Archive for the ‘Viruses’ Category

Virus free asparagus seed improves grower’s bottom line

The asparagus seed harvest in New Zealand is started two weeks earlier than previous seasons. The harvest of asparagus seeds would normally run from mid-March through to the end of April. Dr Peter Falloon from Aspara Pacific is excited about the earlier harvest and explains, “We have had the perfect combination of warm dry weather since spring and excellent pollination, so we are predicting one of the best yields on record.”

The excellent conditions have come at a great time for Aspara Pacific who have begun full production of ground-breaking varieties that are virus free and Phytophthora tolerant.

“We have long known that Asparagus Virus 2 is one of the main contributors, if not the primary cause of asparagus decline in New Zealand.

Asparagus decline had previously been associated with the soil borne fungus Fusarium but research at Michigan State University and Lincoln University, New Zealand has since shown that Fusarium is more of a problem when asparagus plants are already infected with the virus.

Since effective control of Fusarium has proven almost impossible we have attacked the problem from the other direction and chosen to eliminate asparagus virus 2 by breeding varieties that are free of the disease.”

Virus free plants live longer and have considerably higher yields of better quality spears.

One of the main sources of asparagus virus 2 has been in imported asparagus seed. So our goal has been to develop varieties for the New Zealand industry that are free of the virus.

One of these varieties Challenger 2 also has high levels of tolerance to the soil borne fungus Phytophthora. Phytophthora rot is a world-wide problem reducing yields by up to 50% in asparagus in Europe, Asia, North Central and South America and Australasia. The wetter the harvest, the greater the losses due to Phytophthora.

Aspara Pacific’s new variety Challenger 2, is one Dr. Falloon is especially proud of after breeding asparagus for over 40 years. “It has shown excellent tolerance of Phytophthora rot, it is less affected by Purple Spot (caused by Stemphylium) and is especially useful under organic conditions.. Not only that, but International asparagus variety trials carried out over 8 harvest seasons have shown Challenger 2 to be the top yielding variety, out-yielding Eclipse, Sequoia, Millenium and Equinox.

Aspara Pacific has a number of other virus free varieties, each producing excellent results in different growing conditions around the world. They export seed to over 20 countries with Dr. Falloon “looking forward to exporting larger volumes of premium seed around the world. With such a fantastic harvest this season we are in a position to supply the bigger asparagus producers who are looking for high yielding, virus free asparagus seed.”

For more information:
Dr. Peter Falloon
Aspara Pacific

Publication date: Mon 19 Apr 2021

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ToBRFV resistant tomatoes

In 2020, Enza Zaden announced the discovery of the tomato brown rugose fruit virus (ToBRFV) High Resistance gene, a complete solution for ToBRFV. Since the announcement, we’ve worked hard with resistant trials material achieving excellent results. “We see no symptoms at all in the plants, while the disease pressure is very high,” says Oscar Lara, Senior Tomato Product Specialist, about the first trials in Mexico.

No symptoms at all
At the Enza Zaden trial location in Mexico, the high resistance (HR) varieties are placed next to susceptible ones. There you can clearly see the difference. The susceptible tomato varieties show different foliage disorders such as a yellow mosaic pattern. The affected plants also stay behind in growth.

“You can clearly see how well our high resistant varieties withstand ToBRFV,” says Oscar Lara. “In comparison to the plants of susceptible varieties, the resistant ones look very healthy with a dark green colour, show no symptoms at all and have good growth. All our trialled HR tomato varieties do not show any symptoms at all.”

Exciting news
Enza Zaden is running parallel tests in different countries with varieties with high resistance to ToBRFV. “Our trials in Europe, North America, and the Middle East show that we have qualitatively good tomato cultivars with a confirmed high resistance level,” says Kees Könst, Crop research Director. “This is exciting news for all parties involved in the tomato growing industry. We know there is a lot at stake for our customers, so we continue to work hard to make HR varieties available for the market. We expect to have these ready in the coming years,” says Könst.

