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“Beetles that pee themselves to death could be tomorrow’s pest control”

Various beetle species have gobbled through grain stores and weakened food production worldwide since ancient times. Now, researchers at the University of Copenhagen have discovered a better way of targeting and eliminating these teeny pests. Instead of using toxic pesticides that damage biodiversity, the environment, and human health, the researchers seek to exploit beetles’ greatest strength against them — their precisely regulated mechanism of balancing fluids.

Up to 25 percent of global food production is lost annually due to insects, primarily beetles. For the past 500 million years, beetles have successfully spread and adapted to life around the globe and now account for one of every five animal species on Earth. Yet as far back as ancient Egypt, these tough little bugs have invaded granaries and vexed humans by destroying crops.


Wheat weevils, confused flour beetles, Colorado potato beetles and other types of beetles and insects make their ways into up to 25 percent of the global food supply. Photo: Getty 

As a result, food production and abundant use of pesticides now go hand in hand. A large share of these pesticides damage biodiversity, the environment, and human health. As various pesticides are phased out, new solutions are required to target and eradicate pests without harming humans or beneficial insects like bees.

This is precisely what researchers from the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Biology are working on. As part of a broader effort to develop more “ecological” methods of combatting harmful insects in the near future, researchers have discovered which hormones regulate urine formation in the kidneys of beetles.

“Knowing which hormones regulate urine formation opens up the development of compounds similar to beetle hormones that, for example, can cause beetles to form so much urine that they die of dehydration,” explains Associate Professor Kenneth Veland Halberg of the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Biology. He adds:

“While it may seem slightly vicious, there’s nothing new in us trying to vanquish pests that destroy food production. We’re simply trying to do it in a smarter, more targeted manner that takes the surrounding environment into greater account than traditional pesticides.”

Ancient Egyptians weakened beetles’ water balance using stones
The new study, as well as a previous study, also conducted by Kenneth Veland Halberg, demonstrates that beetles solve the task of regulating their water and salt balance in a fundamentally different way than other insects. This difference in insect biology is an important detail when seeking to combat certain species while leaving their neighbors alone.

“Today’s insecticides go in and paralyze an insect’s nervous system. The problem with this approach is that insect nervous systems are quite similar across species. Using these insecticides leads to the killing of bees and other beneficial field insects, and harms other living organisms,” explains Kenneth Veland Halberg.

The centrality to survival of the carefully controlled water balance of beetles is no secret. In fact, ancient Egyptians already knew to mix pebbles in grain stores to fight these pests. Stones scratched away the waxy outer layer of beetles’ exoskeletons which serves to minimize fluid evaporation.

“Never mind that they chipped an occasional tooth on the pebbles, the Egyptians could see that the scratches killed some of the beetles due to the fluid loss caused by damage to the waxy layer. However, they lacked the physiological knowledge that we have now,” says Kenneth Veland Halberg.

One-hundred billion dollars of pesticides used worldwide
Pesticides have replaced pebbles. And, their global use is now valued at roughly 100 billion dollars annually. But as rules for pesticide use become stricter, farmers are left with fewer options to fight pests. 

“The incentive to develop compounds which target and eradicate pests is huge. Food production is critically dependent on pesticides. In Europe alone, it is estimated that food production would decline by 50 percent without pesticide use. With just a single, more targeted product on the market, there would almost immediately be immense gains for both wildlife and humans,” states Kenneth Veland Halberg.

But the development of new compounds to combat beetles requires, among other things, that chemists design a new molecule that resembles beetle hormones. At the same time, this compound must be able to enter beetles, either through their exoskeletons or by their feeding upon it.

“Understanding urine formation in beetles is an important step in developing more targeted and environmentally-friendly pest controls for the future. We are now in the process of involving protein chemistry specialists who can help us design an artificial insect hormone. But there is still a fair bit of work ahead before any new form of pest control sees the light of day,” concludes Associate Professor Kenneth Veland Halberg.

Read the complete research at www.pnas.org.

