Feeds:
Posts
Comments

The Feed the Future IPM Innovation Lab, in collaboration with ICRISAT and FAO, is conducting a workshop to train scientists from Asia and West Africa on rearing and release of parasitoids of FAW.

Training Workshop on:

Biological Control of the Fall Armyworm (FAW) in Africa and Asia: Scouting for Parasitoids, Mass Rearing of Egg Parasitoids, and Augmentative Release Techniques

Date: July 22-26, 2019
Venue: ICRISAT, Niamey, Niger

fall-armyworm-frontal-MER-563x744

Program

Day 1:  July 22, 2019 (Monday)
Time Topic Presenter / Facilitator
08:45 – 09:00 Welcome remark/Objective and scope of the workshop Malick/Muni
09:00 – 10:30 Reports on status and control of FAW from different participating countries Ghana, Togo, Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin, DRC, Cote d’Ivoire, Cameroun, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Nepal, Vietnam, Niger
10:30 -11:00 Group photo and tea/coffee
11:00 – 11:30 General information on FAW: Taxonomy, origin, related species, distribution, spread, monitoring, pheromone traps. Muni
11:30 – 12:00 General information on FAW Management (mechanical control, cultural control, host plant resistance, GMOs, biological control) Malick
12:00 – 12:30 General information on biological control (conservation, classical, augmentative/inoculative/inundative) Muni
12:30 – 12:45 Case studies of classical biological control in Africa and Asia Muni
12:45 -13:00 Case study of successful augmentative biological control of the millet head miner in the Sahel Baoua
13:00 – 14:00 Lunch
14:00 – 14:20 Update on FAW natural enemies encountered in Africa Laouali
14:20 – 14:50 Factitious hosts for production of egg parasitoids Malick Ba
14:50 -15:30 Mass production of Trichogramma and Telenomus and

Best laboratory practices for parasitoid mass rearing

Malick Ba
Day 2:  July 23, 2019 (Tuesday)
Time Topic Group Presenter / Facilitator
08:45 – 09:30 Practice scouting for eggs and larvae parasitoids of FAW Group 1 & 2
09:30 – 10:30 Preparation of FAW artificial diet

Mass production of FAW using artificial and natural diets

Group 1 Mamane Sani
Mass rearing of Corcyra cephalonica  and Habrobracon hebetor Group 2 Laouali Amadou
Mass production of Trichogramma using Corcyra eggs and preparation of tricho-cards for field releases Group 3 Laouali Karimoune
Mass production of Telenomus using FAW eggs preparation of Telenomus cards for field releases Group 4 Amani Lamine
10:30 – 11:00 Tea/coffee
10:30 – 12:30 Continuation of group work
13:00 – 14:00 Lunch
14:00 – 15:30 Continuation of group work
Day 3:  July 24, 2019 (Wednesday)
Time Topic Group Presenter / Facilitator
08:45 – 09:30 Practice Scouting for eggs and larvae parasitoids of FAW Group 3 & 4
09:30 – 10:30 Preparation of FAW artificial diet

Mass production of FAW using artificial and natural diets

Group 4 Mamane Sani
Mass rearing of Corcyra cephalonica and Habrobracon hebetor Group 1 Laouali Amadou
Mass production of Trichogramma using Corcyra eggs

and preparation of tricho-cards for field releases

Group 2 Laouali Karimoune
Mass production of Telenomus using FAW eggs and preparation of  Telenomus cards for field releases Group 3 Amani Lamine
10:30 – 11:00 Tea/coffee
10:30 – 12:30 Continuation of group work
13:00 – 14:00 Lunch
14:00 – 15:30 Continuation of group work
19:00 – 21:00 Dinner hosted hosted by ICRISAT
Day 4:  July 25, 2019 (Thursday)
Time Topic Group Presenter / Facilitator
08:45 – 09:30 Field releases of Telenomus Group 3 & 4
09:30 – 10:30 Preparation of FAW artificial diet

Mass production of FAW using artificial and natural diets

Group 3 Mamane Sani
Mass rearing of Corcyra cephalonica and Habrobracon hebetor Group 4 Laouali Amadou
Mass production of Trichogramma using Corcyra eggs and preparation of tricho-cards for field releases Group 1 Laouali Karimoune
Mass production of Telenomus using FAW eggs and preparation of Telenomus cards for field releases Group 2 Amani Lamine
10:30 – 11:00 Tea/coffee
10:30 – 12:30 Continuation of group work
13:00 – 14:00 Lunch
14:00 – 15:30 Continuation of group work
Day 5:  July 26, 2019 (Friday)
Time Topic Group Presenter / Facilitator
08:45 – 09:30 Field releases of Telenomus Group 1 & 2
09:30 – 10:30 Preparation of FAW artificial diet

