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ALL LATEST NEWSNEWS AUGUST 2021NORTH AMERICASMART FARMINGSUSTAINABILITY

Benefit of cover crops: Covering up weed seeds

on August 12, 2021

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Cover crops are not free, but they don’t have to be a cost. In fact, they can save farmers money. Researchers and farmers talked about the benefits during a recent session hosted by the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association in Canada, as Matt McIntosh reports for Farmtario.

While there is always variability, weed suppression and population reduction are the chief – though not necessarily only – ways cover crops can better a farm’s bottom line. Cover cropping could be justified as another tool to help keep down weed populations as farmers struggle with more herbicide-resistant weeds.

More weeds equal more weed seeds if left uncontrolled. Over time, the weed seed bank within a given area can be substantial, requiring more time, resources and cash to address the problem. Herbicide-tolerant weeds can increase the price tag of effective control. 

Cover crops don’t have to be expensive or complex to have noticeable impacts. Cowbrough’s work shows oats, a comparatively cheap and available cover crop option, broadcast with potash at 50 pounds per acre, add an extra $16 per acre to production costs. Weed populations were much lower. 

Mike Cowbrough, weed management specialist with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, says cereal rye is another cheap “gateway” cover crop option that can drastically reduce weed populations, including those of common and problematic pigweed species, lamb’s quarters and others. 

“Smaller plants are much easier to kill with your herbicide program,” says Cowbrough. 

Source: Farmtario.com. Full story here
Cover photo: Start simple with cover crops and choose species based on goals. Courtesy Farmtario

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Scottish company develops precision farming tool to tackle grassland weeds

The Courier

By Gemma MackieJuly 29 2021, 6.00am

The SKAi technology in action.
The SKAi technology in action.

A Scottish company has developed a precision farming tool to tackle weeds in grassland.

SoilEssentials, based near Brechin, has worked with academics and agronomists to develop a way of using artificial intelligence (AI) technology to overcome the ‘green-on-green’ challenge.

Green-on-green refers to the difficulty faced by farmers in using precision farming technology to guide spray applications of green weeds in a green crop.

SoilEssentials – together with Deimos Space UK, University of the West of England and Scottish Agronomy Ltd – has developed a precision farming system to tackle green weeds in green crops.

The system named SKAi – the SoilEssentials KORE Artificial Intelligence platform – uses AI components which can be trained to recognise broad-leaved weeds growing in grass crops and then take control of a crop sprayer to apply targeted weed control sprays to the grassland.

“Green-on-green species recognition is probably the biggest challenge we must overcome if farmers are to benefit from the efficiencies of automated targeted weed control in the future,” said Dr Gregor Welsh from SoilEssentials

“I am delighted to report on the progress our SKAi project has made towards overcoming this challenge. We are now able to train SKAi to target weeds in grass fields and automate the sprayer control via our machine mounted hardware.”

Real-time technology

He said the SKAi technology works in real-time and the on-board AI is set up to constantly scan the vegetation to identify and selectively treat the weeds as the spray boom passes over.

“Trials of the system are showing high levels of success in the spraying of docks in grass fields and we are confident that our partnership will be able to progress SKAi until it can recognise and differentiate between a wide range of weed and cash crop species,” added Dr Welsh.

SoilEssentials hardware director, Graham Ralston, said there was scope to develop the technology for use in the wider farming industry.

He said: “There are many situations where blanket herbicide application across a whole field is undesirable – I’m thinking of broad leaf weed control in swards containing clover, for example.

“Ultimately, our challenge is to refine the technology until targeted control can be achieved even in what would appear to be difficult scenarios – for example, blackgrass in wheat crops. And, of course we must also make sure that the system makes affordable economic sense versus existing spray application methods.”

https://www.thecourier.co.uk/fp/business/farming/farming-news/931404/smart-cameras-to-cut-agrochemicals-usage/embed/#?secret=JDhqTkahZa

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Weed electrocution research sparks interest as herbicide resistance impedes current methods

July 29, 2021 at 4:00 a.m.COURTESY PHOTO The United Soybean Board, Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council and the Weed Zapper company are partners in this weed electrocution research project.

COLUMBIA — Move over, herbicides. There’s a new sheriff in town. And he’s toting some powerful guns loaded with electricity to kill weeds.

This shocking new method of weed control was demonstrated at the 2021 Pest Management Field Day at the University of Missouri Bradford Research Center in Columbia.