For more information:
University of Copenhagen
www.news.ku.dk 

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New, Improved, and Expanded!
Field Guide to African Soybean Diseases, Pests & Nutrient Deficiencies

Available Now!
April 1, 2021
  It’s here! The new and improved Field Guide is available for free now. Click here to access.   You asked, we delivered. The Soybean Innovation Lab’s (SIL) network of growers, breeders, agronomists, researchers, seed companies, practitioners, and extension agents needed a practical solution for identifying and addressing soybean diseases, pests, and nutrient deficiencies in the field. In response, SIL developed a pictorial, easy-to-use guide that provides diagnostic tools, management solutions, and guidance for achieving a healthy soybean crop.   The new & improved guide includes more information on important soybean pests and diseases, and a section on identifying and managing nutrient deficiencies, commonly confused for soybean diseases in the field. The guide contains more than 110 images gathered from SIL’s disease scouting network and soybean experts.     The Field Guide to African Soybean Diseases, Pests & Nutrient Deficiencies includes 7 sections to identify and address 44 potential threats to yield.   The expanded Field Guide covers important soybean diseases, pests and nutrient deficiencies including, from left, clockwise: Soybean Rust, Frogeye Leaf Spot, Calcium deficiency, Grasshopper, Stink Bug, Caterpillar, Bean Leaf Folder.   As soybean production increases across Africa, disease and pest pressures become more threatening to growers. The soybean industry requires knowledge on how to identify and manage soybean diseases, prepare for outbreaks, and understand varietal resistance to prevent potentially devastating yield losses due to soybean diseases.

The SIL Field Guide to African Soybean Diseases, Pest, & Nutrient Deficiencies is the the first and most comprehensive pictorial guide available to soybean producers in Africa.
    Download pdf here   Access an online version here   Field Guide Authors   The Field Guide to African Soybean Diseases, Pests, & Nutrient Deficiencies Version 2.0 was written by (left to right):  George Awuni, PhD, Plant and Soil Sciences, Mississippi State University Glen Hartman, PhD, USDA-ARS and Crop Sciences, University of Illinois Nicole Lee, Crop Sciences, University of Illinois Harun Muthuri Murithi, PhD, Plant Pathologist, ARS-USDA Michelle Pawlowski, PhD, Crop Sciences, University of Illinois Daniel B. Reynolds, PhD, Plant and Soil Sciences, Mississippi State University   The first edition of the Field Guide is available in 4 languages: English, French, Portuguese, and Amharic and has been used extensively by SIL’s network of soybean practitioners acoss 24 African countries.     “For the past 4 years all Pyxus agriculture Field Technicians are using the Field Guide to African Soybean Diseases and Pests.

“Whenever they are scouting or scoring pests and diseases they refer to the booklet guidance. It has got easy and simple pics to follow and well explained version of each illustrations.
 
“This has made it easier to distinguish diseases that look alike. So, our scouting, scoring and data recoding on pests and diseases has been easy and the booklet has improved our technicians’ knowledge on soybeans and related aspects. We use it as a field tool all the time.”
 
“Version 2 of the book is most welcome!”


– Dennis Banda, Pyxus International, Malawi
(Photos: Dennis Banda and his Field Guide)  

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‘No shortage of dangers’ and no easy answers for the monarch butterfly

Justin Cremer | Cornell Alliance for Science | March 25, 2021

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Credit: Edgard Garrido/Reuters
Credit: Edgard Garrido/Reuters

This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.North America’s monarch butterfly population is in trouble. That much has been clear for decades but scientists have found that affixing blame to the problem is not so simple. Habitat loss, weather changes and pesticides have all at one time or another been fingered as the primary cause, but the truth is messier and somewhat unsatisfying: there is no easy or single answer. Because of that, just what can be done to stop the monarchs’ decline also remains unclear.

Anurag Agrawal, one of the world’s leading authorities on the subject, wishes he could provide a simple solution to the plight of the monarchs, but he can’t.

