometimes twice daily — in a futile attempt to control EFSB. It also documents the development and commercialization of Bt eggplant in Bangladesh, where it was the first GM food crop adopted in South Asia, and how its use was stifled in India and slowed in the Philippines because of anti-GMO activities.

The project is unique because it represents a collaboration of the public and private sector to address a serious food security and production issue in Asia, where eggplant is one of the most important, inexpensive and popular vegetables grown. However, the EFSB is a persistent and destructive pest throughout the region, resulting in reduced yield and high pesticide use.

After the EFSB moth lays its eggs on the plant, hatching larvae can bore into stems, causing the plant to wilt, or into the fruits, making them unmarketable. Losses of 70 to 80 percent are common in Bangladesh, India and the Philippines, even with very frequent spraying.

Traditional breeding efforts have failed to produce plants resistant to EFSB. However, the Indian seed company Mahyco used common techniques of genetic engineering to incorporate the cry1Ac gene into an eggplant line that was then bred into local varieties for India, Bangladesh and the Philippines. This resulted in eggplant lines that were virtually immune to EFSB attacks — without the use of any additional sprays.

Cry1A genes have been used globally for more than 25 years to protect millions of hectares of corn and cotton plants from insect attack. Equally important, numerous published studies have demonstrated that the proteins produced by Cry1A are safe to humans and the environment.

With funding provided by USAID, Mahyco, Cornell University and public sector partners in India, Bangladesh and the Philippines formed a partnership in 2003 under the Agricultural Biotechnology Support Program II (ABSPII) to use biotech to help solve critical food problems, including insect damage to eggplant.

Though ABSPII ended in 2014, research on Bt eggplant continued with USAID funding under the Feed the Future South Asia Eggplant Improvement Partnership.  The project ended this past March after shepherding considerable advancements for Bt eggplant.

Following the crop’s adoption in Bangladesh, efforts there focused on capacity building, seed production, stewardship and outreach communications. Work in the Philippines centered around facilitating commercialization by creating regulatory dossiers that meet international standards and communication and advocacy efforts. Activities in India stalled out after the government, under pressure from anti-GMO forces and an associated misinformation campaign, imposed a moratorium on the commercial planting of Bt eggplant. Though India’s biosafety body recommended commercialization of Bt eggplant, the moratorium remains in effect.

The success of Bt brinjal in Bangladesh is perhaps best quantified by its rapid adoption by farmers. Just 20 farmers grew it in the first 2013-14 season, a number that soared to 27,612 farmers by the 2017-18 season. Newly released figures indicate that more than 65,000 farmers grew Bt brinjal in the 2020-21 season. An estimated 15-to-20 percent of farmers planted seed saved from the previous season or shared by other farmers.

The documented benefits are equally noteworthy. Farmers growing Bt brinjal enjoyed a six-fold increase in net returns, according to a study conducted during the 2016–17 cropping season. It documented net returns of US$2,151 per hectare for Bt brinjal, compared with US$357 per/ha for non-Bt brinjal. A study conducted the following year documented a 51 percent increase in yield, a 128 percent increase in net revenues, a 37.5 percent reduction in pesticide costs and an 11.5 percent decrease in reports of pesticide poisonings.

The most recent study, conducted in the 2019–20 season, showed that Bt lines gave brinjal farmers a 19.6 percent higher yield and 21.7 percent improvement in revenue. Furthermore, 80.6 percent of the 195 Bt brinjal farmers surveyed were satisfied with the quality of their fruit, compared with just 28 percent of the 196 non-Bt farmers, whose fruit was infested by the borers. The survey also revealed that while nearly 40 percent of the non-Bt brinjal farmers had not yet heard of Bt brinjal, after learning about it, 71.4 percent said they intended to grow it the following year.

“Seeing is believing” — the phenomenon of farmers wanting GM crops after seeing or hearing about their benefits — sums up the way forward for Bt eggplant, so long as governments simultaneously exercise the political will required to support the legal cultivation of the crops.

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Minister of Agriculture Begum Matia Chowdhury provided strong support to move Bt brinjal toward commercialization through the Bangladesh regulatory framework. Such high-level political support, absent in India and the Philippines, was vital to commercialization of Bt brinjal in Bangladesh.

The political climate seems to be warming in the Philippines, given recent decisions by regulators there to allow both the cultivation of GM Golden Rice and the use of Bt brinjal for food and feed. Farmers are anxiously awaiting Bt brinjal’s full adoption.

But farmers in India have become increasingly frustrated as they continue to be denied access to a crop that their own regulatory body has deemed safe — and that their neighbors in Bangladesh been successfully growing for seven years now.  Though Indian scientists continue their research into GM crops that both consumers and farmers would value, such as higher-yielding mustard and peanuts with low aflatoxin content, a hostile political environment has prevented the adoption of these crops.

Image: Bangladesh farmer Khalilur Rahman shows off his harvest of Bt brinjal. Photo: Arif Hossain


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Krishi Jagran

Farmers Panic as Pink Bollworm Attack on Cotton Reaches Alarming Levels in Punjab

Ayushi Raina Updated 23 September, 2021 2:11 PM IST Published on 23 September, 2021 2:08 PM IST

Pink Bollworm attack on cotton crop

The pink bollworm attack on Punjab’s cotton crop has turned out to be far worse than expected. It has created problems in almost one-fourth of the area in the largest cotton-growing districts of Bathinda and Mnasa, despite the fact that the attack had previously been felt in approximately 10-15% of the land in these areas.