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As more weeds develop resistance to herbicides, electrocution may be the weed management approach of the future, says MU Extension weed scientist Kevin Bradley. MU graduate student Haylee Schreier has studied weed electrocution in row crops for the past two years under Bradley’s direction.

The is of special interest to Bradley because it might be the answer to Missouri’s growing waterhemp problem. A prolific producer of seeds, waterhemp is Missouri’s No. 1 weed problem and one of 14 weeds that are herbicide-resistant.

Two brothers in Illinois with backgrounds in farming and engineering designed The Weed Zapper machine. A different pair of brothers purchased the technology and manufacture Weed Zappers at a plant in Sedalia, Mo.

The Weed Zapper model used in MU research has a copper boom that attaches to the front of a tractor. Driven by a PTO, it hits weeds with 15,000 volts of electricity from a 110,000-watt generator on the back of the tractor. Models cost between $42,000 and $72,000.

Metal wheels are grounded, and booms adjust to different heights. Tractor speed is about 2-4 miles per hour, Bradley says. Weed kill is best at lower speeds and is even more effective on some of the more challenging weeds when used at seven-day intervals in late summer.

Schreier’s data shows that by the end of the season there is almost complete control of giant ragweed, common ragweed, marestail and waterhemp. It is slightly less effective on grasses.

The growth stage of soybean and the degree of contact that the boom makes with the foliage influences soybean injury. Soybean yield loss is possible if the boom makes constant contact with the soybean canopy at growth stages R3 or later.

In addition to killing weeds, electrocution also affects the viability of surviving weed seeds. The most impact is seen in waterhemp, where about 65% of seeds become nonviable.

Electrocution is not new to the weed management world, says Bradley. Sugar beet growers in North and South Dakota have been trying this method since the 1950s and 1960s.

The United Soybean Board, Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council and the Weed Zapper company are partners in this project.

Learn more about Weed Zappers at http://www.TheWeedZapper.com.

Weed electrocution research shows promising results for weed management, especially in waterhemp, Missouri’s No. 1 weed problem. The Weed Zapper attaches to a tractor and kills in-row weeds with high-voltage electricity. Photo by Linda Geist.

For more than 100 years, University of Missouri Extension has extended university-based knowledge beyond the campus into all counties of the state. In doing so, Extension has strengthened families, businesses and communities. MU Extension news: extension.missouri.edu/news.

Print Headline: Weed electrocution research sparks interest as herbicide resistance impedes current methods

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Farming

Invasive alien plants pose major threat to farmland biodiversity 

Old man's beard
Japanese knotweed
Rhododendron
Himalayan balsam
Giant hogweed

Old man’s beard

Claire Mc Cormack  

August 03 2021 02:30 AM


Great care must be exercised when setting land parcels aside for biodiversity under the next CAP due to the risks posed by invasive alien species, a field expert has warned.

More than 100 invasive alien species now scourge hedges, waterways, uplands, roadways and some grasslands nationwide, outcompeting all native vegetation in their wake and making soil more vulnerable to erosion.

These species were introduced to Ireland from abroad centuries ago, often for decorative garden purposes.

At EU level, plants like Japanese knotweed, Giant hogweed, Himalayan balsam, Old man’s beard and Rhododendron are seen as “key drivers” of ecosystem collapse and targets have now been set to reverse this decline via CAP reform.

Japanese knotweed

Japanese knotweed

However, Dr William Earle, a dairy farmer and leading invasive alien species specialist with INVAS Biosecurity, urges caution on such action.

“With CAP reform, there is huge opportunity to help with biodiversity on farms, but there is also a possibility that farms might open themselves up to exposure of invasive alien species by putting biodiversity areas aside,” he said. “This could lead to an opportunity for invaders to establish in these new niches, accidentally creating invasive alien species reservoirs.

“Often, it’s best to let native species regenerate naturally because they’ve evolved in an area over time. If different seeds are brought in, it raises the risk of introducing invasive species, particularly if close to a pathway, river or road.”

Dr Earle, who will carry out research on the issue with leading Irish institutions, said farms with watercourses are “particularly vulnerable” to invasion.

“Often it’s accidental introduction — many species travel down rivers and along corridors. Since the development of big machinery, there are huge problems with Japanese knotweed being dug up and moved, fragments the size of a thumbnail will grow again. In summer, it becomes so dominant it kills off all native vegetation, leaving nothing but bare exposed soil behind in winter.”

