Archive for the ‘Insects’ Category

IPM IL Logo                             iapps-logo4

The 22nd Meeting and Scientific Conference was held in Wad Medani, Sudan from 23 – 28 October 2017. There were about 250 participants from Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Tanzania, Ghana, Senegal, Cameroon, DR Congo, Ivory Coast, Uganda, Burkina Faso, Benin, and the U.S.A. Prof. R. Muniappan, Director, IPM Innovation Lab represented IAPPS and presented a keynote address entitled, “Management of Invasive Mealybugs”.  Participants visited Gazira Scheme, about 800,000 hectares of canal-irrigated area where corn, sorghum, cotton, sugarcane and vegetables are grown.

The cotton mealybug, Phenacoccus solenopsis, previously causing severe damage and crop loss is currently under control by the fortuitously introduced parasitoid, Aenasius arizonensis. The cotton leafhopper, Jacobiasca lybica (=Empoasca lybica) has been causing hopper burn symptoms on the Bt cotton grown in this area.

AAIS scientists in cotton MG_4020

AAIS meeting participants visiting cotton production area in the Gazira Scheme, Sudan

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IPM IL Logotuta larva on tomato (2)iapps-logo3

The 12th Arab Congress of Plant Protection was held in Hurghada, Egypt, from November 4-10, 2017. There were about 300 participants from Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Sudan, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Pakistan, Italy, and the U.S.A. Participating regional and international organizations were FAO, EPPO, CIMMYT, ICARDA and CIHEAM. Prof. R. Muniappan, Director, IPM Innovation Lab, representing IAPPS in this congress,              presented a keynote address entitled, “Building Bridges between Plant Protection Disciplines for Sustainable Crop Protection”. Key symposia included the South American tomato leafminer, Tuta absoluta.

ARab cong tuta sym particpants

Participants in the South American tomato leafminer, Tuta absoluta, symposium.



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From the Aliens’ list/PestNet

From: Arne Witt <a.witt@cabi.org>
Date: 9 November 2017 at 20:25
Subject: [Aliens-L] FAW

New report reveals cost of Fall Armyworm and provides recommendations for control



The report, commissioned by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), reviews the current evidence of the potential impact of the pest and quantifies the likely economic effect on agricultural sectors in affected countries and regions if left unmanaged.

In the absence of any control methods, we estimate that the pest has the potential to cause huge maize yield losses in Africa and we expect it to spread throughout suitable habitats in mainland sub-Saharan Africa within the next few cropping seasons. Northern Africa and Madagascar are also at risk. This would clearly have a huge impact on food security and the achievement of SDG 2 (Zero Hunger).

Control of Fall Armyworm requires an integrated pest management (IPM) approach and immediate recommendations we make in the report include raising awareness on Fall Armyworm symptoms, early detection and control, and the creation and communication of a list of recommended, regulated pesticides and biopesticides to control the pest. Work must also start to assess which crop varieties can resist or tolerate Fall Armyworm. In the longer run national policies should promote lower risk control options through short term subsidies and rapid assessment and registration of biopesticides and biological control products.

To see the reports:

Download the 10 page summary of the evidence note

Download the full evidence note


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By Ejidiah Wangui NAIROBI (Xinhua) — Kenyan farmer Geoffrey Koech was staring at his ten-acre maize plantation shortly before the harvest with regret and bewilderment, aware that his investment had gone down the drain due to armyworm infestation.

“We are staring into a disaster,” he told Xinhua in a recent interview as hired labourers geared up to clear the corn that had retarded due to attack by the voracious pest

Koech’s farm located 159 km southwest of Nairobi was invaded by the fall armyworm (FAW) a few months ago and his efforts to salvage a portion of the farm from the fast-spreading pest were futile.

He now faces tough days ahead as farming is his only source of income.

The pests have caught many farmers like Koech by surprise, leaving a trail of destruction that is expected to trickle down to millions of households across Kenya that rely on corn as their staple food.

“It all started like a joke, during one of my tours around the farm, I noticed some of the plants had been attacked but I thought it is the usual worms that we deal with here. Within two weeks, I couldn’t believe my eyes as most of the plants had been attacked. I tried using pesticides but it was too late,” said Koech.

He had only heard about the FAW invasion in neighboring Uganda but never thought anything of the sort could strike closer home.

As small-holder farmers like Koech ponder on their next move, Kenya as a country stares at a 20 to 25-percent drop in maize yields in 2017, further complicating the situation as the East African nation is still reeling from the harsh effects of drought.

According to the Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI), the caterpillar could cause maize losses costing 12 African countries up to 6.1 billion U.S. dollars per annum, unless control methods are urgently put in place.

The FAW which was previously reported in Western Kenya has now spread to other regions such as Kwale County in the Coast.

In its latest “evidence note” report on the FAW, CABI said the caterpillar has the potential to cause maize yield losses ranging from 8.3 to 20.6 million tonnes per annum, in the absence of any control methods, in just 12 of Africa’s maize-producing countries.