“When you look at the 25-year trend, it seems quite dire,” Agrawal, a Cornell University professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and the author of Monarchs and Milkweed, says. “There has been a steep, persistent decline in the number of monarchs that overwinter in Mexico every year. But no one is arguing that the monarch butterflies are threatened or endangered as a species. What we are arguing is that the eastern North American migration, in which hundreds of millions of monarchs travel several thousand kilometers every year, is in serious trouble and may be lost.”

“That’s complicated for people to understand,” he says.

Adding to that complication is the fact that monarchs are also found in large numbers in California, Hawaii, Spain, Australia and New Zealand. While Agrawal specializes in the butterflies that live in the Midwest and Northeastern US and Canada, he says that studies also show a 45-year negative trend for California monarchs.

‘No doubt’ humans are to blame

Agrawal, who recently published an analysis of the monarchs’ migration woes in Science, says “there is no shortage of dangers” facing the monarch population, including extreme weather, disease and the loss of milkweed to industrial agriculture. Though he’s hesitant to quantify those dangers, it’s not hard to see the underlying source: mankind.

“There is no doubt that the decline in monarch butterflies over the last 25 years is caused by humans,” he says.

While a host of human factors are contributing to the stark decline in the number of monarchs overwintering in Mexico each year – some 20 million are thought to be killed by vehicles alone – the conventional wisdom for years has been that widespread herbicide use throughout great swaths of the United States has decimated milkweed, which is the only source of food for monarch caterpillars.

But simply pointing to herbicide use as the butterfly-killing bogeyman is oversimplifying a complex issue, Agrawal warns.

“There is no question that in the core agricultural Midwest there is a lot less milkweed than there used to be. But there are two important questions to ask about that. One is what fraction of the monarchs that go to Mexico come from that core area? It could be as low as ten percent or as high as 60 percent, we really don’t know. The second question is that, while it is clear that there is much less milkweed, is there still enough of it? That is another source of debate and it is very complicated,” he says.

According to a 2017 study from the US Geological Survey, over 860 million milkweed stems were lost in the northern US over the past decade and nearly two billion additional sets of milkweed would be needed for the Eastern migratory population of the monarch butterfly to rebound to a sustainable level.

Anurag Agrawal. Credit: Frank DiMeo

‘Constantly changing narrative’

Although monarchs have been embraced by anti-GMO activists (the Non-GMO Project uses a monarch butterfly in its logo), pesticides are hardly the first culprit to be blamed for the long decline of the species. Agrawal says he’s been digging into media coverage of monarchs over the past several decades and “the narrative is constantly changing.”

After scientists discovered in 1975 that hundreds of millions of butterflies from all across the US east of the Rockies were going to what he calls “12 very tiny mountaintops in central Mexico” each winter, the initial thought was that logging in their winter home was the problem. In the 1980s, after a series of ice storms killed as many as half of the butterfly populations in Mexico, extreme weather was blamed. But the debate was changed irrevocably with the 1999 publication of an initial study by Cornell entomology professor John Losey in the journal Nature that said pollen from genetically-engineered Bt corn increased butterfly mortality.Related article:  Honeybees and monarch butterflies on decline but GMOs are not to blame

“The massive amount of attention drawn to this one single-page study was just crazy,” Agrawal says. “It had an incredibly profound effect on the field of agricultural biotechnology. It changed laws in Europe and caused major discussions in the US that really drove the media narrative for more than a decade.”

But Agrawal thinks that the narrative is once again starting to change as scientists and non-scientists alike come to realize the true complexity of the problem. When a species has a life cycle as complicated as that of the monarch butterfly, which has four generations every year and faces a long and treacherous migration, it’s very difficult to put a relative importance to the various dangers it faces.

While Agrawal argues that in the unlikely event that all pesticides were suddenly banned, it would “not necessarily” make monarchs bounce back, he thinks part of the reason the pesticide angle has been so widely embraced is because “it is understandable and it presents a solution: plant milkweed.”