Giant hogweed generates about 70,000 seeds and harbours “a highly-toxic sap”. “If it gets onto your skin and is exposed to UV light, it creates huge blisters and skin damage can recur. It spreads rapidly on watercourses or in flooding.

Rhododendron

Rhododendron

“It’s very important that farmers seek advice on how to treat or kill each species, especially near watercourses — it’s not like dealing with general weeds. You must isolate the problem, manage it and make that land usable again. If it’s not dealt with, it will only get worse,” he said.
Teagasc Countryside Management Specialist, Catherine Keena, has seen whole fields “almost covered” in white bindweed and Himalayan balsam taking over rivers and swamps in Special Areas of Conservation (SACs).

“The rivers are really bad — it is serious,” Ms Keena said. Old man’s beard is taking over hedges; on the upland farms, rhododendron and giant rhubarb are a big problem.

Himalayan balsam

Himalayan balsam

“My attitude to a biodiversity plan is before planting a hedge, a margin or bird cover, if you see an invasive alien species, the most important thing is to deal with it. It’s very wrong to spend money doing a hedge, while letting something else run riot.”

Giant hogweed

Giant hogweed

Colette O’Flynn of the National Biodiversity Data Centre said there is a yearly increase in the number of invasive alien species sightings. She urged farmers “not to cut, mow, strim or disturb” these plants.

Farming Newsletter

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Graduate Students in Nepal Uncover the Impacts of Climate Change and Invasive Weed Species Spread

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Integrated Pest Management Innovation Lab

Jul 27, 2021

Anju Sharma Paudel
Anju Sharma Paudel

This post is written by Sara Hendery, communications coordinator for the Feed the Future Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Innovation Lab

Virginia Tech’s Feed the Future IPM Innovation Lab is celebrating the work of 27 students funded by one of its projects. 

The IPM Innovation Lab collaborates with Tribhuvan University and the University of Virginia’s Biocomplexity Institute to assess the spread of invasive weeds over the last 30 years — based on elevation and under different climate scenarios — in central Nepal. The project has found that as climate change events continue to occur, invasive weeds are spreading faster and higher than ever before. 

Over the course of this six-year project, many research findings have been uncovered by graduate students supported by the project’s funding. Post-graduation, those students are now working at high levels within the Nepal government, universities and the private sector. They have also participated in more than 45 international and national conference presentations and published more than three dozen research papers in national and international scientific journals, with more being developed.

“Student research, with the guidance of experts and advisors, has been at the helm of some of the most exciting research to come out of this project,” said Pramod Jha, Professor Emeritus at Tribhuvan University and the project lead. “Some have uncovered, for example, incredibly valuable biocontrol options for some of Nepal’s most pressing invasive weed issues as well as assessed the shrinking land availability of critical food crops communities depend on. These students are just at the beginning of recognizing the long-term impacts of climate change and this initial research will propel them into future careers where they can actually see their work come to life.”

Take, for example, soon-to-be graduate Seerjana Maharjan. Maharjan is earning her Ph.D. from Tribhuvan University, researching the ecology and management of the invasive weed Parthenium hysterophorus, which causes human, animal and environmental health issues. Her research considers the possibility of winter rust as a biocontrol agent of parthenium and projects the increased suitable habitat of parthenium under future climate scenarios. Post-graduation, Maharjan will serve as a scientific officer in Nepal’s Department of Plant Resources, Ministry of Forest and Environment

Dol Raj Luitel also works as a senior scientific officer in Nepal’s Department of Plant Resources, Ministry of Forestry and Environment. Earning his Ph.D. at Tribhuvan University, Luitel’s research explores the impact of climate change on distribution, production and cropping patterns of finger millet and buckwheat along altitudinal gradients in Nepal. His research assesses the medicinal value of finger millet, the declining habitat of buckwheat under future climate scenarios, and the important nutrients that can be found in finger millet and soil at varying elevations.

Ghanshyam Bhandari earned his Ph.D. from the Agriculture and Forestry University, researching insect diversity of maize and eco-friendly management practices of maize stemborers. Bhandari’s research also assesses the performance of traps for capturing maize insects and farmer perception of climate change in relation to maize cultivation. As a current research officer at the Nepal Agricultural Research Council (NARC), Bhandari is assisting the IPM Innovation Lab in developing biological control efforts of the invasive fall armyworm in Nepal. 

