Science News from research organizations

First global estimate of importance of pollinators for seed production in plants

About 175 000 plant species — half of all flowering plants — mostly or completely rely on animal pollinators to make seeds and so to reproduce

Date:October 13, 2021Source:Stellenbosch UniversitySummary:Without pollinators, a third of flowering plant species would produce no seeds and half would suffer an 80% or more reduction in fertility. Therefore, even though auto-fertility is common, it by no means fully compensates for reductions in pollination service in most plant species.Share:FULL STORY

About 175,000 plant species — half of all flowering plants — mostly or completely rely on animal pollinators to make seeds and so to reproduce. Declines in pollinators could therefore cause major disruptions in natural ecosystems, including loss of biodiversity.

This is the finding from a paper, “Widespread vulnerability of plant seed production to pollinator declines,” published in the journal Science Advances on 13 October 2021.

Dr James Rodger, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Stellenbosch University (SU) and lead author, says this is the first study to provide a global estimate of the importance of pollinators for plants in natural ecosystems.

The study, involving 21 scientists affiliated with 23 institutions from five continents, was led by Dr James Rodger and Prof Allan Ellis from Stellenbosch University (SU). It is a product of the Synthesis Centre for Biodiversity Sciences (sDiv) in the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research.

Prof Tiffany Knight from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research and a senior co-author, says recent global assessments of pollination have highlighted a knowledge gap in our understanding of how dependent plants are on animal pollinators: “Our synthetic research addresses this gap, and enables us to link trends in pollinator biodiversity and abundance to consequences for plants at a global level,” she explains.

While most plants are animal-pollinated, most plants also have a bit of auto-fertility. This means they can make at least some seeds without pollinators, for example by self-fertilisation. However, until this study, the question, “How important are pollinators for wild plants?” did not have a clear answer at the global level.

The researchers used the contribution of pollinators to seed production — measured by comparing seed production in the absence of pollinators to seed production with pollinators present — as an indicator of their importance to plants. Data on this existed but were spread out in hundreds of papers each focusing on pollination experiments on different plant species. To address this problem, researchers at various institutions started to consolidate the information in databases: Dr Rodger developed the Stellenbosch Breeding System Database as a postdoctoral fellow in SU’s Department of Botany and Zoology; Prof Tiffany Knight, Prof Tia-Lynn Ashman and dr Janette Steets led the sPLAT working group that produced the GloPL database; and Prof Mark van Kleunen and Dr Mialy Razanajatovo produced the Konstanz Breeding System Database. All three databases were combined in a new database for the current study. It includes data from 1 528 separate experiments, representing 1 392 plant populations and 1 174 species from 143 plant families and all continents except Antarctica.

The findings show that, without pollinators, a third of flowering plant species would produce no seeds and half would suffer an 80% or more reduction in fertility. Therefore, even though auto-fertility is common, it by no means fully compensates for reductions in pollination service in most plant species.

“Recent studies show that many pollinator species have gone down in numbers, with some even having gone extinct. Our finding that large numbers of wild plant species rely on pollinators shows that declines in pollinators could cause major disruptions in natural ecosystems,” Dr Rodger warns.

Prof Mark van Kleunen, from the University of Konstanz and a co-author, says it is not a case of all pollinators disappearing: “If there are fewer pollinators to go around, or even just a change in which pollinator species are most numerous, we can expect knock-on effects on plants, with affected plant species potentially declining, further harming animal species and human populations depending on those plants. Pollinators aren’t only important for crop production, but also for biodiversity.

“It also means that plants that do not rely on pollinators, like many problematic weeds, might spread even more when pollinators continue to decline,” he adds.

Dr Joanne Bennet, a co-author from the University of Canberra who curated the GloOL database, says another disconcerting factor is the positive feedback loop that develops if pollinator-depending plants decline or go extinct: “If auto-fertile plants come to dominate the landscape, then even more pollinators will be negatively affected, because auto-fertile plants tend to produce less nectar and pollen.”

All is not doom and gloom, though, according to Dr Rodger. Many plants are long-lived, opening a window of opportunity to restore pollinators before plant extinctions occur from lack of pollinators.