Monarch caterpillar. Credit: Joshua Mayer/Flickr

‘Icon of nature’

The plight of the monarch butterfly also became somewhat conflated with that of the honeybee, which has also experienced puzzling dips in its population. Unlike bees, however, monarch butterflies are not pollinators and Agrawal acknowledges they are “not particularly special from an ecological perspective”.

“If the monarch disappeared it’s unlikely that there would be considerable impact on the rest of the natural world,” he concedes.

Why then, in a world filled with depressing news, should we care about a species that doesn’t really impact us and whose troubles are multi-faceted and hard to understand?

“The monarch is an icon of nature in part because it is such a spectacular looking insect. In the US in particular, you can go out in your backyard and frequently find them, so unlike the polar bear, many Americans feel a personal connection to monarch butterflies,” Agrawal says.

The monarch’s troubles should also serve as a giant red flag, Agrawal adds.

“Some organisms are sort of like the canary in the coal mine and are indicators of the health of a particular location. One of the things that is so cool about monarch butterflies is that they travel from Canada to central Mexico, drinking nectar all along the way. That makes them a potential indicator species for the health of our entire continent. With their numbers declining like they have been over the past 25 years, that should really set off a light bulb,” he says.

Agrawal, who was animated and talkative throughout our nearly 90-minute chat, was at a temporary loss of words when asked how to save the butterflies.

“We have to take a step back and ask ourselves the harder questions that none of us what to deal with. We want to plant milkweed or give $10 to the Nature Conservancy or have an enviro-friendly garden, and I encourage all of those things. But the truth of the matter is monarchs are health indicators for our continent and they are exhibiting multi-decadal declines that point to very big systemic problems. We shouldn’t fool ourselves.”

Justin Cremer is a professional communicator who has spent nearly two decades alternating between journalism and marketing/communications. Find Justin on Twitter @MrJustinCremer

A version of this article was originally posted at the Cornell Alliance for Science and has been reposted here with permission. The Cornell Alliance for Science can be found on Twitter @ScienceAlly

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ISCA fall armyworm

Controlling Fall Armyworm with toxic bait

March 3, 2021 | Posted in Crop ProtectionSource: ISCA

A recent scientific study found that a proprietary blend of naturally occurring moth attractants, now marketed in Brazil under the brand name Noctovi, is effective for controlling one of the world’s most damaging insect pests, the fall armyworm, Spodoptera frugiperda.

 

Entomologists from the federal University of Grande Dourados in Brazil found that Noctovi mixed with tiny amounts of a conventional insecticide controlled populations of the fall armyworm, reducing damage to corn crops at all eight test sites in the Mato Grosso do Sul, in the Cerrado agricultural region of Brazil.

Entitled “Toxic Bait as an Alternative Tool in the Management of Spodoptera frugiperda in Second Corn Crops,” the study was published online in the Journal of Agricultural Science, a publication of the Canadian Center of Science and Education.

The control of the fall armyworm was achieved by a technique called attract-and-kill. Noctovi contains a blend of compounds released in nature by plants that are highly attractive to the fall armyworm and other moths, targeting closely related moths of the Noctuid family which includes cutworms, armyworms, and owlet moths. By attracting and inducing the adult moth pests to feed on the formulation, the amount of insecticide necessary for control in the area treated with Noctovi is reduced by more than 90%.

The Noctovi formulation does not attract bees, which are left unharmed.

“Control of FAW (fall armyworm) adult populations would be more efficient if the attracting and killing technique was incorporated in integrated pest management (IPM) programs,” the study said.

ISCA, Inc., an international green agtech company headquartered in Riverside, Calif., developed and manufactures Noctovi for distribution in Brazil by UPL.

“This is another important independent publication confirming what we have observed in the field for years,” said Agenor Mafra-Neto, ISCA’s CEO. “Noctovi is a sustainable solution for the control of moth pests, including the devastating fall armyworm, an invasive species that is rapidly spreading around the globe, exacerbating food insecurity in poor countries, and causing billions of dollars of crops losses to commercial row crop farming.”