High performing and high resistance
Enza Zaden has a long history in breeding tomatoes. “We have an extended range of tomato varieties, from large beef to tasty vine tomatoes (truss tomatoes) and from baby plum tomatoes to pink varieties for the Asian market. This basis of high performing varieties combined with the gene we discovered, will enable us to deliver the high performing varieties with high resistance to ToBRFV.”

Why is a high resistance level so critical?
“With an intermediate resistance (IR) level, the virus propagation is delayed but ToBRFV can still enter tomato plants – plants that may eventually show symptoms,” says Könst. “With a high resistance level, plants and fruits do not host the virus at all. This means they won’t be a source for spreading the virus and that the detection test will come back negative. Growing a variety with high resistance can be the difference between making a profit or losing the crop.”For more information Enza Zadeninfo@enzazaden.com

Publication date: Tue 13 Apr 2021

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Fighting HLB disease with finger limes?

Could finger limes be part of the solution in Florida’s struggle with the HLB disease affecting its grapefruit?

Dr. Manjul Dutt thinks possibly so. Dutt, a research assistant scientist in Horticultural Sciences with the University of Florida has been observing finger lime growth in Florida for almost a decade and has made an interesting discovery. “It seemed that when the surrounding trees around the finger lime trees started getting HLB and declining, the finger lime trees continued thriving,” says Dutt. He collected leaf samples from the trees every year to test for HLB, a disease that continues to significantly impact Florida’s citrus crops and the finger lime trees proved tolerant of the disease—unlike other citrus variety trees such as grapefruit, oranges, mandarins and pomelos.

It was then Dutt launched a pilot program with finger lime trees to try integrating the HLB-resistant genes from the finger limes into conventional citrus. “And since then, we’ve generated a large population of trees that we’re evaluating against HLB,” he says.

Why finger limes?
What is it though about finger lime trees that keeps them protected? While there’s no strong evidence pointing in one direction, Dutt has several theories. “We think something could be different in the phloem chemistry. There was earlier work done in collaboration with Dr. Nabil Killiny, looking at the finger lime phytochemicals in the phloem and we found they were quite different from HLB-sensitive cultivars,” he says.

Leaf color could also play a role. “Young leaves in finger limes are always dark red in color. The citrus psyllid move around using visual cues and we think this red color may disorient them and make them less appealing than other citrus which have young green leaves for example,” he says.

Whatever it is, the finger limes at least seem more tolerant—but not 100 percent resistant—to the disease. “If you infect a finger lime tree and a sweet orange tree at the same time and test them a year or two later, you’ll always see the rate of infection is much lower in finger limes than in oranges. There’s something going on in the phloem that we need to understand.”

Tapping into their genetics
While finger limes aren’t exactly set out to be the new crop replacing Florida’s longstanding orange and grapefruit industry, Dutt believes finger lime trees can provide a strong assist. “Hybrids between finger limes and sweet orange down the road may have sweet orange-like traits that can be acceptable to the grower and consumer. It would create a sweet orange-like fruit with finger lime genetics that allow it to be tolerant to HLB,” he says. “Many people in the industry realize it’s a long-term process. Some are skeptical but overall, people are hopeful that the finger-lime genetics play an important role in providing HLB-tolerant trees in the future.”

To date, finger limes are more of a niche crop in North America with only a few growers in California, Hawaii and Florida.

In the meantime, Dutt has produced a finger lime hybrid that looks like a larger finger lime. “We’ll be releasing it this summer—it’s similar to the finger lime but it has more pulp and the same “pearls” that finger limes do,” he says. He adds that it’s a commercial release as a niche crop and hopes the limes will be available in stores in the next three to four years.

For more information:
Dr. Manjul Dutt
University of Florida
Tel: +1 (863) 956-8679

Publication date: Tue 23 Mar 2021
Author: Astrid Van Den Broek
© FreshPlaza.com

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New tomato varieties in the fight against ToBRFV

The Italian company TomaTech is making great progress in the fight against ToBRFV. Starting next season, commercial varieties with intermediate resistance will be available. These include date tomatoes, midi plum and a number of colored varieties, both loose and on the vine.