Hom Nath Giri earned a Ph.D. from the Agriculture and Forestry University and currently serves as an assistant professor of horticulture at his alma mater. His research explores the growth of cauliflower at different ecological zones in Nepal, the effect of nitrogen on the post-harvest quality of cauliflower, and efficacy testing of pesticides against the cabbage butterfly in Nepal.

Anju Sharma Paudel earned a Ph.D. from Tribhuvan University, her research focusing on the management of the invasive weed Ageratina adenophora. Post-graduation, Paudel is continuing to develop her research, predicting the current and future distribution of Ageratina adenophora in Nepal and whether stem-galling of the invasive weed by the biocontrol agent Procecidochares utilis is elevation dependent.

The IPM Innovation Lab supported Ram Asheswar Mandal, a postdoctoral student at Tribhuvan University, over the course of the program. Mandal’s research assesses the impacts of climate change and biological invasion on livelihoods.

The IPM Innovation Lab has also supported 21 master’s-level students in the same project, many of whom now work as agricultural officers for the Nepal government or as lecturers at local universities.

Muni Muniappan, director of the IPM Innovation Lab, said the involvement of students in this project is a win-win for both students and research.

“Students are eager to address the biggest problems of our time,” he said, “whether it be food insecurity, resource limitations, climate change impacts or other constraints. Students bring to these global challenges new perspectives and out-of-the-box thinking that is exactly what is needed to help move the science forward. In return, they receive real-life, hands-on experience in their own country as well as other countries, which further nurtures their problem-solving abilities.”

Graduating master’s students funded by the project includes:

  • Sagar Khadka, Tribhuvan University: Decomposition of Eichhornia crassipes of different fungi in Chitwan Annapurna Landscape, Nepal. 
  • Bidya Shrestha, Tribhuvan University: Impacts of climate change on biodiversity utilization by smallholder farmers. 
  • Pristi Dangol, Tribhuvan University: Changes in the life history traits of the invasive weed Lantana camara in central Nepal.
  • Yashoda Panthi, Tribhuvan University: Diversity of invasive alien plant species and their impacts on provisioning services in a village of Lamjung district. 
  • Ganga Shah, Tribhuvan University: Distribution of vulture species and its nest site from lowland to highland in Chitwan Annapurna Landscape, Nepal.
  • Vishubha Thapa, Tribhuvan University: Food access and threats to vultures in Chitwan Annapurna Landscape, Nepal. 
  • Vivekanand Mahat, Agriculture and Forestry University: Hygiene behavior of the honey bee (Apis cerana. F. and Apis mellifera L.) and diversity of flower visitors in rapeseed (Brassica campestris var. toria). 
  • Sarita Sapkota, Agriculture and Forestry University: Relative abundance of dung beetles and their role in nutrient cycling in Terai and mid hills of Nepal. 
  • Ramesh Upreti, Agriculture and Forestry University: Fruit thinning and defoliation effects on the quality and yield of papaya (Carica papaya) cv. Red Lady under net house conditions at Chitwan. 
  • Madhu Sudan Ghimire, Agriculture and Forestry University: Evaluation of indigenous cultivation of potato against late blight (Phytopthora infestance L.) in Okhaldhunga, Nepal.
  • Pratiksha Sharma, Agriculture and Forestry University: Climate resilient maize production among Chepang and non-Chepang communities in Chitwan, Nepal. 
  • Srijana Paudel, Tribhuvan University: Spatio-temporal distribution of Mikania micrantha in Chitwan Annapurna Landscape, Nepal. 
  • Abhisek Singh, Tribhuvan University: Spatio-temporal distribution of Ipomea carnea ssp fistulosa and spatio-temporal distribution of Lantana camara in Chitwan Annapurna Landscape, Nepal. 
  • Sita Gyawali, Tribhuvan University: Spatio-temporal distribution of Chromolaena odorata in Chitwan Annapurna Landscape, Nepal. 
  • Sandeep Dhakal, Tribhuvan University: Spatio-temporal distribution of Lantana camara in Chitwan Annapurna Landscape, Nepal. 
  • Sanjeev Bhandari, Tribhuvan University: Climate change and its impacts on fodder availability in Puranchaur, Kaski district.
  • Himal Yonjon, Tribhuvan University: Spatio-temporal distribution of Eichhornea crassipes in Chitwan Annapurna Landscape, Nepal. 
  • Chandra Paudel, Tribhuvan University: Impacts of Lantana camara on associated species. 
  • Binod Malla, Tribhuvan University: Impacts of Mikania micrantha on associated species. 
  • Aarati Chand, Tribhuvan University: Impacts of Parthenium hysterophorus on associated species. 
  • Nitu Joshi, Tribhuvan University: Impacts of  Chromolaena odorata on associated species.