“We lack high quality long-term monitoring data on pollinators in Africa for example, including South Africa, although some work has been started in this regard. We hope that our findings will stimulate more of this kind of research, so that we can detect pollinator declines and mitigate their impacts on biodiversity,” Dr Rodger concludes.make a difference:

Story Source:

Materials provided by Stellenbosch University. Original written by Wiida Fourie-Basson. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. James G. Rodger, Joanne M. Bennett, Mialy Razanajatovo, Tiffany M. Knight, Mark van Kleunen, Tia-Lynn Ashman, Janette A. Steets, Cang Hui, Gerardo Arceo-Gómez, Martin Burd, Laura A. Burkle, Jean H. Burns, Walter Durka, Leandro Freitas, Jurene E. Kemp, Junmin Li, Anton Pauw, Jana C. Vamosi, Marina Wolowski, Jing Xia, Allan G. Ellis. Widespread vulnerability of flowering plant seed production to pollinator declinesScience Advances, 2021; 7 (42) DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abd3524

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Lentil breeding advances set to continue

North Queensland Register

Gregor Heard

Gregor Heard@grheard20 Oct 2021, 3 p.m.Grains

Agriculture Victoria lentil breeder Arun Shunmugam with a promising line of yet to be commercially released lentils in a trial at the pulse trial site at Propodollah, near Nhill, last week.

 Agriculture Victoria lentil breeder Arun Shunmugam with a promising line of yet to be commercially released lentils in a trial at the pulse trial site at Propodollah, near Nhill, last week.Aa

IN A YEAR with many contenders for most lucrative crop lentils are making a solid charge.

Values are in excess of $1000 a tonne, primarily in light of a lack of product from the world’s largest exporter of the legume, Canada, and an easing of tariffs from the world’s largest importer, India.https://7d116f708d3262b63c59ece0b6732cc5.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

RELATED: New field peas

It has farmers in the lentil belt through Victoria and South Australia excited about this year’s harvest, with a kind season in regions such as the Wimmera meaning many crops are displaying outstanding yield potential.

Given the buzz around the crop at present it is no wonder lentils were one of the major talking points at last week’s Southern Pulse Field Day near Nhill in Victoria’s Wimmera.

Agriculture Victoria pulse breeders Jason Brand and Arun Shunmugam said there were a number of promising new developments in the lentil breeding pipeline.

In particular two cultivars yet to be commercialised are performing well in trials, with Dr Brand saying there was huge yield potential in the two lines.

Dr Shunmugam said other focuses of breeders included looking to incorporate more frost resistant genetic material along with further advances in herbicide resistant and tolerant varieties.

The crowd at the Nhill field day said Clearfield / imi-tolerant lines such as Hallmark and Hurricane were popular as they gave flexibility within the rotation and reduced the plant-back risk when planted following another Clearfield line.

Dr Brand said frost and waterlogging tolerance remained two key objectives.

He said there was a complex interaction which meant plants just metres apart could fare vastly differently.

“You can see even in the trials here that some plants look like they’ve incurred frost damage and just a couple of metres away with slightly different soil type and slightly higher up they are unaffected.

“Some form of tolerance to both these stresses would be a great win for the industry,” Dr Brand said.

He said the breeding sector wanted feedback from growers about what herbicide tolerance traits were wanted.

“It is a complex one as we have to manage market expectations and maximum residue limits in with what is going to work well agronomically, but we’re really keen to hear what growers would be interested in seeing in future varieties,” he said.

OCTOBER 21, 2021

Don’t underestimate rabbits: These powerful pests threaten more native wildlife than cats or foxes

by Pat Taggart, Brian Cooke, The Conversation

Don't underestimate rabbits: these powerful pests threaten more native wildlife than cats or foxes
Rabbits eventually built up a tolerance to biocontrols. Credit: Shutterstock

In inland Australia, rabbits have taken a severe toll on native wildlife since they were introduced in 1859. They may be small, but today rabbits are a key threat to 322 species of Australia’s at-risk plants and animals—more than twice the number of species threatened by cats or foxes.https://e8facf95f2a45a2fd1e278c392de6377.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

For example, research shows even just one rabbit in two hectares of land can solely destroy every regenerating sheoak seedling. Rabbits are also responsible for the historic declines of the iconic southern hairy-nosed wombat and red kangaroo.

Our latest research looked at the conservation benefits following the introduction of three separate biocontrols used to manage rabbits in Australia over the 20th Century—all three were stunningly successful and resulted in enormous benefits to conservation.