This variety renewal starts with the date variety Dormaplum, which is described by TomaTech as the perfect tomato. It is very sweet, with a bright color and a uniform size, a weight of 16 grams and a Brix degree between 9 and 10. The balance between sweetness, acidity and structure is excellent.

The plant has an extraordinary high yield, suitable for long cycles and ideal for unheated greenhouses. TomaTech recommends grafting with two buds, and can be transplanted between the end of August and October.

The tomatoes have a long shelf life and are resistant to ToMV, Ff, TYLCV, ToBRFV. For those interested, seeds are available for trials.

Dormaplum, moreover, is a variety launched in southern Europe in 2020 which, despite numerous difficulties and limitations due to Covid-19, is proving to be an exceptional agronomic and commercial success.

For those who are instead looking for larger fruits, TomaTech offers cluster plums – still in the research phase – which seem very promising and are already available for long cycles with transplanting in August/October in Sicily and springtime in Lazio and Campania. Here too, free samples are available on request. To complete the current ToBRFV resistant/tolerant variety range there are three coloured specialities: ‘Tomelody’, ‘Cantando’ and ‘Tiny Tom Orange’.

Tomelody stands out for its sweetness, a tasty lemon-colored date variety with a distinctive shape and rich flavor. Perfect as a snack, light and healthy. High yield with more than 25 fruits per cluster of 15-17 grams each. The plant is resistant to Fol:0, ToMV, ToBRFV and is extremely versatile and suitable for all seasons.

Cantando is an orange date tomato with a high palatability, a Brix value between 8 and 10 and a smooth texture. The plant is very generative, well balanced with short internodes and resistant against Vd, Fol:0.1, ToMV, Mj, ToBRFV. The variety is suitable for transplanting between September and October.

Tiny Tom Orange is a sweet, fruity and aromatic orange date tomato. They weigh only 12 grams and have a Brix value ranging from 9 to 10. The variety is resistant to Vd, Fol:0.1, ToMV, Mj and ToBRFV.

 “At TomaTech, we are aware that the fight against ToBRFV is far from over, but we are confident in the work done. We are now able to launch these promising varieties and more will follow. So far, we have a valuable tool to contain this disease,” said the TomaTech research team.

For more information:
+39 351 7614 587

Publication date: Wed 17 Mar 2021
© HortiDaily.com

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Half of Sicilian companies report Tomato Brown Rugose Fruit Virus infections

A convention discussed the spreading of ToBRFV in Sicily.

TBRFV symptoms on leaves 

“It is difficult to detect the disease, as symptoms are almost invisible, so it is important for qualified personnel to perform tests. Plants can in fact remain asymptomatic until the temperature suddenly changes making the disease manifest. At this point, the virus has already propagated considerably. Over the past two years, we have noticed a lack of communication from companies, as they fear reporting the virus would lead to crops being uprooted,” explained Prof. Walter Davino.

Currently, around 45% of companies with protected crops report Tomato Brown Rugose Fruit Virus infections. In Sicily, the problem manifested in the fall of 2018 and FreshPlaza was the first to report the news. What has not worked? 

Walter Davino

According to Davino, “no alert was made, no containment measure was implemented. In 2018, there was no quick and effective detection method and producers tended not to report the problem.” 

“In the meantime, however, we have set up the Network Mini Lab project to identify and track the virus starting from the nurseries.” 

Stefano Panno, researcher at the University of Palermo, talked about “Early diagnoses and field diagnoses – essential tools to contain viral diseases”, and Domenico Carta, Manager of the plant protection and counterfeiting service for Regione Sicilia, also spoke. Dario Cartabellotta, general manager of the Regional Council for Agriculture, concluded the event.

