Insect-resistant GMO cowpea trials wow Nigerian farmers with jumping yields and lower costs — but other farmers remain hesitant

Abdulkareem MojeedEbuka Onyeji | Premium Times | May 4, 2022

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Credit: IFAD
Credit: IFAD

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

Last August, the farmers were given cowpea seeds genetically modified (GM) to resist the destructive pod-borer insect pest and improve yield to experiment on their farms.

Mr Osondu said his farm became the centre of attraction a few weeks after he planted the cowpea. “As you can see, I planted the beans at a roadside where everybody can see it,” the farmer said. He was quick to point out the sharp contrast between the traditional cowpea the farmers are used to and the new variety.

“I used to spray insecticides at least five times on the normal cowpea yet the crop will still be eaten by insects before harvest. But this one I sprayed only once, and it did very well. I harvested about two months after planting and the yield was impressive.

“They gave me half a cup and I harvested three painter buckets. If I planted the same amount of normal beans, I would have harvested only one painter,” the farmer said.

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Poor awareness of GMO among not just lay people but even many informed Nigerians fuels scepticism, which is making it difficult for Nigerians to make informed decisions on whether to accept or reject GM cowpea in Nigeria, our findings revealed.

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Site logo image Entomology Today posted: ” By Robin Boudwin Have you ever needed crop and pest management information? If that is the case, do we have some data for you. Many people have never heard of Crop Profiles and Pest Management Strategic Plans, which are valuable documents that ” The Role of Crop Profiles and Pest Management Strategic Plans in IPM Data Entomology Today May 4 Hosted by the National IPM Database but perhaps underutilized, Crop Profiles and Pest Management Strategic Plans offer a treasure trove of guidance for growers and integrated pest management pros. Learn more about these important IPM resources. Read more of this post   Comment   Unsubscribe to no longer receive posts from Entomology Today.
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‘Honeybees are not endangered and are doing just fine’: Xerces Society says it’s time to end public confusion, refocus on native species

Avery Hurt | Discover | May 2, 2022

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Credit: Deborah Shapiro
Credit: Deborah Shapiro

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When Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) occurred around 2006 and entire colonies of honeybees died, experts and the public alike were justifiably alarmed. The campaign to “save the honeybees” somehow got entangled in our minds with “save the pollinators” and “save the planet.”

It was a misunderstanding. Yes, beekeepers are still struggling, and healthy honeybees are important, especially for commercial agriculture. But honeybees are not endangered.

In fact, there are more honeybees on the planet now than there ever have been. And that, is because we manage them, says Scott Hoffman Black, executive director of the Xerces Society, an international nonprofit focused on invertebrate conservation.

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Experts may not consider honeybees endangered, but plenty of native bees are. And this means the plants that depend on them for pollination are endangered as well, putting entire ecosystems at risk. Black points out that there are at least 3,600 species of wild bees in North America, and those animals are in serious decline, many of them in danger of extinction.

He adds that this has gotten confusing for people. Some heard about declines in honeybees and kept hives thinking they were helping to save the bees, but Black likens that to raising chickens to save birds.

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How plant breeding innovations are helping feed a hungry world

Mikaela Waldbauer | Sustainable Agricultural Innovation & Food (SAIFood) | April 29, 2022

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Rice can survive submerged, but not for long. Plant breeding technology is getting the crop ready for climate change floods. Credit: Sasin Tipchai
Rice can survive submerged, but not for long. Plant breeding technology is getting the crop ready for climate change floods. Credit: Sasin Tipchai

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

As of 2019, nearly 26% of the globe’s population “experienced hunger or did not have regular” access to safe and nutritious food (FAO, 2020). With increasing global populations and a changing climate, this number is estimated to surpass 840 million by 2030 (UN, n.d.).

Plant breeding technologies have impacted global food security in positive ways. One of the major ways genetically modified (GM) crops can influence global food security is by adapting plants to the changing climate. Plant breeding can be utilized to develop crop plant varieties with a higher tolerance to environmental stresses such as heat, drought, and flooded conditions.

For example, a rice variety developed by plant breeders in Bangladesh has been shown to survive flooded conditions for as long as two weeks, and common beans have been used to develop both heat and cold resistant varieties capable of being grown in both the Durango region of Mexico and the high altitudes of Columbia and Peru (Global Partnership Initiative for Plant Breeding Capacity Building [GIPD], n.d.).

The climate is changing at a faster rate than crop plants can adapt, and few solutions to this issue exist. One key solution is the improvement of crop plant varieties through new plant breeding innovations. The evidence is clear that GM crop varieties are superior in performance under harsh conditions (GIPD, n.d.). However, these solutions are not utilized to their fullest extent due to intense scrutiny and rejection.

Importance of nutritious diets

With an increase in the global population, food insecurity is predicted to rise. To compensate for population growth, food production must increase at a faster rate than it currently is today. Research shows plant breeding can address this concern. According to a 22-year study on the economic impact of GM crops, global production has increased substantially because of yield increased from GM crops (Brookes & Barfoot, 2020). Urbanization is reducing the area of arable land available for food production. Without the use of additional land to grow more food, an increase in yields on the land currently cultivated will be solely relied on to increase production. GM crops are one tool that can be used in improving production levels of food, when compared to conventional crops, by increasing yields.