In recent years, the fall armyworm has spread from its native range in South America to most counties in Africa, into the Middle East, and then throughout central and east Asia and Australia, with the larvae feeding on corn, soybean, cotton, tomatoes, and other crops. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates the losses in Africa alone to be about $4.6 billion a year.

The species has been difficult to control because it has developed resistance to most conventional insecticides and those expressed by genetically modified (GM) crops. In fact, the research in Brazil found Noctovi to be most effective when used in conjunction with GM corn, which expresses the insecticidal proteins of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt).

Unlike conventional insecticides, Noctovi does not require the entire field to be sprayed. Once mixed with an approved insecticide, a line of Noctovi about 100 meters long will protect about 2.5 acres of crops because the attractants draw in the armyworm moths to feed on the formulation, which kills them.

“The application of [Noctovi] toxic bait in bands with spacing less than or equal to 50 meters significantly reduced the percentage of damage to the plants,” concludes the study by Wagner Justinian, a doctoral candidate, and professors Marcos Gino Fernandes and Josué Raizer of the University of Grande Dourados.

The results were gathered during the 2018-2019 agricultural year. The researchers found that late-life stage non-Bt corn plants treated with Noctovi had about half the caterpillar feeding damage when compared to the plants in control areas that received no treatments. Statistically, Noctovi mixed with the insecticide methomyl applied in bands performed as well as area-wide treatments with the same insecticide. This allowed for the insecticide outputs to be reduced by 90 percent to achieve the same level of fall armyworm control.

ISCA, Inc. is a green agtech company that provides the next generation of insect control products for world agriculture by harnessing the power of pheromones and other semiochemicals emitted in nature by plants and animals that manipulate the behavior of targeted insect species. ISCA’s insect control innovations are environmentally sustainable, cost-effective, and can be applied mechanically by aircraft, drones, and tractors to both row and specialty crops. ISCA is headquartered in Riverside, Calif., USA, and has subsidiaries with offices and manufacturing partnerships and facilities in the United States Brazil and India.

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University of Bristol

Animals fake death for long periods to escape predators

1-Mar-2021 10:00 AM EST, by University of Bristolfavorite_border

Newswise: Animals fake death for long periods to escape predators

Nigel R. Franks

European antlion (Euroleon nostras) on its dorsal side playing dead.

Embargoed until 00.01hrs UK time on Wednesday 3 March 2021

Newswise — Many animals feign death to try to escape their predators, with some individuals in prey species remaining motionless, if in danger, for extended lengths of time.

Charles Darwin recorded a beetle that remained stationary for 23 minutes – however the University of Bristol has documented an individual antlion larvae pretending to be dead for an astonishing 61 minutes. Of equal importance, the amount of time that an individual remains motionless is not only long but unpredictable. This means that a predator will be unable to predict when a potential prey item will move again, attract attention, and become a meal.

Predators are hungry and cannot wait indefinitely. Similarly, prey may be losing opportunities to get on with their lives if they remain motionless for too long. Thus, death-feigning might best be thought of as part of a deadly game of hide and seek in which prey might gain most by feigning death if alternative victims are readily available.

The study, published today in science journal Biology Letters, involved evaluating the benefits of death-feigning in terms of a predator visiting small populations of conspicuous prey. Researchers used computer simulations that utilise the marginal value theorem, a classical model in optimization.

Lead author of the paper Professor Nigel R. Franks from the University of Bristol’s School of Biological Sciences, said: “Imagine you are in a garden full of identical soft fruit bushes. You go to the first bush. Initially collecting and consuming fruit is fast and easy, but as you strip the bush finding more fruit gets harder and harder and more time consuming.

“At some stage, you should decide to go to another bush and begin again. You are greedy and you want to eat as many fruit as quickly as possible. The marginal value theorem would tell you how long to spend at each bush given that time will also be lost moving to the next bush.

“We use this approach to consider a small bird visiting patches of conspicuous antlion pits and show that antlion larvae that waste some of the predator’s time, by ‘playing dead’ if they are dropped, change the game significantly. In a sense, they encourage the predator to search elsewhere.”