“Considering the significant danger of the virus reducing tomato production especially in greenhouses, the Department of Agriculture, together with the Plant Protection Service, has paid the utmost attention to monitoring the disease and trace the movements of infected seeds and plants. The situation will only get worse until resistant varieties are found. It is not possible to treat affected crops, so prevention is the only weapon we have.”

Dario Cartabellotta

“On a Community level, the problem was tackled with two regulations listing mandatory phytosanitary measures. In early February 2021, the work of the Department of Agriculture – Plant Protection Service was audited by the European Commission, which informally attested our correct application of the regulations,” added Cartabellotta.

“I would like to stress the considerable effort the EU requires of us to maintain an acceptable level of plant protection. We are about to publish a new national regulation that will require additional and complex measures to be implemented by our Administration.”

Publication date: Fri 5 Mar 2021
© HortiDaily.com

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Understanding disease-induced microbial shifts may reveal new crop management strategies




While humanity is facing the COVID-19 pandemic, the citrus industry is trying to manage its own devastating disease, Huanglongbing (HLB), also known as citrus greening disease. HLB is the most destructive citrus disease in the world. In the past decade, the disease has annihilated the Florida citrus industry, reducing orange production for juice and other products by 72%. Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus (CLas) is the microbe associated with the disease. It resides in the phloem of the tree and, like many plant pathogens, is transmitted by insects during feeding events. Disease progression can be slow but catastrophic. Symptoms begin with blotchy leaves, yellow shoots, and stunting, and progress into yield decline, poor quality fruit, and eventually death.

Currently, the only thing citrus growers can do to protect their crops from HLB is control the insect vector. Dozens of researchers are trying to find ways to manage the disease, using strategies ranging from pesticides to antibiotics to CLas-sniffing dogs. Understanding the plant microbiome, an exciting new frontier in plant disease management, is another strategy.

Dr. Caroline Roper and first author Dr. Nichole Ginnan at the University of California, Riverside led a large research collaboration that sought to explore the microbiome’s role in HLB disease progression. Their recent article in Phytobiomes Journal, “Disease-Induced Microbial Shifts in Citrus Indicate Microbiome-Derived Responses to Huanglongbing,” moves beyond the single-snapshot view of the microbial landscape typical of microbiome research. Their holistic approach to studying plant-microbe interactions captured several snapshots across three years and three distinct tissue types (roots, stems, and leaves). What is so interesting about this research is the use of amplicon (16S and ITS) sequencing to capture the highly intricate and dynamic role of the microbiome (both bacterial and fungal) as it changes over the course of HLB disease progression.

Ginnan et al. surmised that HLB created a diseased-induced shift of the tree’s microbiome. Specifically, the researchers showed that as the disease progresses, the microbial diversity increases. They further investigated this trend to find that the increase in diversity was associated with an increase in putative pathogenic (disease-causing) and saprophytic (dead tissue-feeding) microbes. They observed a significant drop in beneficial microbes in the early phases of the disease. Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) were one such beneficial group that the authors highlighted as showing a drastic decline in relative abundance.

The depletion of key microbial species during disease might be opening the door for other microbes to invade. Certain resources may become more or less available, allowing different microbes to prosper. Dr. Roper and Dr. Ginnan hypothesize that when HLB begins, this depletion event triggers a surge of beneficial microbes to come to the aid of the citrus tree. They suspect that the microbes are initiating an immune response to protect the host.

As the disease proliferates, the citrus tree and its microbiome continue to change. Dr. Ginnan, the lead author on this study, found that there was an enrichment of parasitic and saprophytic microorganisms in severely diseased roots. The enrichment of these microbes may contribute to disease progression and root decline, one side effect of HLB.

Survivor trees, or trees that did not progress into severe disease, had a unique microbial profile as well. These trees were enriched with putative symbiotic microbes like Lactobacillus sp. and Aureobasidium sp. This discovery led the researchers to identify certain microbes that were associated with slower disease progression.