Considering smallholder farmers make up 50% of the world’s undernourished (Qaim & Kouser, 2013), increasing the profit of smallholder farmers should have a net decrease in food insecurity in developing countries. Smallholder profits have also increased with the adoption of GM crops. Studies have found that GM crop varieties have improved yields substantially when compared to conventional crops. Most notably, the highest improvements in crop yield have been observed in developing countries, where food insecurity is the highest (Brookes & Barfoot, 2014). Since the study began in 1996, there has been a $225 billion increase in farmer income, as of 2018. A reduction in pesticide cost and improvement in yields is responsible for increased profit, primarily through insect-resistant varieties such as the newly commercialized Bt cowpea in Nigeria. An increase in farmer profit through GM crop cultivation is clear, especially in low-income countries. Yet, the very regions that could benefit most from these crops are the ones that reject them. More widespread commercialization of GM crop varieties has the impact to increase farmer profit, specifically smallholder profit, which makes up a generous portion of the world’s undernourished.

Micronutrient deficiency affects over 50% of the global population (Nestel et al., 2006). Large consumption of staple food products in developing countries such as rice, wheat, and corn with little variety can lead to nutritional deficiencies including deficiencies in vitamin A, iron, zinc, among others. Recently, a GM rice crop biofortified with beta-carotene (a vitamin A precursor) was approved for cultivation in the Philippines, called Golden Rice. Golden Rice has the potential to diminish the prevalence of micronutrient-related malnutrition, vitamin A deficiency. Golden Rice can combat vitamin A deficiency in high rice-consuming regions by allowing the consumption of beta-carotene without changing the taste or agronomic qualities of the rice while remaining at a comparable cost to conventional rice (IRRI, n.d.). Evidence does depict the capabilities of biofortification in a deficient diet.

Looking forward

Of the opposing views brought forth by ant-GMO advocates, most are refutable. Sifting through the scientific literature, is it suggested that while GM crops may offer a net positive impact on the state of global food security, they are not a panacea to the enormous problem of global food insecurity. Rather, GM crops can be viewed as one vital tool assisting in the mitigation of global food insecurity.

Mikaela Waldbauer is an Agronomy student at University of Saskatchewan interested in food security and plant breeding. Follow Mikaela on Twitter @Mikaela_Marion

A version of this article was posted at Saifood and is used here with permission. You can check out Saifood on Twitter @SAIFood_blog

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In this issue:

From the President
75th Anniversary Symposium and Conference
Photo Competition

2021 Scholarship Winners 
 Members in the News
 Related Events
NZPPS Corporate Members

We look forward to your feedback.From the President
         The next conference, at the Christchurch Town Hall, in August 2022, will be a celebration of 75 years of the Plant Protection Society. Several ideas to mark the 75th anniversary are in progress, some of which are reported in this newsletter. To begin with, a special 75th anniversary logo was designed for this year, which is depicted in this newsletter and on the website. Those of you with keen eyes may notice some slight modifications to the logo. Since we engaged a professional graphic designer to create the 75th logo and a new banner, it was a good opportunity to make some improvements to the existing logo. The revised logo is higher resolution, and the arrows embracing the plant have been tightened and made more fluid. The colour version uses a two-tone approach, with light and dark green, giving a more unique and modern look.

Importantly, the logo remains the same, as it still captures the essential purpose of the Society ‘to pool and exchange information’ related to plant protection. Given the anniversary occasion, it is timely to reflect on the history and meaning of Society’s logos, past and present. In the formative years of the Society, as a weed-control conference, there was no logo but, from 1962 until 1983, the cover of the published proceedings featured an illustration of a weed or pest. In 1984, the Society developed its first logo, which was the depiction of a weed (possibly a buttercup species) and a pest (a scarab grub), contained within a hexagon. The weed was in the light (aboveground) section, and the scarab in the dark (belowground) section. At a glance, it is a literal depiction of the focus of the Society at the time, weeds and pests.However, the logo possibly had greater significance, reflecting a shift in thinking at the time, away from pesticides as the panacea, towards integrated pest management. Hexagons are ubiquitous in nature and used to symbolise harmony. And the perfectly balanced dark and light halves of the harmonious hexagon conjure a yin and yang interconnectedness.

As the scope of the society further evolved, encompassing plant protection research and extension activities in the broadest sense, a new logo was needed. In 1996, the Society adopted its current logo, which was described by the President at the time, Richard Falloon, in his Presidential Address at the 49th conference. The arrows indicate interactions and information exchange that occurs through the interdisciplinary approach to plant protection. The protective circle conveys plant health resulting from plant-protection activities, and sustained plant health is depicted as the plant grows through the circle.