The modelling suggests that antlion larvae would not gain significantly if they remained motionless for even longer than they actually do. This suggests that in this arms race between predators and prey, death-feigning has been prolonged to such an extent that it can hardly be bettered.

Professor Franks added: “Thus, playing dead is rather like a conjuring trick. Magicians distract an audience from seeing their sleights of hand by encouraging them to look elsewhere. Just so with the antlion larvae playing dead – the predator looks elsewhere. Playing dead seems to be a very good way to stay alive.”

Paper:

‘Hide-and-seek strategies and post-contact immobility’ by NR Franks, A Worley and AB Sendova-Franks in Biology Letters

Image:

European antlion (Euroleon nostras) on its dorsal side playing dead. Credit: Nigel R. Franks

https://fluff.bris.ac.uk/fluff/u1/hu21584/gouW2eLlMqxEzBsRwNZxGAzcJ/

Issued on Monday 1 March 2021 by University of Bristol Media and PR Team. For more information email press-office@bristol.ac.uk.

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New crop-destroying locust swarms hitting East Africa ‘nearly every day,’ UN warns in renewed call to fight major food security threat

United Nations | January 21, 2021

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Credit: AP
Credit: AP

This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

Dominique Burgeon, FAO’s [the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization] Director of Emergencies and Resilience, said the huge [African] desert locust swarms in 2020, some as wide as 60 kilometers, had not been seen in decades, threatening food security in a region where many were already going hungry. 

Surveillance and response led to 1.6 million hectares of land being treated.  As a result, more than three million tonnes of cereals, valued at approximately $940 million, were protected: enough to feed 21 million people for a year. 

“We can say that huge progress has been made, capacities of the countries have been tremendously augmented…but yet the situation is not over”, he told journalists. “We have made a huge effort, we are much better prepared, but we should not be complacent. We should not relax.”  

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With neighboring countries battling crop-ravaging locusts, Zimbabwe readies itself for potential outbreak

Sifelani Tsiko | Zimbabwe Herald | January 22, 2021

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Credit: National Geographic
Credit: National Geographic

This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

Shingirai Nyamutukwa, head of the [Zimbabwe] Plant Quarantine and Plant Protection Research Services Institute [January 17] said there was an alert following reports of a new round of locust outbreaks.

“Yes, it’s true that Namibia and Botswana are battling another wave of locust outbreaks. The locusts are in all stages from nymphs to adults. We’re keeping check on their control efforts so as to assess risks of invasion into Zimbabwe,” he said.

Last year, locust outbreaks in Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and Zambia were controlled.

Heavy rains have created conducive conditions for swarms to breed in these countries, forcing plant protection agencies to take steps to control any outbreaks.

SADC and partner organisations like International Red Locust Control Organization for Central and Southern Africa (IRLCO-CSA) were working with the four countries to control the pest and protect people’s livelihoods.Follow the latest news and policy debates on agricultural biotech and biomedicine? Subscribe to our newsletter.SIGN UP

In Namibia and Botswana, the plant protection expert said, some other types of locusts are emerging besides the African migratory locust owing to the wet weather which create favorable factors for all these insects to multiply.

“With a lot of food available due to good rains, we expect the region to have a [difficult time fighting] locust outbreaks throughout the last half of the season,” Nyamutukwa said.

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East Africa gets ready for return of destructive locust swarms

In 2020, East Africa was struck by the worst locust plague in decades. Unfortunately, now, the swarms are returning.

The locusts invading East Africa last year ravaged crops and pastures and drove the levels of hunger and economic hardship higher in parts of the region. One year later, right at the start of 2021, the United Nations has warned that a second and maybe even deadlier return of locusts has already begun.

The first wave of the pests emerged at the end of 2019, numbering in hundreds of billions, multiplying by a factor of 20 per generation, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The second generation in March and April numbered in the trillions. A plague that spread like wildfire — up to now.