Dr. Ginnan says their “aha” moment during the research was in the data analysis. “Originally we were looking for taxa that increased and decreased in relative abundance as disease rating increased,” she said. “Our differential abundance analysis ended up revealing clear enrichment patterns replicated in multiple taxa.” This is the moment they began to develop the individual patterns they were seeing into a broader disease model.

This research is the foundation for future projects and collaborations that the authors are excited to continue to develop. They are motivated by the potential function of the microbiome to manage crop diseases. In the near future, they hope that these discoveries and an understanding of beneficial microbes can help establish a microbiome-mediated treatment plan to protect crops from diseases like HLB. In addition, the model they’ve developed can be applied to understanding diseases of other tree crop systems.


This research article was a part of Dr. Nichole Ginnan’s Ph.D. thesis under the mentorship of Dr. Caroline Roper (the lead researcher). Dr. Ginnan is now a Postdoctoral Researcher in Dr. Maggie Wagner’s Lab at the University of Kansas. She hopes to continue in academia with a research faculty position. Dr. Caroline Roper is a tenured professor at the University of California Riverside. She mentors several Ph.D. students, undergrads, and postdoctoral scholars on cutting edge research in plant-microbe interactions.

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.

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John Innes Centre

Devastating plant virus is revealed in atomic detail

One of the world’s most lethal families of plant viruses has been revealed in unprecedented detail in a new study that may provide clues to preventing the global spread of the pathogen.

The complex 3D structure of the geminivirus  is revealed in the joint study carried out by researchers at the University of Leeds and the John Innes Centre.

Geminiviruses are responsible for diseases affecting crops such as cassava and maize in Africa, cotton in the Indian subcontinent and tomatoes across Europe.

Revealed in unprecedented detail – geminiviruses are a global plant pathogen

Being able to see its structrure in great detail is vital as it could help virologists and molecular biologists better understand the virus lifecyle, and develop new ways to stop the spread of these viruses and the diseases they cause.

These viruses are named for their curious shape. Viruses usually have a protective shell of protein, or capsid, that acts to protect their genetic material in the environment. In most viruses, this capsid is roughly spherical, but the geminivirus has a ‘twinned’ capsid formed by two roughly spherical shapes fused together.

The molecular details of how this twinned capsid is achieved – and how it assembles in cells or expands to release the genome and start a new infection – has remained a mystery, despite the risk posed by the virus to agricultural economies worldwide.

Researchers at the Leeds University’s Astbury Centre for Structural Molecular Biology used cryo electron microscopy techniques to study geminivirus structure at undprecedented resolution, and in the process have begun to untangle its assembly mechanisms.

Published in Nature Communications, the study reveals how the capsid of the geminivirus is built and how its single-stranded DNA genome is packaged.

“In many other types of virus, the spherical capsids are built from a single protein that adopts three different shapes, which then fit together to form a closed container,” explains Professor Neil Ranson, who led the research team at the Astbury Centre.

“But geminivirses are not spherical, so must be using a different set of rules. Using cryo-EM, we’ve been able to show that they do use three different shapes of the same protein, but with a completely different rulebook for assembly”

One of the difficulties in studying geminviruses is growing them in sufficient quantities for structural studies.

The team studied a type of geminvirus transmitted by whitefly called ageratum yellow vein virus, which was produced in tobacco plants under carefully controlled conditions by researchers at the John Innes Centre.

The team at the John Innes Centre led by Dr Keith Saunders and Professor George Lomonossoff also developed a method for assembling geminivirus particles within plants in the absence of infection.

This highlighted the role played by the single-stranded DNA in particle formation.

“Having worked for many years to understand the diseases geminiviruses cause, it was very satisfying to apply modern genetic methods to generate these geminate structures,” said Dr Saunders.

“The big surprise arising from this study was that fact that the virus coat protein can adopt different conformations that are dependent upon its location in the structure – it is different at the equator than at its apexes. That helps to explain how the particles form during virus infection. With this new knowledge, it now means that future studies can be directed to seek ways to disrupt geminate structure maturation by making antivirals that target those areas.”