I do not know who designed either of the logos, and I have possibly over interpreted the first logo. If any members know more about the logos or their designers, please get in touch. In the coming months, the Executive will be reaching out to previous Presidents and others who have had an enduring impact on the Society to invite them to share their reminiscences, learn about past success stories, and receive advice for the future. Mark your calendars, submit your abstracts, and stay tuned for more news about this year’s symposium and conference.
Mike CrippsThe NZPPS Executive are delighted to advise that theNZPPS 75th Anniversary Symposium and Conferenceare proceeding as in-person events at the
Christchurch Town Hall.
Dame Juliet Gerrard will give the  conference opening address on Tuesday 9 August.Symposium: 8 August 2022  
Plant pathogens that keep us awake: past, present and future threats to native species.
https://nzpps.org/events/nzpps-symposium-2022/A day of invited presentations focussed on microbial threats to our native taonga plants. Leading scientists, kaitiaki, international experts and representatives from government agencies will bring attendees up to date with progress on myrtle rust, kauri dieback, Pacific biosecurity, Ceratocystis, Xylella and more. The day will conclude with a networking and poster session. Those interested in submitting a poster for the symposium should submit an abstract (maximum 250 words) to Renee Johansen (JohansenR@landcareresearch.co.nz) by 31 May 2022. Conference: 9-11 August 2022
Celebrating 75 years of the New Zealand Plant Protection Society
Three full days of presentations including special sessions, conference dinner with 75th anniversary cake for dessert and a slideshow of competition photos

The first session on Tues 9 August has been reserved for participants who wish to present a talk on the symposium topic. Abstract submission for the 2022 conference is openDeadline is 30 April 2022.NZPPS 75th Anniversary
Photo Competition
 Get clicking and enter your pictures here for the 75th anniversary photo competition. The photo within each category with the most member votes wins. Categories: Plant protection in action Plant pests Plant diseases  Plant weeds The growing crop Plant protection science People in plant protection Winners and their photos will be showcased on the NZPPS website, at the conference and in the newsletter. Closing date: 30 June 2022. NZPPS Plant Protection MedalThis medal has been instituted by the New Zealand Plant Protection Society to honour those who have made exceptional contributions to plant protection in the widest sense. The medal will be awarded based on outstanding services to plant protection, whether through research, education, implementation or leadership.Details of the nomination process are available here.

Deadline 1 July 2022.2021 NZPPS Research ScholarshipAshleigh Mosen is an MSc student at Massey University.Development of a novel disease control strategy to protect Pinus radiata from Dothistroma needle blight.
The hemibiotrophic fungus Dothistroma septosporum is a foliar pathogen of Pinus radiata that causes a disease known as Dothistroma needle blight (DNB). This forest tree disease is destructive to pines, resulting in dieback of needles, premature defoliation and in severe cases tree death. Necrotic lesions, which are seen on infected needles become a brick-red colour, characteristic of the fungus producing a toxic virulence factor called dothistromin. DNB is an economically important disease impacting upon New Zealand’s forest industries, costing the NZ economy ~$20 million per year. Current control measures include copper fungicide spraying, silvicultural methods such as pruning and thinning, and breeding pine trees for increased resistance to pathogen attack. A radical new approach, spray-induced gene silencing using RNA technology, has great potential to control DNB.

 My project explores the potential for applications of this technology by using RNA molecules, that specifically target and silence pathogen genes, to effectively lower the virulence of the pathogen. The candidate genes DsAflR (dothistromin pathway regulatory protein) and eGFP (enhanced green fluorescent protein) were pursued as targets for RNA silencing trials. As a result, dothistromin production and virulence of the pathogen is expected to be reduced, and decreased DNB symptoms on pine. Confocal microscopy analyses have been performed demonstrating dsRNA uptake into fungal cells. In vitro and in planta silencing trials suggest no clear evidence whether there is knockdown of AflR and eGFP. However quantitative real time PCR analyses are in progress to determine if there is a reduction in transcript levels. Disease symptoms have been monitored on infected pine needles and are showing reduced lesions, as a result of spraying with dsRNA targeting AflR. In combination, biomass assays will verify if there is a reduction in fungal biomass and hence suppressed virulence. The effects of timing and concentration of the dsRNAs have been established to achieve maximum silencing.

By the end of my project I hope to determine if treatment with the dsRNA has had any effects in terms of suppression of the target genes and create a framework to optimise silencing in this forest pathogen for future studies. This could be an effective solution to augment current control measures and could be applicable to agricultural and horticultural disease control. My project is of great importance to NZ, its forest industries, and other plant-based industries. This will be the first study of its kind in NZ, which will be a blueprint for controlling other forest, agricultural and horticultural pathogens.Dan Watkins Scholarship in
Weed Science

Robert Gibson II is a PhD student at Lincoln University.

Establishment risk of wilding Pinus radiata and its hybrid in New Zealand high country.