Mass production of FAW using artificial and natural diets

Group 2 Mamane Sani
Mass rearing of Corcyra cephalonica and Habrobracon hebetor Group 3 Laouali Amadou
Mass production of Trichogramma using Corcyra eggs and preparation of tricho-cards for field releases Group 4 Laouali Karimoune
Mass production of Telenomus using FAW eggs and preparation of Telenomus cards for field releases Group 1 Amani Lamine
10:30 – 11:00 Tea/coffee
10:30 – 12:30 Continuation of group work
13:00 – 14:00 Lunch
14:00 – 15:30 Participants feedback and workshop wrap-up

 

Canada: Insect migration

sd-logo

Science News
from research organizations

Wind, warmth boost insect migration

Date:
July 8, 2019
Source:
University of Guelph
Summary:
Researchers equipped monarch butterflies and green darner dragonflies with radio transmitters and tracked them through southern Ontario and several northern States to learn how environmental factors affect daytime insect migration. Learning about what happens to insects during their migration may help in conservation efforts. The study found wind and temperature are more important influences than precipitation for bugs on autumn migration flights spanning thousands of kilometers between their breeding and wintering grounds.
Share:
FULL STORY

Wind and warmth can improve travel time for the billions of insects worldwide that migrate each year, according to a first-ever radio-tracking study by University of Guelph biologists.

Researchers equipped monarch butterflies and green darner dragonflies with radio transmitters and tracked them through southern Ontario and several northern States to learn how environmental factors affect daytime insect migration.

Learning more about what happens to insects during their physically taxing migration period may help in efforts to conserve them, particularly threatened species, said the researchers.

The study, which was recently published in Biology Letters, found wind and temperature are more important influences than precipitation for bugs on autumn migration flights spanning thousands of kilometres between their breeding and wintering grounds.

As part of their multigenerational migration, monarchs from Canada overwinter in Mexico and green darners travel to the southern United States.

Until recently, their small size has made individual insects hard to track. But it’s increasingly critical to do just that, said lead author Samantha Knight.

Insects on the wing play vital roles in pollinating crops and in maintaining ecosystems as both prey and predators.

Threatened by habitat loss, land use changes and global warming, she said, “some 40 per cent of insect species risk extinction, yet we know little about what happens to organisms when they migrate.”

Study co-author Prof. Ryan Norris, Department of Integrative Biology, added, “Migration is not an easy period for insects. They are likely pushed to their physiological limits. If we have a way to track and understand what habitats they’re using, that goes a long way to understanding what might be causing declines.”

As part of the study, researchers captured insects on Ontario’s Bruce Peninsula in fall 2015 and 2016 and outfitted them with battery-powered radio transmitters weighing about as much as a raindrop. Those devices emitted signals picked up by an array of telemetry towers across the southern part of the province and into the northern United States.

The team downloaded data from the towers to track individuals’ flight distances and speeds.

On average, monarchs flew about 12 kilometres per hour and darners about 16 kilometres per hour. The farthest a monarch travelled in one day was 143 kilometres at 31 km per hour, including windspeed. In a single day, a darner flew 122 kilometres at up to 77 km per hour.

“A darner would get a speeding ticket in Guelph,” quipped Norris, adding that insects may fly even farther and faster in single spurts.

To attain their fastest airspeeds, the insects are likely flying high in the atmosphere to take advantage of the wind, although the researchers don’t know how high.

“That means insects are migrating over our heads and we don’t know it,” said Norris.

Unlike birds, insects need a minimum air temperature of about 10-15 C for daytime flight. Monarchs and darners fly faster as it warms up. However, flight is impeded when it gets too hot, said Norris. At temperatures above 23 C — higher than in this new study — darners have been seen flying slower.

Norris said insects probably have an upper temperature limit for efficient flight, suggesting that global warming might ultimately affect their migration.

The researchers were surprised that rain had no effect on flight speed. Light rain might not have deterred the insects, or they might have made up for lost time after rainfall.

Knight said tracking technology enables researchers to learn more about insect migration under varying conditions. Many species have been studied while breeding and overwintering, but scientists lack information about migration, including human impacts on habitat and feeding en route.