But today, rabbits are commonly ignored or underestimated, and aren’t given appropriate attention in conservation compared to introduced predators like cats and foxes. This needs to change.

Why rabbits are such a serious problem

Simply put, rabbits are a major problem for Australian ecosystems because they destroy huge numbers of critical regenerating seedlings over more than half the continent.

Rabbits can prevent the long-term regeneration of trees and shrubs by continually eating young seedlings. This keeps ecosystems from ever reaching their natural, pre-rabbit forms. This has immense flow-on effects for the availability of food for plant-eating animals, for insect abundance, shelter and predation.

In some ecosystems, rabbits have prevented the regeneration of plant communities for 130 years, resulting in shrub populations of only old, scattered individuals. These prolonged impacts may undermine the long-term success of conservation programs to reintroduce mammals to the wild.https://googleads.g.doubleclick.net/pagead/ads?client=ca-pub-0536483524803400&output=html&h=280&slotname=5350699939&adk=2071891895&adf=780081655&pi=t.ma~as.5350699939&w=540&fwrn=4&fwrnh=100&lmt=1634968622&rafmt=1&psa=1&format=540×280&url=https%3A%2F%2Fphys.org%2Fnews%2F2021-10-dont-underestimate-rabbits-powerful-pests.html&flash=0&fwr=0&rpe=1&resp_fmts=3&wgl=1&uach=WyJXaW5kb3dzIiwiMTAuMC4wIiwieDg2IiwiIiwiOTUuMC4xMDIwLjMwIixbXSxudWxsLG51bGwsIjY0Il0.&dt=1634968622468&bpp=9&bdt=270&idt=150&shv=r20211020&mjsv=m202110200101&ptt=9&saldr=aa&abxe=1&cookie=ID%3D895ac2cb13223d7c-224f137c58cb0056%3AT%3D1628474727%3AS%3DALNI_Mbcifc_L6AwwVQop1sOsaLGpFy88g&correlator=1365095016994&frm=20&pv=2&ga_vid=575682118.1628474640&ga_sid=1634968623&ga_hid=210059594&ga_fc=1&u_tz=-300&u_his=1&u_h=864&u_w=1536&u_ah=824&u_aw=1536&u_cd=24&adx=326&ady=2217&biw=1381&bih=685&scr_x=0&scr_y=0&eid=31063260%2C31062524&oid=2&pvsid=2957186773193720&pem=278&wsm=1&ref=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.bcpc.org%2F&eae=0&fc=896&brdim=0%2C0%2C0%2C0%2C1536%2C0%2C1536%2C824%2C1396%2C685&vis=1&rsz=%7C%7CpeEbr%7C&abl=CS&pfx=0&fu=128&bc=31&ifi=1&uci=a!1&btvi=1&fsb=1&xpc=0yB8cvZkXQ&p=https%3A//phys.org&dtd=168

Things are particularly dire in arid Australia where, in drought years, rabbits can eat a high proportion of the vegetation that grows, leaving little food for native animals. Arid vegetation is slow growing and doesn’t regenerate often as rainfall is infrequent. This means rabbits can have a severe toll on wildlife by swiftly eating young trees and shrubs soon after they emerge from the ground.

Rabbits eat a high proportion of regenerating vegetation even when their population is at nearly undetectable levels. For example, it took the complete eradication of rabbits from the semi-arid TGB Osborn reserve in South Australia, before most tree and shrub species could regenerate.

Rabbits also spread weeds, cause soil erosion and reduce the ability of soil to absorb moisture and support vegetation growth.

If you control prey, you control predators

When restoring ecosystems, particularly in arid Australia, it’s common for land managers to heavily focus on managing predators such as cats and foxes, while ignoring rabbits. While predator management is important, neglecting rabbit control may mean Australia’s unique fauna is still destined to decline.

Cats and foxes eat a lot of rabbits in arid Australia and can limit their populations when rabbit numbers are low. A common argument against rabbit control is that cats and foxes will turn to eating native species in the absence of rabbits. But this argument is unfounded.

Cats and foxes may turn from rabbits to native species in the immediate short-term. But, research has also shown fewer rabbits ultimately lead to declines in cat and fox numbers, as the cats and foxes are starved of their major food source.