This invasive weed modeling project is one of nine projects the IPM Innovation Lab currently manages. Since the program’s inception in 1993, it has funded the research of more than 600 students worldwide.FILED UNDER:AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTIVITYCLIMATE AND NATURAL RESOURCESEDUCATION AND EXTENSION

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Misconceptions about biological controls

June 24, 202188

By Ethan Proud
PREVIEW Columnist

For some, biological controls (biocontrols) seem like a silver bullet, capable of removing invasive species without using herbicides. To others, it seems counterintuitive to release a non-native species on an invasive species wreaking havoc on the ecosystem.

Biocontrols, unfortunately, do not eradicate a population, though there are some exceptions and populations can decrease by large margins when an insect herbivore is released into the environment. These biocontrol agents will suppress the population of invasive species and can help slow the spread, though they will not completely eradicate the noxious weed. 

Biocontrols must be released repeatedly to see success and a onetime release will not yield great results. Paired with chemical or mechanical control, an acceptable level of control can be achieved. Release biocontrols in areas that are difficult to reach with a backpack, ATV mounted sprayer or equipment for manual control. It’s easier to hike into a difficult area with a small container of insects than it is to carry a shovel and a bag — especially when the bag is completely full and it is time to hike out. Utilize mechanical and chemical control around the perimeter of the release site and you will have a one-two punch, biocontrols suppressing the heart of the infestation and chemical or mechanical control containing the spread.

When it comes to approving a new biocontrol agent, the insects must first be carefully studied through a round of choice and no-choice tests, where it is determined that A) the insect will feed on only the target species and B) the insect will starve to death before finding a new food source. These tests are conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Plant Protection and Quarantine Program, or USDA APHIS PPQ for short. The process of approval takes many years, meaning that new biocontrol agents are not only very exciting, but few and far between.

In short, biocontrol agents need to be paired with another control method to be truly effective and they are not an option for certain weeds. However, they are a great tool for integrated pest management and can reduce our dependency on herbicides.

For more information on biological control agents that can be released in Colorado and are available to landowners, visit the Colorado Department of Agriculture website and click Biocontrols underneath the Conservation Banner.

Archuleta County Weed and Pest is your local resource for managing noxious weed populations and controlling other pests.

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Metabolic weed resistance theme of UT Weed Tour

Ginger RowseyLarrySteckelWeedTour.jpg

Larry Steckel, Extension weed scientist with the University of Tennessee shares information about his latest research during the 2021 Weed Tour.University research points to spreading metabolic weed resistance in Tennessee fields.

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The University of Tennessee held its annual Weed Tour on June 16 at the West Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center in Jackson. The overarching theme of the day — metabolic weed resistance is here and spreading.

“We’re clearly seeing metabolic resistance,” said Larry Steckel, UT Extension weed specialist. “It’s different than what we’ve always seen with target site resistance, which is what Roundup or PPO resistance was. With target site resistance, it seems like overnight, the herbicide, even applied at six to ten times the labeled rate quits working on a particular weed. While what we have seen with metabolic driven herbicide resistance typically involved more than one herbicide with the level of resistance two to four times.”https://a9ffbcfe2d577340816712d2d2a5ee6b.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

“We’re seeing it with dicamba and 2,4-D, but we’re also seeing more subtle declines in control with a number of different herbicides, including the Group 15 herbicides like Dual or Warrant,” he adds. “Not that they’re not working, but maybe they were working for 17 days and now they’re only holding 15-16 days.”

Steckel’s take home message for managing metabolic weed resistance: Use the max rate of pre-emergence herbicide for any given soil type. Then, overlay another pre-emergence herbicide. You’ll need two passes of post-emergence herbicides. Be as timely as you can with those post applications.