“For insects, land use changes are a major driver of declines in numbers,” she said. “If we understand where they’re going, we can maybe shed light on land use change impacts during migration.”

This spring, Norris was named as the Weston Family Senior Scientist for the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC). He retains his faculty appointment while conducting research intended to help the NCC preserve Canadian habitat and biodiversity.

A 2017 master’s graduate of U of G, Knight is program manager for the Weston Family Science Program at the NCC.

Story Source:

Materials provided by University of Guelph. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Samantha M. Knight, Grace M. Pitman, D. T. Tyler Flockhart, D. Ryan Norris. Radio-tracking reveals how wind and temperature influence the pace of daytime insect migration. Biology Letters, 2019; 15 (7): 20190327 DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2019.0327

Preven webg

News

Armyworms are devastating Asia’s crops, but we have a plan to save them

Source(s):  Conversation Media Group, the

By Toby Bruce, Professor of Insect Chemical Ecology, Keele University

A very hungry caterpillar is rampaging through crops across the world, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. The fall armyworm, also known as Spodoptera frugiperda (fruit destroyer), loves to eat maize (corn) but also plagues many other crops vital to human food security, such as rice and sorghum.

This invasive eating machine originated in the Americas, where it was first described in 1797, but in the last few years it has gone global. It was reported in Africa in 2016 and has now reached China, spreading across two continents, west to east, in just three years. Entry of the pest into this part of Asia matters because so many people live there and in nearby regions, and there is already huge pressure on the area’s food production systems.

But there is hope. My colleagues and I are researching ways to stop the pest that don’t rely on damaging pesticides and could be adopted around the world.

How the fall armyworm crossed the Atlantic from its native range in tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas is unknown. Perhaps it was through long-distance migration of moths, possibly blown by winds, that then laid eggs in Africa. Or perhaps it was through trade of contaminated produce already containing eggs and hungry caterpillars.

Yet while the means of entry is unknown, the outcome is clear. Crops – and livelihoods – are being ruined. The armyworm can destroy as much as 50% of a producer’s crop, and the effect on small farmers growing crops to feed their families is terrible.

What’s more, because adult moths can travel hundreds of kilometres, the pest rapidly spread across most of sub-Saharan Africa wreaking havoc as it went. It’s estimated that crop losses in 12 African countries could be as high as US$6.1 billion a year.

But it didn’t stop there. In July 2018, it was found in Karnataka state in India, the first reported infestation in Asia. By December 2018 it had spread to Thailand, and it’s still going, now reported in over half the provinces of China.

It is quite remarkable that fall armyworm has managed to cross two continents in such a short space of time. There are vast swathes of crops now vulnerable to the pest and it has now spread too much to be eradicated so its populations have to be managed.

The immediate reaction in many places has been to use pesticides, but the fall armyworm is well known for its ability to evolve resistance to these. And more powerful, general insecticides could kill helpful insects that are natural enemies of the pest. However, using some more natural defences may actually be a feasible strategy, as well as more environmentally friendly one.

Four-part solution

In collaborative research with the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology in Kenya, my colleagues and I are developing four ways to increase resilience to the pest. First, we are assessing the natural resistance levels of crops to determine which varieties are more robust against attack by the pest. Early results show that damage can be partly reduced this way.

Second, we are attempting to drive pests away from the main crop by interspersing it with a crop that they dislike because it releases repellent odours associated with an already damaged plant. And third, we’re planting what are known as attractive trap plants to lure the worm to alternative locations. This technique is known as a “push-pull” companion cropping system and is currently used successfully against stem-borer pests. Early results show substantial reductions in fall armyworm infestation in push-pull system fields.

Fourth, we are attempting to attract local predators of the pest, such as parasitic wasps that will kill it by laying their own eggs inside the caterpillar. To do this, we are using attractive companion crops and others that release a cry for help signal – an odour released by the plant when it is attacked to summon bodyguard insects.

Our research requires a detailed understanding of the predators and parasites that are the key natural enemies of the invasive fall armyworm. So a major part of our project is trying to understand the current pest and predator relationship where the crops are being grown. We are working closely with local farmers to develop the system.

Our hope is that this strategy of combining attempts to resist, expel, trap and kill the fall armyworm should provide a novel cropping system that can withstand attack. While our project is based in Kenya, we hope that similar approaches can be used in Asia and across the world.

The Conversation

  • Publication date 08 Jul 2019

Please note:Content is displayed as last posted by a PreventionWeb community member or editor. The views expressed therein are not necessarily those of UNDRR PreventionWeb, or its sponsors. See our terms of use

 

 

Japan: FAW has arrived.