Regrowth could be seen from space

An effective way to deal with rabbits is to release biocontrol agents—natural enemies of rabbits, such as viruses or parasites. Our research reviewed the effects of rolling out three different biocontrols last century:

  • myxomatosis (an infectious rabbit disease), released in 1950
  • European rabbit fleas (as a vector of myxomatosis), released in 1968
  • rabbit haemorrhagic disease, released in 1995.

Each lead to unprecedented reductions in the number of rabbits across Australia.

Despite the minor interest in conservation at the time, the spread of myxomatosis led to widespread regeneration in sheoaks for over five years, before rabbit numbers built back up. Red kangaroo populations increased so much that landholders were suddenly “involved in a shooting war with hordes of kangaroos invading their properties“, according to a newspaper report at the time.

Following the introduction of the European rabbit flea, native grasses became prolific along the Mount Lofty Ranges, South Australia. Similarly, southern hairy-nosed wombats and swamp wallabies expanded their ranges.

By the time rabbit haemorrhagic disease was introduced in 1995, interest in conservation and the environment had grown and conservation benefits were better recorded.

Native vegetation regenerated over enormous spans of land, including native pine, needle bush, umbrella wattle, witchetty bush and twin-leaved emu bush. This regeneration was so significant across large parts of the Simpson and Strzelecki Deserts, it could be seen from space.

Red kangaroos became two to three times more abundant, and multiple species of desert rodent and a small marsupial carnivore (dusky hopping mouse, spinifex hopping mouse, plains rat, crest-tailed mulgara) all expanded their ranges.

But each time, after 10 to 20 years, the biocontrols stop working so well, as rabbits eventually built up a tolerance to the diseases.

So what should we do today?

Today, there are an estimated 150–200 million rabbits in Australia, we need to be on the front foot to manage this crisis. This means researchers should continually develop new biocontrols—which are clearly astonishingly successful.

But this isn’t the only solution. The use of biocontrols must be integrated with conventional rabbit management techniques, including destroying warrens (burrow networks) and harbors (above-ground rabbit shelters), baiting, fumigation, shooting or trapping.

Land managers have a major part to play in restoring Australia’s arid ecosystems, too. Land managers are required by law to control invasive pests such as rabbits, and this must occur humanely using approved and recognized methods.

They, and researchers, must take rabbit management seriously and give it equal, if not more, attention than feral cats and foxes. It all starts with a greater awareness of the problem, so we stop underestimating these small, but powerful, pests.

Explore furtherA numbers game—killing rabbits to conserve native mammals

Provided by The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

A new image of pest control

Camera traps monitor pests and inform decisions remotely.

October 2021 IssueRoss Courtney // October 21, 2021

Ross Courtney // October 21, 2021

This is what you will see from an automated camera trap: a photo of sticky paper delineating target pests, in this example codling moth, provided by CropVue Technologies of British Columbia. Camera traps, manufactured by several companies but typically packaged with a service that includes weather sensors, artificial intelligence and entomology expertise, are becoming more common in tree fruit orchards. (Courtesy CropVue Technologies)
This is what you will see from an automated camera trap: a photo of sticky paper delineating target pests, in this example codling moth, provided by CropVue Technologies of British Columbia. Camera traps, manufactured by several companies but typically packaged with a service that includes weather sensors, artificial intelligence and entomology expertise, are becoming more common in tree fruit orchards.(Courtesy CropVue Technologies)

Editor’s note: Teah Smith did not collaborate with Washington State University in her 2015 test of Semios camera traps, as reported in the print version of the October 2021 issue. This online version of the story has been corrected. Good Fruit Grower regrets the error.

The combination of increasingly affordable technology and improved artificial intelligence has led to a rise in automated camera traps for growers considering new precision pest control tools.

Camera traps allow users to check pest pressure over hundreds of acres from a computer, as often as needed, instead of driving through row after row to check by hand maybe once a week, while artificial intelligence recognizes key insects and alerts growers when target bugs are caught.

Camera traps are an important tool for the future in the management of many pests, including codling moth, especially since market trends have the industry shifting toward organic methods, said Chris Adams, an Oregon State University assistant professor of tree fruit entomology and chair of the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission codling moth task force. 

“What we have left is to make smarter and more timely decisions, and I think camera traps help us do that,” Adams said.