Image: FAO / DUS

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“It’s a continuation of the 2020 locusts swarm. The adults have flown to various areas and are laying eggs”, Frances Duncan, Professor of Animal, Plant & Environmental Sciences at the University of the Witwatersrand, told DW. “If we have good rains like it is the case at the moment in most areas, the hoppers will hatch, and we get the second wave of the swarm.”

However, Keith Cressman, FAO’s Senior Locust Forecasting Officer, remains optimistic. “I think it’s still a very dangerous situation. But it should not be worse as it was last year.” According to the weather forecast, the months to come should be dry, reducing the locusts’ reproductive rate.

Publication date: Wed 6 Jan 2021

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Fightback starts against fall armyworm

Published Yesterday at 09:35 AM

Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries and Minister for Rural Communities
The Honourable Mark Furner

The Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) has received approval to import a biopesticide for research purposes, marking a significant step in the fight to combat fall armyworm (FAW).

Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries and Minister for Rural Communities Mark Furner said the Federal Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE) approval to import Fawligen® meant the Queensland Government could start working on management packages for impacted industries.

“Since the initial detection of FAW in Australia in January 2020, DAF has worked closely with industry to find ways to address the threat posed by this voracious invasive pest to Queensland’s agriculture industry,” Mr Furner said.

“Fawligen® is a biopesticide targeting the FAW caterpillar which ingests virus particles, becomes infected and dies, spreading the virus to other FAW larvae in the crop.

“DAF first applied in March 2020 to bring Fawligen®, which is produced in the US by Australian company AgBiTech, into Australia.

“Getting DAWE’s approval to import Fawligen®, a naturally occurring caterpillar virus which targets FAW, is a key step forward as it has the potential to be a game changer for producers.”

Mr Furner said having access to Fawligen® would allow DAF researchers to immediately commence small scale work with AgBiTech to assess its performance on FAW populations, under local conditions and in various crops. 

“This will generate information for an Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Authority (APVMA) regulatory submission,” Mr Furner said.

“Natural biological control agents, like Fawligen®, reduce grower reliance on conventional insecticides for FAW control, reducing the risk of insecticide resistance development.

“Another significant advantage of this biopesticide is that it only kills the FAW and is non-toxic to beneficial organisms including honeybees and beneficial natural enemies such as spiders, wasps and ladybeetles.”

AgBiTech’s General Manager for Australia, Philip Armytage, said in response to the spread and rise of FAW as a global pest, in 2015 AgBiTech established a production facility in the US to manufacture Fawligen® for Brazil and other global markets.

“At the time, Fawligen® could not be produced in Australia as the FAW was not present,” Mr Armytage said.

“Globally, Fawligen® is AgBiTech’s biggest product by volume, and we are excited to be able to bring our technology back home to Australia for our farmers.

“We will accelerate the project, working closely with DAF and use all our international experience to support the commencement of the registration work as soon as possible.”

Mr Furner said DAF had a long history of working closely with AgBiTech in supporting the development of the Helicoverpa biocontrol ViVUS Max® in the early 2000s. 

“Australia is the global leader in the use of native and introduced biocontrol agents,” he said.

“We have seen excellent results in the control of similar caterpillar pests such as Helicoverpa as well as with silverleaf whitefly and prickly pear.

“In the meantime, growers should remain vigilant for the presence of FAW and check for the latest insecticide permits applying to fall armyworm using the APVMA’s permit portal.”

The latest advice about the impacts and management of fall armyworm on key crops can be found on the fall armyworm web page at business.qld.gov.au/fallarmyworm.

ENDS

Minister Furner media contact:                   Ron Goodman            0427 781 920

AgBiTech / Fawligen media contact:         Philip Armytage          0488 263585

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Management of Fall Armyworm: The IPM Innovation Lab Approach

https://ipmil.cired.vt.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/IPM-IL-FAW-Management.pdf.

By:

Sara Hendery

Communications Coordinator

Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Integrated Pest Management

Hendery, Sara saraeh91@vt.edu

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