Visitors to the Weed Tour were able to see dozens of herbicide treatments in the university’s research plots. The tour was led by Steckel, along with Clay Perkins and graduate student Delaney Foster. In addition to plots at the AgResearch Center, Steckel and his crew conduct on-farm research where they are seeing more evidence of metabolic resistance. Even documenting Palmer amaranth escapes from applications of auxin herbicides made at the 4X rate.ADVERTISING

“We’ve got to start thinking about some different ways to manage for it,” he added. “One is to be as timely as possible, which is easier said than done. The other is relying more on pres. Based on my conversations with farmers and retailers, I think we’re using more pre’s this year, and I think that’s helped. They’ve worked for the most part pretty well. But now we’re in the crunch time when all the posts are going out, and I’m expecting some calls from folks who are disappointed in their herbicide performance.”

Combating metabolic weed resistance

Cytochrome P450 is a naturally occurring enzyme that detoxifies foreign chemicals. It’s found in plants and animals, but plants have more genes for the P450 enzyme. Over time growers inadvertently select for weeds with higher numbers of these enzymes in their genetic makeup. These enzymes can then detoxify herbicides applied to the weed.

Researchers often test for metabolic resistance by mixing the herbicide in question with malathion. Malathion, along with all the organophosphate insecticides, are known cytochrome P450 inhibitors. That means they’ll bind up the enzyme that is detoxifying the herbicide.

“When you inhibit those P450’s, the thought is the herbicide will now kill the weed,” Foster said.

Steckel and Foster were hopeful malathion could be a solution. In greenhouse research this past winter, they saw promising results, with malathion improving auxin herbicide control as much as 32% in some treatments. But results in field trials were not as good.

“It worked a little better with 2,4-D than dicamba,” Foster said, “but here we didn’t see a big malathion difference. That doesn’t mean this herbicide resistance isn’t metabolism based. There are hundreds of P450 enzymes and lots of P450 inhibitors. Malathion targets one. We’ll continue evaluating other P450 inhibitors and hopefully figure out what the mechanism of resistance is here.”TAGS: CROPS

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Ceylon Daily News

Plans to produce powerful natural herbicide using invasive species

Saturday, June 19, 2021 – 01:16Print EditionLocal

The Environment Ministry plans to produce a powerful natural herbicide using several invasive species that are to be removed from the environment immediately in support of the President’s organic farming programme.

The purpose of this is to prevent the use of chemical pesticides and herbicides along with the ban on the use of chemical fertilizers and to prevent farmers from getting into trouble due to the lack of a suitable herbicide for weed control.

Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweera instructed Ministry officials on Thursday to be prepared to make a special contribution to the promotion of organic farming under the Ministry.

The discussion was attended by Ministry Secretary Dr. Anil Jasinghe and heads of the Central Environmental Authority, Geological Survey and Mines Bureau, Technical Services Company and many other external institutions.ht

“The decision taken by the President to stop the use of chemical fertilizers for cultivation and to introduce organic farming instead is a historic decision. Other Ministries cannot remain silent, leaving these matters to the Ministry of Agriculture alone. Therefore, as the Ministry of Environment, we have a great responsibility to intervene in this matter,” said Minister Amaraweera.

“Farmers are currently demanding chemical fertilizers. The decision taken by the President for organic farming will be implemented from this Maha season. Therefore, there is a need to provide chemical fertilizers during the Yala season this year. It was also proposed to set up a medium scale factory for this purpose in the Hambantota District where these invasive plants are in abundance,” the Minister said.

“Pesticides and herbicides along with chemical fertilizers have also been banned, making it difficult for farmers as well as cultivators to get sufficient manpower in the tea and rubber industry as well as in paddy cultivation. There is a possibility of producing a successful herbicide using these invasive plants as a solution. It is also 100% chemical free and eco-friendly. Arrangements have been made to hold further discussions in this regard at the Divisional Secretariat in Hambantota today (19). These invasive plants are species recommended by the Ministry of Environment for immediate destruction,” Minister Amaraweera said.

The Minister also said that steps will be taken to launch a number of small and medium scale projects for the

production of organic fertilizer required for agriculture in the Hambantota District during the Maha season this year.