Pest attacks have also spoiled crops in the border districts of Fazika and Muktsar, but to a lesser extent.

Damage has been determined to be above 50% in several districts in BathindaMaur, and Sangar blocks, with some areas reaching 60-70 percent, as even state agricultural department officials have conceded. The ETL has been determined to be greater than 10 adults per leaf, with a permitted limit of up to five adults.

Farmers are worried as the pink bollworm infestation has reached alarming levels, resorting to even un-recommended sprays in an attempt to eradicate it, but not getting any relief. In Punjab, cotton was planted on 3.04 lakh hectares, with 1.70 lakh hectares (56 percent of the total) in these two districts. The attack was first spotted in Bathinda and Mansa in the final week of August, but it was unable to be contained in almost a month and has instead been growing by the day.

Gurcharan Singh of Mansa’s Bhamme Khurd village ploughed his cotton crop on two acres on Wednesday. Gurcharan stated that after more spraying, the insect lingered and harmed the crop. He ploughed the crop because he had no other choice. “The pink bollworm attack is widespread, and if it is not stopped as soon as possible, other farmers may follow suit, and because there is no time left to plant another crop other than wheat in a month’s time, farmers would face enormous losses.” We want the government to completely compensate farmers for the harm caused by pest attacks,” said Ram Singh Bhainibagha, district president of BKU (Ekta Ugrahan) Mansa.

Officials from the state agricultural department are also on their toes. On Wednesday, the director of the department visited a number of villages in Bathinda.


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Successful Farming



Armyworm on soybean pods

Kansas State University

An entomologist at Kansas State University urges winter wheat farmers to hold off on planting the crop due to an unusual infestation of fall armyworm that can quickly wipe out lush green wheat.

Jeff Whitworth, Extension agronomist at KSU, says farmers in Kansas are seeding winter wheat now, or will begin soon. With fall armyworm populations thriving, young wheat plants could be eradicated as soon as they emerge, he says.

“I would delay wheat planting as long as possible,” Whitworth says. “If there is any green wheat, these worms have the potential to do a great deal of damage.”

Delaying wheat planting is advised because insecticide seed treatments do not work on armyworms, Whitworth says. “We have tested this several times and they simply don’t work,” he emphasizes. Therefore, growers have two options to prevent damage. One, delay planting until after the Hessian fly-free date. Option two is to plant wheat as planned and monitor for damage. When the threshold gets to five or six armyworms per square foot, spray an insecticide over the top of the wheat crop. Insecticide options include products with active ingredients including pyrethroids, alpha-cypermethrin, beta-cyfluthrin, cyfluthrin, gamma-cyhalothrin, lambda-cyhalothrin, permethrin and zeta cypermethrin, organophosphates, choloropyrifos and carbamates, carbaryl and methomyl.PAID CONTENThttps://api.sele.co/iframe/v4.html?id=3903e723-938c-49bc-878a-55414ad7721d&_sm_xdm=true&use_xdm=1&autoStart=true&auto_start=1&start_muted=true&start_paused=1&disable_tab=1#https://www.agriculture.com/march-of-the-armyworms


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For the latter option, “…there are insecticides that work for armyworms, but is it worth the cost when growers could just delay planting?” Whitworth says.

There are two types of armyworms:

  • Fall armyworms feed on a wide range of host plants, including soybeans, sorghum, alfalfa, and corn. They have four spots on the top of the last abdominal segment, forming a square. They do not overwinter in most High Plains states.
  • True armyworms feed mostly on grasses. They don’t have have the spots fall armyworms possess.

Both species will feed on any plant material if they are hungry enough; they also have the same life cycle.

“Armyworms may continue to cycle through another generation, or even two, as they overwinter in Kansas,” Whitworth says. “Ultimately it will probably take a hard frost or freeze to stop them.”

Bob Wright, Extension entomologist at UNL, agrees. “Given the populations of fall armyworms to the south of us, it is likely moths will continue to be present in southern Nebraska for a while. Fall armyworms have a broad host range and can feed on broadleaf and grassy crops. Be sure to get out and monitor newly seeded alfalfa and wheat as seedling plants can be killed rapidly by caterpillars feeding on them,” Wright says.


The 2021 armyworm infestations have been particularly brutal. From Texas north to Nebraska and as far east as Michigan, insects have marched through farm fields, chewing through tender growth of plants and leaving fields bare in their wake.

Armyworms infest primarily grasses (sorghum, corn, brome pastures, lawns, etc.) and often this time of year, wheat, but occasionally alfalfa. Thus, if armyworms are the problem, they could be around through another generation or maybe even two depending upon the weather. If armyworms are relatively small they will probably feed for another 10 to 14 days, then pupate (stop feeding). If they are relatively large, however, they will probably pupate in the next three to seven days. There will probably be at least one more generation of armyworms.

“Hopefully, they will be heading south after these larvae finish feeding and become moths,” Whitworth says.

Also, in the next 30 to 60 days, army cutworm moths should have returned from their summer Rocky Mountain retreat to deposit eggs throughout at least the western two/thirds of the state and thus, these tiny worms will start feeding on wheat and/or alfalfa all winter.Read more about Crops

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