Nippon.com

Fall Armyworms Found in Japan for 1st Time

Politics Economy Society

Tokyo, July 9 (Jiji Press)–Fall armyworms have been found on fields in the southwestern Japan prefecture of Kagoshima, the first discovery of the exotic invasive pest in the country, according to the agriculture ministry.

In order to prevent the spread of the insect, a type of moth that causes damage to corn and other crops, the ministry will spray agricultural chemicals on crops and look into the nationwide situation.

Fall armyworm larvae were found on Wednesday for the first time on a field in Minamikyushu, Kagoshima. By Monday, larvae were found on a total of 53 fields growing field corn and sweet corn in the prefecture.

Eating corn and other crops with the insect attached causes no harm to humans.

The moths can fly long distances. Meanwhile, the larvae eat away gramineous plants, such as corn and rice, and a wide range of vegetables, including tomatoes, eggplants and potatoes.

[Copyright The Jiji Press, Ltd.]

genetic literacy project

Pakistan marks another GMO crop milestone

Pakistani farmers and scientists are recognizing the need for genetically modified (GM) crops to help the country transition from subsistence to commercial farming.

Farmers expressed their support for the technology at a recent Crop Life Pakistan Assn. event that showcased the performance of GM maize hybrids in the field. “Biotechnology is the ideal tool for farmers to improve their profitability through reduced input cost and improved yields,” said Muhammad Munir, a local farmer who was particularly excited to see visible benefits of GM maize in the field.

The National Uniform Yield Trials (NUYT) conducted by the Pakistan Agriculture Research Council (PARC) showed that biotech maize hybrids achieved yield increases ranging from 10 to 45 percent over conventional hybrids. Pakistan already experienced a four-fold yield increase over the past 20 years when 95 percent of its maize production shifted to hybrids, according to Muhammad Asim, chairman of Crop Life Pakistan’s biotech and seed committee. Further improvements in yield will require biotechnology, he said.

Related article:  Post Brexit UK ag biotech policy: USDA official calls European approach to GMOs and food safety ‘old-fashioned, based on traditions and not modern science’

Maize is the third most important cereal crop in Pakistan, after wheat and rice. The successful GM maize field trials represented another biotechnology milestone for the country, which has already approved and adopted pest-resistant Bt cotton. Research continues on other crops.

Scientists also used the occasion to educate farmers and journalists about the strong international safety record of GM crops since they were first adopted in 1996, as well as their yield advantages. “Contrary to misconceptions, there is a complete consensus amongst the scientific community, locally and internationally, on the efficacy and safety of biotechnology,” Asim said.

This article originally ran at the Cornell Alliance for Science and has been republished here with permission.

‘Locusts! Locusts!’: Pakistan’s crucial cotton crop under threat

The war in Yemen has prevented its authorities from controlling the insects, which now threaten Pakistani agriculture.

by

Locusts like this one in Pakistan''s Nara desert are threatening the country's crucial cotton crop [Asad Hashim/Al Jazeera]
Locusts like this one in Pakistan”s Nara desert are threatening the country’s crucial cotton crop [Asad Hashim/Al Jazeera]

Thari Mirwah, Pakistan – Azmatullah, a 45-year-old farmer in the southern Pakistani province of Sindh, clearly remembers the moment his worst fears came true.

A young girl, he says, one of the workers on his 40.5 hectares of land on the frontier with the Nara Desert in Thari Mirwah, about 400km north of Pakistan’s largest city of Karachi, came running into the farm’s main courtyard from an adjacent cotton field, screaming.

“‘Makar! Makar!’ she cried,” he says. “Locusts! Locusts!”

Azmatullah is among the thousands of farmers who cultivate more than 246,000 hectares of cotton, nearly 23 percent of Pakistan’s entire crop, in Sindh province, an arid region where most fields are fed by canal irrigation from the Indus River.

Cotton and cotton products are one of Pakistan’s main exports, accounting for $11.7bn of the country’s $24.7bn in exports last year, according to central bank data. The industry is also one of the country’s main employers, providing jobs for tens of thousands across the country, from farmers to spinners and weavers.

For the past month, authorities have been battling a swarm of desert locusts which has been threatening the country’s main cash crop, at a time when Pakistan is already going through a major economic crisis, with slowing growth, a skyrocketing exchange rate and rising inflation. The board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) gave its final approval last week to a $6bn loan facility for Pakistan, its 13th bailout since the late 1980s.