Non-native conifers have been well integrated throughout New Zealand’s landscape for amenity and shelter, erosion control, and commercial forestry purposes. Unwanted individuals that self-perpetuate from these cultivations are categorised as wildings. Wildings are the largest weeds in New Zealand and one of the biggest weed problems, posing a significant threat to the biodiversity and functioning of native ecosystems, particularly on the South Island. The conifer species most tightly interwoven throughout New Zealand’s landscape, industry, and culture is Pinus radiata. As a result, P. radiata propagules are genetically bred and widely distributed across both main islands with sufficient mutualists; all factors that can increase the risk of wilding. From a commercial forestry and afforestation perspective, previous research suggests Pradiata has a limit of establishment around 700 m due to cold-intolerance (i.e. reduced germination, growth, and cone production). As a result, a natural hybrid between Pradiata and Pattenuata is being assessed as commercial forestry and afforestation programmes shift to higher elevations. The aim of this research is to assess the potential threat of wilding establishment of both taxa in high country native grasslands and shrublands. This will be achieved through evaluating the potential biotic and abiotic barriers associated with these ecosystems on the fate of seeds and seedlings along an elevation gradient from the putative limit of establishment (< 700 m) to the high country (900 m and 1100 m). Across six sites and three microhabitats, this study is investigating: 1) seed viability, seed loss to predation and the potential for deposition into the soil seed bank; 2) emergence and seedling establishment; and 3) the response of 12-month-old seedlings to herbivory, and the interaction between herbivory and climate. This study isolates each seed and seedling stage with a different experiment to disentangle the influence of different barriers and how the magnitude of those barriers may fluctuate across multiple life stages to gain insight into the big picture of what may induce establishment failure of these two taxa. Lastly, this research will determine whether the information around the elevation limitation of P. radiata establishment from commercial plantations holds under natural conditions, and whether any of those barriers may be surpassed by the inclusion of the hybrid into high country ecosystems.Members in the News2018 NZPPS Medal winner Barbara Barratt has been made a Fellow of the Royal Society Te Apārangi for pioneering internationally relevant research into the biosafety of introduced biocontrol agents for insect pests and for leading a major theme in a multi-agency research collaboration focused on border biosecurity risk assessment.  Read more here.NZPPS editor Ruth Falshaw is the latest person to be profiled in the  “Women in Horticulture” series published in the NZGrower magazine. The publisher Horticulture NZ and author Elaine Fisher have given permission for the article to be reproduced and it can be viewed hereRelated EventsCanterbury University is running a webinar entitled: Mahi Tahi: work together to build biosecurity capability on 13 April 2022. Find out more at: https://www.canterbury.ac.nz/biosecurity-innovations/news-and-events/mahi-tahi-.html12th International Symposium on Adjuvants for Agrochemicals Bordeaux 24 – 29 April 2022.  https://www.isaa2022.org/general-information/The Weed Management Society of South Australia (WMSSA), on behalf of The Council of Australasian Weed Societies (CAWS), will be hosting the 22nd Australasian Weeds Conference (22AWC) at Adelaide Oval from 25-29 September 2022. https://eventstudio.eventsair.com/22AWCThe 8th International Weed Science Congress: “Weed Science in a Climate of Change” will be held in Bangkok from 4 – 9 December 2022.https://www.iwsc2020.com/Books

For sale
There is a 10% discount for NZPPS members on NZPPS titles purchased from Nationwide Book Distributors:

351 Kirikiri Road, Oxford 7495
 0800 990 123
Email: books@nationwidebooks.co.nz
Web: http://www.nationwidebooks.co.nzBest sellers include:
Farewell Silent Spring – the New Zealand Apple Story
An Illustrated Guide to Common Weeds of New Zealand (Third Edition)
An Illustrated Guide to Weed Seeds of New Zealand
An Illustrated Guide to Common Grasses, Sedges and Rushes of New Zealand
A Guide to the Identification of New Zealand Weeds in Colour
Free to NZPPS members:Hard copies of:

Future Challenges in Crop Protection 
Surveillance for Biosecurity2010 Microbial Products 
Paddock to PCR
The Plant Protection Data Toolbox 
Utilising Plant Defences for Pest Control 

Contact the Secretary at secretary@nzpps.org if you would like one.NZPPS Corporate MembersAgResearch Ltd
Adama New Zealand Ltd
Arxada New Zealand Ltd
BASF New Zealand Ltd
Bayer New Zealand Ltd
Corteva Agriscience
Environmental Protection Authority
Foundation for Arable Research
Horticulture New Zealand
Ministry for Primary Industries
New Zealand Apples & Pears Inc.
New Zealand Avocado
New Zealand Winegrowers
Nufarm NZ Limited
Peak Research Limited
Staphyt Research Ltd
Syngenta Crop Protection Ltd
The New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research Ltd
UPL New Zealand Ltd
Zespri International Ltd
Dr Mike Cripps
Ph: (03) 325 9936
Vice President
Dr Hayley Ridgway
Plant & Food Research
Ph: (03) 325 9450

Immediate Past President
Dr Eirian Jones
Lincoln University
Ph: (03) 423 0746
Jenny Taylor
PO Box 21839
Henderson 0650
Ph: (09) 8128506
Mob: (027) 477 9821
Dr Jason Smith
Horteye Ltd
Mob: (027) 249 9370
 Journal Editor/
Communications Manager

Dr Ruth Falshaw
Mahana Editing Services
Mob: (027) 380 9839
Website Editor
Mike Barley
mike@hortplus.comCommittee Members
Rebecca Campbell, Plant & Food Research, Motueka

Joy Tyson, Plant & Food Research, Auckland

Stephen McKennie, Arxada NZ Ltd, Auckland

Laura Tomiczek, Ministry for Primary Industries, Auckland

Rebecca Fisher, Horticulture New Zealand, Wellington

Dr Soonie Chng, Plant & Food Research, LincolnCopyright © 2022 New Zealand Plant Protection Society Inc.All rights reserved.