Dr Suanders said the John Innes Centre team had been studying ageratum yellow vein virus for 20 years and their knowledge of the diease made it a good candidate for closer inspection.

It is part of white-fly transmitted group responsible for  tomato yellow leaf curl disease, a disease affecting tomato production in many countries around the Mediterranean Sea and cotton leaf curl disease affecting cotton plants in India and Pakistan.

Both diseases give rise to tremendous crop losses and so are economically very damaging.”

The work was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

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SE farm press


Aphid-transmitted virus found in lower Southeast cotton

Cotton blue disease is a big problem in Brazil, and it seems to have come to the U.S. by a hurricane, like soybean rust did with Hurricane Katrina.

Patrick R. Shepard | May 03, 2018

A virus that is previously known to be vectored by aphids into cotton has been recently identified as the primary suspect virus from limited samples of cotton in Alabama. Similar symptomology has been reported in the coastal counties of Alabama, Georgia and the Florida Panhandle.

“The cotton blue disease (CBD) symptomology was observed at the end of 2016 by one of my former graduate students, Drew Schrimsher, in his grower cotton variety trials,” says Auburn University plant pathologist Dr. Kathy Lawrence.

“He observed it again at the end of 2017 and it was much worse; symptomology was observed in areas beyond the area where it was first observed. CBD is a big problem in Brazil, and we hypothesize it may have come to the U.S. by a hurricane, like soybean rust did with Hurricane Katrina.”

Symptoms include mosaic cupping and thickening of the dark blue/green leaves, yellowed leaf veins, and dwarfing of the plant. Other symptoms include no boll set on new growth, swollen and brittle stems, and decreased yields; fields with symptoms in early bloom had fewer bolls per plant.

“Once the virus starts showing its symptoms, the plant stops producing any more cotton,” Lawrence adds. “There’s not a top crop, which many growers depend on for income.

 “We seldom spray for aphids in cotton, and we don’t recommend spraying for them to prevent this suspect disease, which would take out beneficials and flare other insect pest problems. We do encourage growers and consultants to watch for the CBD virus symptomology, and if they find it, to call their state plant pathologist to help us keep up with it.

“We also recommend keeping cotton fields and surrounding areas weed-free, especially of legume and malvaceae weeds including pigweed and sida as the literature shows they harbor the virus. If the virus is in the weeds, aphids can pick it up and transmit it to cotton. So management might come down to taking out weed host plants.”

Schrimsher, who is now an agronomist with AGRI AFC, observed mild leaf crumpling symptoms in his cotton variety trials that he was conducting in growers’ fields in south Alabama and the Florida Panhandle in late summer to early fall 2016. He observed extensive severe leaf crumpling in 2017.

Lawrence says, “The virus was much worse by that time; CBD had progressed beyond the area where it was found in 2016. However, infected areas were patchy like aphid infestations are patchy along the outer edges of a field, and close to areas with other plants and trees. It didn’t take over the whole field.

“Schrimsher told me about the symptoms in August 2017. We took samples, and found it’s a virus. We normally don’t have viruses in Alabama, so to get an identification, leaves, petioles and stems were collected from the newest terminal of plants expressing leaf crumpling symptoms and sent to University of Arizona plant pathologist Dr. Judy Brown, who researches the viruses in her state. She tested the samples and ruled out leaf crumple or leaf curl virus; instead, she found a virus associated with aphids that matches the one in Brazil.”

It appears from Schrimsher’s variety trials that the U.S. cotton varieties that were in the trials and are grown in the Southeast region all demonstrated the symptomology. “He saw the virus’ symptoms across all company varieties in his tests,” Lawrence says. “CBD is a big problem in Brazil, but they do have cotton varieties that are tolerant to the disease. The U.S. seed companies have gene markers in their breeding program. It’ll take time to develop resistant varieties for the U.S., but it’s not like starting from scratch.

“We will observe CBD closely this year. We’ve seen it for two years and hope it’s not here to stay. We hope that it will have a limited economic impact like soybean rust did.”