Any threat to the cotton crop, analysts say, could be catastrophic, especially for the country’s already stagnant exports.

“We called a few of the farmers and lit fires to raise smoke and drive them away,” says Azmatullah, as he walks through his fields to survey the damage.

“The crops right now are not so strong that they can withstand the attack,” he says, pointing to damage to the stems and leaves of some of his crops from the small group of locusts that hit the fields.

“If the locusts come in large numbers, then it is unlikely that any of the crop will survive. The locusts will not rise until they have completely eaten the crop.

“Then they will attack others’ fields.”

‘Like a war’

Deep in the Nara desert, about 25km away, Fakhar Zaman is a man on a mission.

The entomologist is in charge of a crew of eight officials from Pakistan’s federal food security ministry that is conducting eradication and control operations against the locusts in this area, investigating reports of locust sightings and coordinating the spraying of powerful pesticides to control the swarm.

“All of this,” he says, gesturing to a large number of locusts dying from an aerial spray minutes earlier, “is like a war for us.”

“The border we are protecting is the crop area. And we must fight this war, it is for our country.”

Pakistan locusts
We must fight this war, it is for our country’ says an entomologist who is working with local authorities to control the locusts by spraying insecticide from the air [Asad Hashim/Al Jazeera]

 

Around him, poisoned locusts appear to be dazed, unable to fly much higher than a few feet. The contrast to before the spraying of the pesticides is stark: just minutes earlier, the trees and shrubs of this desert were full of the voracious insects.

Now, the trees appear to be half their size, as those locusts that were not killed by the spray attempt to escape its effects.

“It is an insect weighing two grams, and in 24 hours, it can eat food that is equal to its body weight,” Zaman says, picking up a bright yellow locust. “So you can imagine just how dangerous it is. If it sits on the crops, God forbid, then it will eat all of [them].”

Pakistan has suffered previous major locust invasions in 1993 and 1997, but nothing on this scale has been seen since then, farmers and government officials told Al Jazeera. The current invasion has its roots in Yemen, where due to the Saudi-led war against the Houthis, control activities could not be carried out in time.

“Because there is a war going on there [in Yemen], it wasn’t treated there,” says Tariq Khan, technical director of the food security ministry’s crop protection department.

The swarm grew in number, passing through Saudi Arabia and Iran, before entering Pakistan through its western border, eating crops in Balochistan and then in Sindh.

So far, more than 8,000 hectares of land have been treated with pesticides to battle the locusts in Pakistan, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). In Iran, authorities have treated more than 247,000  hectares, FAO data shows, and Pakistan is working with both Iranian and Indian authorities to control the pests’ spread, Khan said.

Officials say the locusts have not yet bred, but that if adequate rainfall was to occur in the burgeoning monsoon season, due to begin this month, they could lay eggs and multiply in number, forming a huge swarm that would then turn towards cultivated areas in search of food.

“There is risk of a significant spread and full-on swarm [forming], with relatively serious impact on agriculture, if there are early monsoon rains both in Sindh and Punjab [provinces],” the FAO said in a statement emailed to Al Jazeera.

The FAO says it is working with Pakistani authorities, as well as regional governments in Iran, India and Afghanistan to control the spread of the insects.

Smallholder farmers, large debts

The threat to Pakistan’s cotton sector is real, and any attack by locusts on Sindh’s crops could exacerbate difficulties the industry has been facing with dwindling yields and high input prices, analysts and industry leaders say.

Pakistan is the fourth-largest producer of cotton in the world, and its third-largest consumer, according to government data. In the financial year ending in 2018, Pakistan produced 7.55 percent of the entire world’s cotton, slotting in behind India, China and the US, according to the Pakistan Central Cotton Committee’s annual report.

“It could cause huge damage for the country’s cotton area,” says Usman Lutfi, deputy general manager of cotton at Tata Pakistan, a major textile company. “Sindh’s cotton is much better than Punjab cotton in all respects – it has better strength, colour and longer staple.”

Cotton with a longer ‘staple length’ results in higher-quality cotton that is stronger and softer.

Lutfi says a crop failure in Sindh would add to a three-year stretch of lower than expected cotton production in Punjab province, the country’s main agricultural area, and force the country to increase imports of cotton crops to feed its industries.

Last year, Pakistan imported more than 2.9 million bales of raw cotton, mainly from the US and India, compared to 11.9 million bales in domestic production, according to government data.