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University of Massachusetts Amherst

Reactive and inconsistent practices hamstring efforts to manage invasive plants in the US

New research from UMass Amherst suggests that communication is the key to success

23-Jun-2021 1:25 PM EDT, by University of Massachusetts Amherstfavorite_border

Newswise — AMHERST, Mass. – As summer unfolds, more than 500 species of invasive plants will be taking root in fields, lawns, and gardens across the US. As plants continue to move north driven by climate change, the number of invasives will only increase. Unfortunately, inconsistent regulations that vary from state to state means that invasive plants have an edge on our attempts to control them. However, new research from the University of Massachusetts Amherst recently published in the Journal of Applied Ecology suggests that we already have an answer in hand – communication.

“We know that invasive plants are causing both ecological and economic harm in the US,” says Emily Fusco, one of the paper’s lead authors and a postdoctoral research fellow in the department of environmental conservation at UMass. One of the best tools that invasive-species managers have are prohibited plant lists, which are compiled and maintained by state and county-level officials to prevent intentional introductions of known invasive and weedy plants. Unfortunately, a lack of overall coordination lends a patchwork quality to efforts to control invasive plants.

The study’s authors found that states in the lower 48 have listed anywhere between zero invasive plants and 162. Even worse, contiguous states often regulate very different sets of species: on average, only 20% of the plants listed as invasive in one state will show up on their neighbors’ lists. Finally, states are failing to get ahead of emerging invasive plants: 90% of the time states only list a plant as invasive once it has already become present in their state, making it more difficult to eradicate. “We’re missing an opportunity to prevent invasions before the species are widespread,” says Fusco. “These prohibited plant lists are one of the most useful tools we have for preventing plant invasions, but our work shows that states are not creating these lists in a proactive way.”

Yet, there’s a bright side to all this: “It’s not that the states are doing a bad job,” says Evelyn Beaury, the paper’s other lead author and a graduate student in organismic and evolutionary biology at UMass. “We don’t need to reinvent the wheel – we just need to have more conversations about what happens across state borders. We need to give managers the infrastructure and resources to work together.”

In fact, such work is already happening at the Northeast RISCC Network. RISCC (Regional Invasive Species and Climate Change) is a coalition of invasive species managers from throughout the Northeast who work with researchers and each other to identify and respond to new threats posed by invasives in a changing climate. “State officials want to improve coordination and share resources across borders,” says Bethany Bradley, senior author and professor of environmental conservation at UMass. Bradley is also one of the cofounders of RISCC and says that the invasive species managers she works with through the network “are thrilled to have more ways to exchange information.”

“We have a real chance to get ahead of the climate change/invasive species curve,” says Beaury. “We need to get more people on board and that begins with starting conversations that cross state borders.”

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Robots may be suited to help kill weeds in strawberry fields

Through new research, University of Florida scientists Boyd and Schumann hope to eventually help strawberry growers combat weeds. Additionally, robots may replace tractors as the means for delivering the spray in the field. Getting rid of weeds is critical for growers in Florida’s $300 million-a-year strawberry industry.

The UF/IFAS researchers mount a smart spray system to a tractor-pulled sprayer, which uses the highly targeted process to spray only weeds. So far, they’re killing up to 90% of the weeds. Precise spraying depends on many factors, including the types of weeds that scientists target and the speed of the tractor that sprays the weeds, Boyd, a UF/IFAS associate professor of horticultural sciences, told tampafp.com.

While the research remains in the preliminary stages, Boyd wants to reduce the amount of herbicide spray strawberry growers use. That saves farmers money and helps cut unwanted chemicals from getting into the environment.

Asked for cost-savings estimates, Boyd gave this example: If you shoot low and anticipate a grower using an inexpensive herbicide that costs $30 per acre and you drop the amount of spray by 50%, you save $15 per acre.

Photo source: UF/IFAS 

Publication date: Fri 11 Jun 2021

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Virginia Tech Research Explores Climate Change and the Future of Food in Nepal

When you think of Nepal, you might imagine people climbing Mount Everest, the world’s highest mountain above sea level. However, people aren’t the only ones scaling the vast and varied elevations of the Southeast Asian country—so are invasive weeds.

Recent research from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Integrated Pest Management (IPM Innovation Lab) shows that invasive weeds have rapidly spread over time in Nepal. One of the major push factors of this spread is climate change. As Nepal’s temperature is projected to increase significantly in the next 50 years, invasive species are spreading more rapidly, which puts at risk crop production, livelihoods, biodiversity, and food security.