According to the report, FAW should be expected to spread throughout suitable habitats in mainland sub-Saharan Africa within the next few cropping seasons.

Northern Africa and Madagascar are also at risk. In September, 28 countries in Africa confirmed presence of the pest, compared to only 12 five months earlier.

A further nine countries have conducted or are presently conducting surveys, and either strongly suspect its presence or are awaiting official confirmation.

According to Roger Day, CABI’s Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Coordinator, to avert the looming food crisis, affected nations need to come up with an integrated approach to deal with the crisis.

“Work must also start to assess which crop varieties can resist or tolerate FAW. In the longer run, national policies should promote lower risk control options through short-term subsidies and rapid assessment and registration of bio pesticides and biological control products,” Day said.

Immediate recommendations in the report include raising awareness on FAW symptoms, early detection and control, and the creation and communication of a list of recommended, regulated pesticides.

“If I was well informed on what to look out for and what to do when I discovered the first worm, I believe I could have saved close to a quarter of my farm from being invaded,” said Koech.

In July, Kenya’s Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett expressed concern over the FAW invasion saying the country’s food security was at stake as production in 2017 is forecast to drop by 9 million bags.

The worm, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), is native to the Americas but there is no documented evidence to indicate how it crossed oceans to land in Africa.

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SW FarmPress

ll weevil numbers in Texas at lowest level since erdication effort began.

After years of challenges, boll weevil eradication program making progress

Eradicating the boll weevil will insure that cotton will continue to be the No. 1 cash crop in the nation’s largest cotton-producing state.”

Logan Hawkes 3 | Oct 06, 2017


Cotton producers have a lot to worry about every year. But, one thing they aren’t worrying about as much as once they did is the dreaded Anthonomus grandis, or boll weevil, for generations the scourge of U.S. cotton farmers.

A little more than a century ago, the National Cotton Council notes, the tiny pest migrated from Mexico to the U.S., and  spread rapidly throughout the cotton belt. Over subsequent decades, it has cost America’s cotton producers more than $15 billion in yield losses and control costs.

In 1958, the council officially recognized the economic havoc the pest represented for U.S. cotton production, and with congressional support, a USDA Boll Weevil Research Laboratory was created, followed by eradication experiments, a trial eradication program, and an area-wide boll weevil control program implemented in the Texas High Plains and Rolling Plains to halt the weevil’s migration northward out of Mexico.

Based upon the results of those efforts, in the 1970s a boll weevil eradication program was launched by USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), beginning with eastern seaboard states. Not long afterward, several state boll weevil groups were founded, including the Texas Boll Weevil Foundation, Inc.


Texas has long been on the front line of eradication efforts because of the common border it shares with Mexico. Boll weevil problems across the Rio Grande have been a serious issue, including potential for migration of the pest — mostly carried by wind — and sporadic outbreaks that have been problematic in parts of Texas, especially along the border corridor.

Much like other issues in the cotton industry, 2017 has had its share of challenges for the boll weevil eradication program, says Foundation President and Chief Executive Officer Lindy Patton. But in spite of huge increases in cotton acres, weevil reinfestations into eradicated areas, and plenty of weather-related obstacles, such as Hurricane Harvey, the Texas boll weevil eradication program made excellent progress toward eliminating the dreaded pest.

Things haven’t always been smooth, however. After decades of successful eradication efforts, occasional weevil outbreaks have largely been limited to deep south Texas. But in 2015, a troubling trend seemed to be developing. It was a very wet year in the Lower Rio Grande valley and across the border in Mexico’s Tamaulipas State. Trapping and treatment efforts in the Valley were troubled, especially considering the large migration of weevils from Mexico.

Eradication officials in Mexico said they were experiencing problems in addition to heavy rains. They included funding to conduct control methods, and involuntary cotton that was increasing as homeowners planted cotton seeds and nurtured their year-round development into tall plants, and even tree-size plants for shade. Weevil populations exploded.

In Texas, the fight was on to prevent migration of the pest further north into the state. Despite foundation efforts, weevil captures in early 2016 totaled 15,705 weevils in the Winter Garden area, with a few trapped near Alice.


“But things began to improve for the eradication effort in 2016,” Patton says. “Texas and Tamaulipas growers, along with program personnel from both nations, have worked to together to make both programs more effective. Changes to the eradication program in Tamaulipas greatly reduced migration, and the foundation started to get a handle on the weevil problem.”

Thanks to the Texas Boll Weevil Eradication Foundation, with assistance from other agencies like USDA and the North American Plant Protection Organization, help was offered to Mexico with both trapping and treatment programs, as well as identifying voluntary cotton and its removal. By late 2016, the boll weevil problem was improving across the border in Mexico, and in Texas.