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Moth pest fall armyworm found in Hamilton, growers asked to watch for pest

29 Apr, 2022 05:20 PM2 minutes to read

Biosecurity New Zealand and primary sector partners are asking maize and corn growers to keep an eye out for the moth pest fall armyworm. Photo / Crop Science Australia, Ted C. Macrae

Biosecurity New Zealand and primary sector partners are asking maize and corn growers to keep an eye out for the moth pest fall armyworm. Photo / Crop Science Australia, Ted C. Macrae

Waikato Herald

The moth pest fall armyworm has been discovered at two properties on the outskirts of Hamilton so Biosecurity New Zealand and primary sector partners are asking Waikato maize and corn growers to keep an eye out and report any signs of caterpillars on their plants.

The fall armyworm is a plant pest that can cause damage to crops. It is native to the Americas and can feed on more than 350 plant species, including corn, beans, capsicum, onions, kumara and tomatoes.

The moth’s larvae particularly feed on stems and leaves which causes crop damage. They can skeletonise the leaves and severe infestation can cause unwanted defoliation.

On corn, larvae attack the ear, silks, cob and kernels which reduces leaf mass, fruit, pods, seeds and the overall plant health.

Adult moths are between 16 and 18mm long, and have a wingspan of 38mm. The forewings are a brown-grey colour and the hind wings a cream colour.

Larvae change from a green-brown to a brown-black colour as they mature and are almost black in the “armyworm” phase. Eggs are only about 0.4mm and laid on leaf surfaces in masses of between 150 and 200, covered with a protective layer of scales.

The fall armyworm was introduced to Africa, Asia and parts of Australia in 2016, but because it usually thrives in very warm climates, it was thought unlikely the pest would spread into colder climate zones like New Zealand. However, in March this year, egg mass belonging to the moth was found in Tauranga.

Press release

Strict controls on pine and cedar tree imports into Great Britain implemented

Emergency regulation introduced to protect treescapes and strengthen biosecurity following the interception of Pine Processionary MothFrom:Department for Environment, Food & Rural AffairsPublished28 April 2022

A group of pine processionary moths on a pine tree.
Pine processionary moth (Credit – Max Blake, Forest Research).

Emergency legislation restricting the movement of pine and cedar trees into Great Britain to help protect against the imminent threat of the tree pest Pine Processionary Moth has been announced today (Thursday 28 April).

Pine Processionary Moth is present in North Africa and Southern Europe, in particular in Italy. It has also recently been spreading northwards through France. As a result of this legislation, it will no longer be possible to import pine and cedar trees grown in countries where Pine Processionary Moth is established, such as Italy and France. Exceptions apply in cases where Pest Free Areas are designated, or where the trees have been grown under complete physical protection for their lifetime.

The new regulation, in the form of a Statutory Instrument, will strengthen requirements for the import of pine and cedar trees into Great Britain from Friday 29 April. The bolstered measures will only permit imports of these species, both of which are host species of Pine Processionary Moth, from:

  • Countries officially confirmed by the National Plant Protection Organisation as free of Pine Processionary Moth;
  • Officially designated pest-free areas;
  • Nurseries where the trees have been grown under complete physical protection for their lifetime.

The controls apply to all businesses which import living plants and their constituent parts, including live plant foliage and plants for planting, into Great Britain. The restrictions do not apply to processed plant products, such as timber, wood chips and packaging materials.

This action comes following the confirmed interception of Pine Processionary Moth on a small number of pine trees at tree nurseries in England and Wales, imported from France in February this year. Pine Processionary Moth larvae and caterpillars can cause significant damage to pine and other conifer tree species, and pose a risk to human and animal health.

Professor Nicola Spence, UK Chief Plant Health Officer, said:

We have taken authoritative and immediate action to protect tree nurseries and the wider natural environment from the imminent threat of Pine Processionary Moth.

The increasingly globalised plant trade, along with climate change, continue to present new and emerging risks from pests and diseases. Strengthening our rigorous standards of biosecurity – already among the highest in Europe – will both minimise the net potential losses to our existing treescapes and serve to realise our long-term vision for the nation’s trees and woodlands.

Across Great Britain, rapid and robust plant health enforcement action has taken place to prevent the spread of Pine Processionary Moth into the wider environment. The infested trees at the affected nurseries were swiftly contained and destroyed, whilst tracing work to identify other consignments that may be affected is ongoing. Although there is no evidence of pest spread into the environment, increased surveillance and pheromone trapping will be carried out over the summer as a precautionary monitoring measure.

Healthy trees and plants benefit people, the environment, and the economy. Protecting the long-term welfare of our treescapes will underpin Government efforts to treble tree planting rates by the end of this Parliament and plant 30,000 hectares of trees across the UK per year by 2025, as well as form part of wider efforts to achieve Net Zero by 2050.