“The basis of our research includes looking at how invasive weeds spread along elevations under past and current climate scenarios,” said Pramod K. Jha, Professor Emeritus at Tribhuvan University in Nepal, which implements the project locally. “We use satellite images to capture these changes throughout the Chitwan Annapurna Landscape in central Nepal. Making observations about how our land changes over time is crucial for identifying vulnerable areas and developing strategies to address them.”

Jha noted that of the seven invasive weeds the project tracks, all but one has dramatically increased in spread over the last 30 years—and they will continue to spread if no mitigation efforts are made.

One of those weeds, for example, is Parthenium hysterophorus. Under future climate scenarios, its range is expected to expand significantly in all regions of the Chitwan Annapurna Landscape (CHAL). The weed, native to the New World, causes human health issues such as rashes and respiratory difficulty, taints livestock milk, and disrupts valuable farmland. With the weed’s habitat suitability projected to expand into protected areas including Langtang National Park, Annapurna Conservation Area, and Manaslu Conservation Area, valuable biodiversity is at stake.

Ageratina adenophora, also known as Crofton weed, is another invasive species the program studies. Crofton weed reduces crop yields, displaces native plants, and affects the carrying capacity of grazing lands. Under future climate scenarios, the program has predicted the weed will expand its elevational range and all regions except the Middle Mountain region are expected to gain suitable areas in which the weed will expand its reach.

Invasive species are capable of quickly adapting to climatic changes, hence their ability to push native species out. Muni Muniappan, Director of the IPM Innovation Lab, said that central Nepal’s ecological richness—unique biodiversity hotspots and topography, subtropical to alpine climates, elevations that range from 200-8091m above sea level—is both what makes it an ideal place to study climate change impacts as well as what puts it most at risk of climate change impacts.

“All of the invasive weeds this program studies are originally sub-tropical and tropical in nature,” Muniappan said, “so they initially invaded tropical zones of Nepal, such as the lowlands. Now, however, we are seeing them gradually spread to new habitats, like the mountains. This is especially detrimental because the mountains house some of the most resource-poor communities in Nepal. These communities heavily rely on natural resources, so these consequences of climate change will have a disproportionate impact.”

One of those threatened resources is finger millet, Nepal’s fourth most important crop. Considered a “poor man’s crop,” remote mountain communities of the country depend on finger millet because it can grow in rain-fed, subsistence farming conditions. Communities also rely on it as an important source of protein, fiber, calcium, and iron. The Virginia Tech-Tribhuvan University program measured that nearly 40 percent of area of Nepal is highly suitable for finger millet, but under future climatic conditions, where invasive weeds will be more widespread, the suitable area of finger millet would shrink by 4 to almost 9 percent in 2050 and nearly 9 to 10.5 percent by 2070. Because of the climate crisis and its resulting impacts, mountain communities that rely on this crop may be in even greater danger of food insecurity.

As climate change persists, developing countries stand to lose the most from its impacts, including the rampant spread of invasive species. Among 124 countries, Nepal has the third highest threat to agriculture sectors from invasive species spread. While the IPM Innovation Lab measures invasive species spread, it also aims to improve resiliency against them. One such approach is implementation of “IPM packages,” or suites of holistic techniques farmers can choose from to address crop threats. Application of biocontrol, for example, is one IPM package component that could safely and economically mitigate the spread of the invasive Parthenium weed.

“Sustainably addressing climate change and its impacts remains a top priority of the IPM Innovation Lab,” said Muniappan. “Through modeling invasive species spread, we gain early knowledge on their projected pathways, but this information also gives us valuable insight for designing the most productive measures for managing their spread. This is only the beginning – an important aspect of this work is garnering the interest of other institutes, organizations, and universities as well. Fighting climate change and its impacts requires a united effort.”

The Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Integrated Pest Management currently works in seven countries in Asia and Africa on a range of topics, including improving food security, increasing farmer income, gender equality in development, among others. Since its inception in 1993, it has been housed at Virginia Tech’s Center for International Research, Education, and Development.TweetShareShare

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Sara Hendery
Sara Hendery

 Sara Hendery is a Communications Coordinator for the USAID-funded Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Integrated Pest Management and the Center for International Research, Education, and Development, both housed at Virginia Tech. Hendery earned a BFA in English and Creative Writing from UNC Wilmington and an MFA in Nonfiction Writing from Columbia College Chicago.

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