Thus far in 2017, weevils were found only in two areas of Texas, the Winter Garden area around Uvalde, and in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. A total of 1,022 weevils have been captured in the Winter Garden area. The good news is that 747 of those were captured in the first two weeks of the year, with only 275 trapped the rest of the growing season. Strong cooperation from area farmers, and diligent work on the part of foundation personnel, are being credited for that success.

“So far in 2017, the eradication program has been able to bring weevil numbers to their lowest level since the program began,” Patton says. “Fewer than 30,000 weevils were trapped through the end of September, on nearly 200,000 planted acres of cotton.”

Program Director Larry Smith says he is extremely proud of the progress made. “Our program personnel have worked extremely hard, and have done an amazing job of bringing weevil numbers down to these record low levels. Many cotton producers in the Lower Rio Grande Valley have taken ownership of this important program, and have encouraged their neighbors to be diligent in destroying cotton stalks and volunteer cotton.”

He emphasizes that producers and the eradication program must work together to finish the job. “The last weevils are the hardest to get rid of, and we must work together to find and eliminate all volunteer cotton, destroy stalks in a timely fashion, and encourage folks to help by not planting cotton in difficult-to-treat places.”

With the weevil eradicated from over 98 percent of the state’s cotton fields, Patton says, the farmer-run Texas Foundation is helping producers achieve some amazing yields, and survive in some really tough times. Eradicating the boll weevil will insure that cotton will continue to be the No. 1 cash crop in the nation’s largest cotton-producing state.”

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A battle of good versus weevil

Researchers at the University of Southern Queensland are exploring ways of using fungus to safeguard the world’s sweet potato harvest. Belinda Smith reports.

Cylas adults on sweet potatoes.
Bree Wilson / University of Southern Queensland

You might catch more flies with honey, but you can dispatch more weevils with fungi. Researchers at the University of Southern Queensland, funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, are finding ways to harness nature’s chemical weapons to fight the sweetpotato weevil (Cylas formicarius), an innocuous-looking bug that can devastate entire crops.

Some 95% of sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) are grown in developing countries, where they are the fifth most important food crop. Not only rich in vitamins, they’re also chock full of carbohydrates. A farmer growing sweet potatoes can produce more edible energy per hectare per day than they could with rice or cassava.

Sweet potatoes are hardy, too, happily growing in dry soil with little fertiliser or irrigation. But they’re not tough enough to withstand a sweet potato weevil onslaught. Adult weevils lay eggs in the stems and roots. After hatching, the grubs grow into adults which gnaw their way out, riddling the sweet potatoes with holes and rendering them inedible.

By the time a crop is infested, it’s usually too late to do anything about it. Manufactured insecticides only kill the adult weevils, not the larvae already ensconced. In countries such as Papua New Guinea, where sweet potato is the primary food source, farmers depend solely on “cultural control”, such as crop rotation and sanitation, to stop the weevil’s spread. But the natural world has its own arsenal: the fungus Metarhizium anisopliae.

Found in soils around the world, M. anisopliae is entomopathogenic, meaning it only infects insects. Simply coming into contact with fungal spores is enough for infection to take place. The species burrows into the unfortunate insect, reproduces inside its body, and bursts out again, killing the host – if it’s not dead already. And M. anisopliae counts sweetpotato weevils in its range of hosts.

So researchers such as Bree Wilson at the University of Southern Queensland in Toowoomba are finding ways to use it to the sweetpotato’s advantage.

One possibility is a “lure and kill” approach: male weevils, attracted to baits laced with commercially manufactured sweetpotato weevil female sex pheromone and M. anisopliae spores, could pick up the lethal fungus and transfer it to females before dying.

But when Wilson and her colleagues added particularly virulent M. anisopilae strains in their baits, which would kill more insects faster, the weevils steered clear. The researchers suspect those strains secrete certain volatile compounds that sweetpotato weevils can detect and know to avoid.

“While we haven’t identified the volatiles responsible for avoidance in our isolates, this is next on our cards,” Wilson says.

She adds this will be helped by a new and “very fancy olfactometer” which will sniff out repelling volatiles. And when they figure out which genes are responsible for the weevil-deterring effects, they’ll use CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology to snip them out of the fungus genome.

The new, repellent-free version of the fungus will then be tested in glasshouses and in the field to see if it retains its lethality. Another option, she says, is to manufacture and spray the repelling volatiles around a crop to produce a smelly weevil-proof barrier.

Sweetpotato weevils aren’t the only pest in Wilson’s sights. Her biggest challenge will be the root knot nematode (Meloidogyne species) – roundworms that infect roots, weakening or killing the plant.

The main defences against root knot nematodes are expensive and nasty, so she hopes to explore how Pasteuria species of bacteria – which stop the worm reproducing – could help.

“I’m looking forward to working with the Australian and Papua New Guinean growers to test from of this research to offer genuine alternatives to control these pests,” she says.

Belinda smith 2016 2.jpg?ixlib=rails 2.1
Belinda Smith is a science and technology journalist in Melbourne, Australia.


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