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Published 28 April 2022


Newly Discovered Protein in Fungus Bypasses Plant Defenses


ARS News ServiceSunflower plant infected with Sclerotinia head rot.
A newly discovered protein helps the fungus that causes white mold stem rot in sunflowers and more than 600 other plant species bypass the plants’ defenses. Newly Discovered Protein in Fungus Bypasses Plant Defenses For media inquiries contact: Kim Kaplan, 301-588-5314 Pullman, Wash., April 25, 2022

A protein that allows the fungus that causes white mold stem rot in more than 600 plant species to overcome plant defenses has been identified by a team of U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service and Washington State University scientists.Knowledge of this protein, called SsPINE1, could help researchers develop new, more precise system of control measures for the Sclerotinia sclerotiorum fungus, which attacks potatoes, soybeans, sunflowers, peas, lentils, canola, and many other broad leaf crops. The damage can add up to billions of dollars in a year of bad outbreaks.S. sclerotiorum fungi cause plants to rot and die by secreting chemicals called polygalacturonases (PG), which break down the plant’s cell walls. Plants evolved a way to protect themselves by producing a protein that stops or inhibits the fungus’ PG, labeled PGIP, which was discovered in 1971. Since then, scientists have known that some fungal pathogens have a way to overcome plant’s PGIP. But they had not been able to identify it.”What you have is essentially a continuous arms race between fungal pathogens and their plant hosts, an intense battle of attack, counterattack and counter-counterattack in which each is constantly developing and shifting its chemical tactics in order to bypass or overcome the other’s defenses,” said research plant pathologist Weidong Chen with the ARS Grain Legume Genetics Physiology Research Unit in Pullman, Washington, and leader of the study just published in Nature Communications.The key to identifying SsPINE1 was looking outside the fungi cells, according to Chen.”We found it by looking at the materials excreted by the fungus,” he said. “And there it was. When we found this protein, SsPINE1, which interacted with PGIP, it made sense.”Then to prove that the protein SsPINE1 was what allowed Sclerotinia to bypass plants’ PGIP, Chen and his colleagues deleted the protein in the fungus in the lab, which dramatically reduced its impact.”I got goosebumps when we found this protein,” said Kiwamu Tanaka, an associate professor in Washington State University’s Department of Plant Pathology and a co-author on the paper. “It answered all these questions scientists have had for the last 50 years: Why these fungi always overcome plant defenses? Why do they have such a broad host range, and why are they so successful?”The discovery of SsPINE1 has opened new avenues to investigate for controlling white mold stem rot pathogens, including possibly even more effective, more targeted breeding to make plants naturally resistant to sclerotinia diseases. And the team has showed that other related fungal pathogens use this counter-strategy, which only serves to make this discovery even more important.This research is part of the National Sclerotinia Initiative, a multiorganization effort that ARS created to counterattack S. sclerotiorum because the fungus does so much damage around the world.The research team also included scientists from USDA-ARS, WSU, Northwestern A&F University in Shaanxi, China, Wuhan Polytechnic University in Wuhan, China and Huazhong Agricultural University in Wuhan.The Agricultural Research Service is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientific in-house research agency. Daily, ARS focuses on solutions to agricultural problems affecting America. Each dollar invested in agricultural research results in $17 of economic impact.
Interested in reading more about ARS research? Visit our news archiveU.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Agricultural Research Service

APRIL 18, 2022

Uncovering the spread of coffee leaf rust disease

by University of Tsukuba

Uncovering the spread of coffee leaf rust disease
Credit: raksapon/Shutterstock

Coffee is one of the world’s most popular drinks, yet there are still many unknowns in the coffee-growing business. Now, researchers from Japan have shed new light on the nature of a disease that seriously affects coffee plants.

In a study published this month in Frontiers in Plant Science, researchers from the University of Tsukuba and Ibaraki University have revealed that coffee leaf rust (CLR) disease is widespread in the main coffee-growing regions of Vietnam, the world’s second-largest coffee producer.

Rusts are plant diseases named after the powdery rust- or brown-colored fungal spores found on the surfaces of infected plants. CLR fungus, Hemileia vastatrix, causes CLR disease in Coffea plants—the source of coffee beans. This disease severely affects the plants, resulting in high yield losses and lowering bean quality; developing effective and practical ways of managing the disease is essential for mitigating this problem. The best way to control CLR is by using disease-resistant plant varieties. However, there have been recent reports of CLR outbreaks in coffee-growing regions where rust-resistant varieties are planted.

“To control this disease, we need to understand rust population diversity,” says senior author of the study, Associate Professor Izumi Okane. “We must also identify the genetic variations that underpin it, and anticipate potential future variations.”

To do this, the researchers examined the occurrence of CLR disease in key coffee-producing regions of Vietnam, assessed the current population structure and genetic diversity of the CLR fungus via genetic sequencing, and estimated the geographic region where H. vastatrix first established, as well as its direction of migration between Vietnam’s main coffee-producing areas.

The results showed a high incidence of CLR disease in most of the regions investigated, and that H. vastatrix populations in Vietnam shared a close genetic relationship with several Central and South American populations. The study also uncovered potential starting points and migration routes of H. vastatrix in Vietnam’s coffee-growing regions. The spread of CLR from northern to southern Vietnam revealed that agents other than wind and monsoon were involved in moving spores from an infected region to other areas.

“Our study highlights the need to consider human-mediated activities, because they may quickly accelerate the genetic diversification of rust fungi populations,” explains Associate Professor Okane.