Official confirmation of the suspect virus will require additional sampling and verification by APHIS.


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Mexico: Coconut production falls by 99% in Veracruz

Coconut production in the state of Veracruz has fallen by 99 percent due to the lethal yellowing disease and a complete lack of replanting, said the representative of the Coastal Society of Mexico and Coordinator of the National Council of Producers in the State, Carmen Belen Lihaut Sequera.
She also stated that during the 2013-2014 project, producers had planted 1,700 hectares of coconut that were tolerant to the lethal yellowing disease.
“Coconut production has fallen by 99 percent since 2008, when we started to see the disease, but since 2010 production began to disappear completely. Currently we are awaiting the production of the 1,700 hectares that were replanted here in Veracruz. Other producers have managed to make a successful plantation, but we need to take care of the problems in Veracruz,” she said.
More than 700 producers, who were dedicated to the plantation of coconut, are affected by this crisis across the entire state of Veracruz, she said. Currently, there are only 1,200 coconut producers, who are still reluctant to leave this market.
“The coconut plant is going to die. It is going to become extinct. The Creole variety of the coasts of the Gulf of Mexico is dying, and replanting them is urgent,” she added.
She also said that the producers of coconut had been forced to bring the plant that is 85 percent tolerant to the lethal yellowing disease from the certified nurseries of Colima, themselves.
This disease attacks many species of palms, including some species of commercial interest such as Cocos nucifera (the coconut tree), she stated.
Finally, she urged the authorities of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (Sagarpa), the Secretariat of Agricultural Development, Rural and Fisheries (Sedarpa) and the Secretariat of the Environment (Sedema), to solve the problem by replanting the coconut trees.
Source: eldictamen.mx


Publication date: 4/24/2018

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hindu business

TN’s hill banana plantations wilt under elephant, viral attacks

A bunch of Hill banana grown in Dindigul, Tamil Nadu

Animal menace, inadequate insurance cover have resulted in shrinking acreage of the fruit

Kochi, April 20

Rampaging wild elephants coupled with Bunchy Top Banana (BTB) disease have hit Hill Banana growers in the Dindigul district of Tamil Nadu.

Found only in the Palani Hills of Dindigul, hill banana — locally called ‘Virupakshi’ — is a highly remunerative crop that can be harvested in 18-36 months .

This specific variety has a commercial importance and it caters only to Chennai market with a sales of around 50,000 fruits per day in the price range of 60-80/kg, said TVSN Veera Arasu, Secretary of the Tamil Nadu Hill Banana Growers Federation.

However, wild elephants straying into the fields in search of food and water have wrought havoc in several areas, causing financial loss to farmers.

The hill banana crop is the livelihood of farmers in 29 villages in the region.

But without any adequate insurance protection available, farmers are starved of funds to start the next crop.

“I have lost around 40 lakh in the last season due to the damage caused by wild elephants in my farm. Majority of the farmers here are scared to come back to banana cultivation,” he said.

Acreage down

Arasu, who was in Kochi recently to attend the farmers conclave organised by the Kerala Farmers Federation, told BusinessLine that the banana acreage has also come down to 3,000 acres compared to 16,000 acres five years back.

The threat of damage discourages new entrants to take up banana cultivation.

“To control the elephant menace, we have an assurance from the authorities to set up trenches and solar fencing for crop protection,” he said.

“We have successfully controlled BTB disease in the early 2000 with the help of Tamil Nadu Agriculture University. As the virus started attacking the plants again, we have approached the National Research Centre for Banana, Tiruchi, along with TNAU for remedial measures”, he said.

Highly remunerative

Among all the plantation crops, hill banana is the only crop which provides a weekly income to farmers, whereas remuneration from all other crops was on annual basis.

The Federation has been successful in obtaining GI certification for Virupakshi and Sirumalai — the two varieties of Hill Banana — a favourite fruit during the British period.

The famous Panchamritham in Palani Temple is made out of Virupakshi banana, the pulp of which is the main ingredient, he added.


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