Pakistan’s currency, however, has depreciated more than 30 percent in the last year, now trading at roughly 156 rupees to the US dollar, causing concerns that imports will be too expensive to make up the gap.

“When we make deals with the exchange rate at 130 rupees, and then it goes to 160 rupees, we face a huge loss,” says Lutfi.

More than industrialists, however, the main brunt of any attack on the crops would be felt by small-time farmers, such as Azmatullah in Thari Mirwah.

Pakistan locusts
Swarms of locusts like these from the Middle East threaten the livelihoods of thousands of farmers [Asad Hashim/Al Jazeera]

 

“Everything in our life is dependent on the crops. We don’t have any other business or capital. Everything depends on the crops ... The locusts will leave only destruction. They will destroy our lives,” he says, pointing out that he makes only roughly 10,000 Pakistani rupees ($63) in profit for each acre of land under cultivation.

Other smallholder farmers echoed that sentiment, adding that they take loans from local money lenders each year to sow their crops and treat them with fertiliser.

Khan Muhammad, 38, farms his 10 hectares of land in the village of Magan Khan, about 20km south of Azmatullah’s land, and spotted locusts on his crops earlier this month. He has taken on more than a million rupees ($6,325) in debt this year to sow his seeds.

“Based on our everyday needs, we don’t have enough money to pay for our expenses and also sow the crop every year, so that is why we take on debt, and farm on that debt.”

Pakistan locusts, farmers affected
Farmers like Khan Muhammad say they can’t afford for their crops to fail because of their large debts [Asad Hashim/Al Jazeera]

His story is hardly unique, with most farmers Al Jazeera interviewed saying they take on debts every year in order to sow their crops.

Another farmer, Khawand Dino, 50, himself more than $6,000 in debt this year, said he would lose everything if the locusts were to return.

“This crop is all that we have, I have no other means of income,” he says. “If it is finished, then we are at Allah’s mercy. We will starve without it, we will be forced to beg on the street.”

Later, he adds, giving it a few moments thought: “Even if we become beggars, no-one will give us any money, because no-one will have anything. If everyone’s crops are destroyed, where will they find charity from?”

Asad Hashim is Al Jazeera’s digital correspondent in Pakistan. He tweets @AsadHashim

SOURCE: Al Jazeera News

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

 

LabBiotech

First Eco-Friendly Treatment Stops Fungal Crop Disease

An eco-friendly antifungal treatment developed by the French biotech Amoéba has reduced rust infections in legumes by 85% in a recent field trial.

Rust is a plant disease caused by fungi that is very hard to treat. Although chemical fungicides can be used against it, these are often expensive and harmful to other organisms, including humans. Biocontrol treatments, which consist of living organisms, could solve this problem as they only affect the target pathogen.

Amoéba is developing a treatment based on a specific strain of an amoeba called Willaertia magna. In a recent trial, the company mashed up the amoeba and applied it to legume crops. The treatment reduced rust infections by the fungus Uromyces fabae by an impressive 85%.

There is no biocontrol agent that works on this pathogen,” Fabrice Plasson, the CEO of Amoéba, told me. “It is exceptional because that is the first biocontrol product, and 85% is the same level of activity as chemicals traditionally used in this field.

According to Plasson, the mashed up amoeba blocks the germination of the rust spores, though it’s hard to pinpoint which specific molecule in the amoeba is having this effect.

amoeba crop rust disease agriculture

With this promising outcome, Amoéba now aims to find partners to develop this new biocontrol treatment together. If all goes according to plan, the company expects to have a product in the market in four years’ time. This type of treatment could particularly tap into the fast-growing organic products market, which forgoes the use of chemical treatments on food produce.

Amoéba’s treatment is also being developed as an environmentally friendly alternative to chemical treatments for removing dangerous microbes from water systems. In this application, the live amoeba devours the harmful microbes, including microbes hidden in biofilms, a barrier that chemical treatments can’t attack. Unfortunately, this program suffered a setback last year when it failed to gain EU approval due to concerns with the safety of the treatment.

That was very painful,” Plasson told me. “We’re entering into a market where chemical agents have been used for 50 years, with no microorganism products at all.” The lack of existing microorganism products in the water treatment industry means that the regulators are less equipped to accept these treatments.

However, the company is continuing fighting to change the water treatment market over time. Microorganism products are becoming well known in other industries such as agribusiness, with companies such as Bayer and the French biotech Kapsera developing bacterial treatments for crops.


Images from Shutterstock