The results of this study have revealed new information on the genetic diversity of H. vastatrix in Vietnam and Central and South America. The researchers’ findings will help to predict the spread of this fungus in the future. Furthermore, seedling sources and human activities have been highlighted as factors that should be considered in the coffee-growing industry for the control of CLR disease.

Explore further

Fungus that eats fungus could help coffee farmers

More information: Cham Thi Mai Le et al, Incidence of Coffee Leaf Rust in Vietnam, Possible Original Sources and Subsequent Pathways of Migration, Frontiers in Plant Science (2022). DOI: 10.3389/fpls.2022.872877

Journal information: Frontiers in Plant Science 

Provided by University of Tsukuba

Pest counts and action thresholds in the greenhouse

There are essentially three options available when scouting your greenhouse crops for insect/mite pests. 1- No scouting performed with pesticides being applied on a calendar timetable. 2- Simply scouting for pest existence with crop protection applied when presence is observed. 3- Scouting crops and making pesticide application decisions based on pest counts and action thresholds. The third option is part of an integrated pest management (IPM) approach that has been promoted throughout the green industry the past few decades.

Greenhouse pest populations are measured by trapping or direct plant inspection, and both involve determining pest numbers. Counting pests and using action thresholds requires time and knowledge, but results in less pesticide use, reduced potential for insect resistance, and can improve plant quality. It is important to remember that trapping (e.g., yellow, or blue sticky cards) improves the efficiency when scouting your greenhouse but does not replace the actual inspection of individual crop plants. This is particularly the case when scouting for aphids and mites.

Yellow or blue colored sticky traps are used to capture flying insect pests in the greenhouse. The blue traps attract the western flower thrips more effectively. (Photo Credit: Steven K. Rettke, Rutgers Coop. Ext.) 

Benefits of counting pests
The scouting and counting of insects/mites help to detect when they are first present. Therefore, treatments are made before large populations build up, but not before it becomes necessary. Tracking pest numbers over time allows for the use of action thresholds, or when pest density levels threaten crop salability and economic loss. When pest densities and damage are low, it is not efficient to spend 95% of your time controlling the last 5% of the pest.

The use of biological controls (e.g., beneficial insect/mite augmentation) is most effective when applied preventatively & pest numbers are low or have not yet even been observed. When using biological controls, pest count estimates are required to determine if the beneficials are adequately maintaining low pest densities.

Finally, instead of guessing, scouting, and estimating pest counts makes it possible to evaluate the effectiveness of chemical pest control interventions after they are applied.

Using sticky cards to trap adults
One (1) sticky card is placed within each 1,000 sq. ft. area and near greenhouse vent and door openings as well as along the periphery of the house. Ideally the card should be placed at the level of the crop canopy or slightly below to effectively trap many of the major adult pests found in the greenhouse. Each of the sticky cards should be examined at least once per week. Using stakes and wooden clothespins to support the traps & sticking them into the media is an effective approach. Also, be certain to number and date each trap card to a specific location. When pest counts are low it is acceptable to reuse the trap card for additional weeks.

Counts and action threshold for the primary greenhouse pests

Western flower thrips
There are no universally accepted thresholds for the western flower thrips (WFT) because of numerous variables that cause the threshold number to change. A general guideline to start with might be 15 thrips per yellow sticky card per week per 1000 sq. ft. This arbitrary number is only a suggested starting point, and it may often be necessary to refine your own action thresholds with experience. A single adult thrips is less than 2 mm in siz.

If releasing predatory mites for biological controls it may be necessary to begin when as few as 2 thrips/ysc/wk/1000 sq. ft. are observed. Plants that are sensitive to thrips damage such as African violet and streptocarpus crops may have a threshold of less than 10 adult thrips captured on sticky traps per week per 1000 sq. ft. Alternatively, moderately sensitive plants such as impatiens, rose, gerbera, mum, and gloxinia crops may have action thresholds ranging as high as between 18 to 30 thrips/trap/wk/1000 sq. ft. (If tospoviruses (INSV or TSSV) are present within a crop, then thrips thresholds are one (1)). A poinsettia crop has a low sensitivity to thrips damage after leaves have matured and can have an action threshold of 40 or more adults captured per trap/wk/1000 sq. ft.

When these various threshold guidelines are reached it should be a signal to begin examining individual crop plants more closely, especially those plants closest to the sticky traps. Essentially, high sticky trap counts tell you locations to look at the crop more closely. However, keep in mind that the distribution pattern of the western flower thrips in the greenhouse can be random. Therefore, the thrips could potentially be found anywhere throughout the greenhouse. Some methods to scout for thrips on plants include the following: 1- Tapping the plant (especially flowers) over a piece of white paper to dislodge the thrips. 2- Exhaling carbon dioxide on the flowers to agitate the thrips and coerce them to leave their cryptic hiding places (e.g., composite flowers). 3- Pulling back and closely examining the nectar-producing flower organs with a hand lens to detect thrips presence (e.g., new guinea impatiens).

Aphids are often found feeding on the undersides of leaves, but can also be found under flower blooms. (Photo Credit: Steven K. Rettke, Rutgers Coop. Ext.)

It is not possible to use action thresholds to manage aphid populations. If winged aphids are found on sticky cards, then populations are usually already high. As a result, plant inspections are the only reliable way to scout for aphids. To simplify scouting efforts, attempt to group aphid-susceptible plant species together (e.g., chrysanthemum, sunflower, gazania, portulaca, pepper, calibrachoa, petunia, and others).

The distribution pattern of aphids in the greenhouse is typically spotty, with clumped populations (e.g., Melon aphids). On the other hand, Green Peach aphid species have a greater tendency to sometimes move throughout the crop & may have winged adults sooner. This behavior forces scouting to be more widespread. Look for plant symptoms such as distorted, discolored terminal tissue and for various aphid signs such as honeydew, sooty mold, cast skins and the actual aphids themselves.

Fungus gnats
When using yellow sticky traps to capture adult fungus gnats it is most effective to place traps horizontally (flat) near the root medium. Sticky traps placed in this position typically increase catch by 50% over traps set up in the traditional vertical position at canopy level. Adult fungus gnats are weak fliers and will not be found in high numbers around the tops of crop canopies. Yellow traps should also be placed under benches if the floor is not cement.

Potato disks or wedges placed within the medium to attract fungus gnat larvae can determine density counts. The disks are typically 1 to 2 inches in diameter and are pressed ½ inch into the root medium. The wedges (French fry shape) are ½ inch square and 1.5 to 2 inches long. The disks are best used in propagation areas while the wedges are best used with more established, deeper-rooted crops. Place the disks every 100 sq. ft. in propagation areas and the wedges every 1000 sq. ft. in production areas. Count fungus gnat larvae feeding on potato 48 hours after placement in media. It has been shown that after 72 hours the potato pieces may dry-out and lose their drawing capabilities. Or worse yet, the pieces may begin to rot, promoting a breeding ground for the larvae.

Some action thresholds have been determined for fungus gnat larvae when using the potato disks. Within propagation areas as few as 3-5 larvae per disk (after 48 hours) can cause considerable damage to the small, shallow root systems. Alternatively, when using the potato wedges (i.e., French fry shape) in a 6-inch pot, it may require as many as 15-20 larvae per wedge (after 48 hours) before any meaningful root damage occurs.

An extreme population of whitefly nymphs & adults has produced an extraordinary amount of honeydew dripping from beneath this poinsettia leaf. With time, leaf will turn black from sooty mold fungus. (Photo Credit: Steven K. Rettke, Rutgers Coop. Ext.) 

Although the use of yellow sticky traps can improve scouting efficiency, when scouting for whitefly it is especially important to also inspect crop foliage. It is critical to start scouting early so whitefly populations are not allowed to build up. High populations of whiteflies are one of the more difficult pests to suppress in the greenhouse. With a poinsettia crop, any previous whitefly infestations need to be under control by November. Otherwise, troubles with shipping & sales may occur before populations controls can be successfully achieved.

Typically, on infested plant foliage a consistent top to bottom distribution of whitefly growth stages can be observed. For example, adults will usually be found on the undersides of the upper canopy leaves. When inspecting for eggs, concentrate on the undersides of lower adjacent leaves just below the upper canopy. Smaller scales (1st /2nd instar nymphs) are then found on the undersides of foliage below the leaves containing eggs. Larger scales (3rd/4th instar nymphs) are found on the undersides of the next level of lower/older foliage. Finally, whitefly adults will be emerging from pupae found on the lowest/oldest leaves closest to the soil media.

Like aphids, whiteflies often produce sticky honeydew with the corresponding growth of the black sooty mold fungus. If this becomes readily visible, then it is certain that high whitefly infestations (or aphids) are already present within the crop.

When using biological controls (e.g., Encarsia formosa (parasitic wasps)) it is necessary to estimate counts of whitefly scales (nymphs) within a pest management unit to determine how many beneficials to release. How to rapidly estimate the total number of whitefly scales in your greenhouse will not be discussed in this article. Nevertheless, it has been determined a release ratio of 30:1 (scale to wasp) will prevent a population build-up of whiteflies. An even smaller release ratio of 150:1 (scale to wasp) will only be required if most of the scale nymph counts are early 1st/2nd instars. When using any kind of biological control tactic, it is crucial to start releases early before high pest levels are reached.

Spider mites 
Obviously, since spider mites are unable to fly during any life stage they will not be observed on sticky traps. Hence, when scouting for mites it is necessary to inspect individual plants within the crop. Looking for symptoms and signs such as leaf stippling and webbing help to indicate which plants to inspect more closely with 10x-15x magnifying hand-lens.

Some specific thresholds of two-spotted spider mites on ivy geraniums have been determined through research. It was shown that action thresholds of 7 mites per leaf are reached on plants greater than 5 weeks in production. Alternatively, action thresholds of only 2  mites per leaf are reached on plants less than 5 weeks in production. Estimated pest mite counts are required when releasing beneficial predatory mites (e.g., Phytoseiulus persimilis). Release one (1) predatory mite for every 4 to 10 two-spotted mites counted.

For more information:
Rutgers University
State University of New Jersey 


Publication date: Wed 20 Apr 2022

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