Adams has trials underway with two camera trap vendors, Semios and Trapview. 

The traps themselves catch insects on old-fashioned sticky paper, and an internal camera uploads one or more photos in the wee hours of each morning. But the traps are provided as part of a service plan that includes data from the traps, artificial intelligence to identify pests, miniature weather stations and pheromone emitters, all connected remotely. Vendors typically have a team of entomologists to monitor and provide quality control for the artificial intelligence.

Three examples

Good Fruit Grower interviewed representatives from Semios and CropVue Technologies, both based in Vancouver, British Columbia, and Trapview, a Slovenia-based company with North American offices in Vancouver, Washington. Other examples include Isagro of Italy, Adama of Israel, FarmSense of the United Kingdom, DTN of Minnesota and Pessl Instruments of Austria.

Semios has about 10,000 camera traps in specialty crops throughout the world, working with tree fruit growers since 2015, said James Watson, director of sales and marketing. 

Trapview has thousands of clients in specialty crops globally but has been operating in the United States only since 2018, said Jorge Pacheco, the North American managing director. So far, the company has more presence in California vegetables than Northwest tree fruit.

CropVue Technologies entered the arena in 2019. The company currently supports about 5,000 acres with a few Washington pilot growers but is poised for a full commercial launch next year, said Terry Arden, CEO. 

Left: CropVue camera traps come with a solar panel to charge the camera battery. Center: Camera traps built by Trapview, based in Slovenia, come with self-scrolling replacement sticky paper, a solar panel and a weather node. Right: A Semios camera trap hangs in a Washington apple orchard. (Left to right: Courtesy CropVue Technologies, Courtesy Trapview, Courtesy Semios)
Left: CropVue camera traps come with a solar panel to charge the camera battery. Center: Camera traps built by Trapview, based in Slovenia, come with self-scrolling replacement sticky paper, a solar panel and a weather node. Right: A Semios camera trap hangs in a Washington apple orchard.(Left to right: Courtesy CropVue Technologies, Courtesy Trapview, Courtesy Semios)

All three use similar technology but different business models.

Semios directly works with and sells to growers. Its software acts as a one-stop shop, which will allow growers to pull data from companies Semios acquired over the summer, including the company that owns the ApRecs online spray recommendation writing tool. The company hangs the traps, replenishes liners, installs the tools, remotely monitors the functions and maintains all equipment.

Trapview and CropVue distribute through suppliers and management companies such as Wilbur-Ellis, G.S. Long or Chamberlin Agriculture. 

“They have a direct connection with those growers with other inputs, not just pest monitoring,” said Pacheco of Trapview. 

CropVue’s Arden agreed. “The distributors have long-term relationships with growers,” he said. 

The trap companies also differ in connectivity. Hinging their future on the build-out of cellular IoT (Internet of Things) service, CropVue and Trapview install a network in which each device independently uploads data to the cloud.

Semios, which built its infrastructure before IoT, relies on a “meshed network” with repeaters that talk to a gateway, which in turn uploads bigger lumps of data to its cloud. However, the company has already deployed IoT in some spots.

Camera traps work with a network of in-orchard weather monitors and mapping software, shown in this screenshot from Semios, to help growers make pest control decisions. (Courtesy Semios)
Camera traps work with a network of in-orchard weather monitors and mapping software, shown in this screenshot from Semios, to help growers make pest control decisions.(Courtesy Semios)


Semios and Trapview declined to discuss pricing because each orchard requires a unique level of service. Trapview is still in the process of setting its subscription rates.

CropVue is shooting for roughly $25 per acre per year, assuming one trap and one canopy weather node for every 10 acres, but that’s flexible. Washington State University researchers recommend a ratio of one trap per 2.5 acres for codling moth. Other entomologists’ suggestions range from one to five.

Sold individually, traps run $400 to $1,000 per season per trap, enough to be a barrier to entry, said Pete McGhee, research and development coordinator for Pacific Biocontrol Corp. in Corvallis, Oregon, and a former Michigan State University researcher who has worked with camera traps. 

But the price will come down and the technology will continue to improve in all the cameras. Resolution is getting sharper, artificial intelligence is getting better at recognizing species and processing power continues to increase, McGhee said.

The main benefit to the camera traps and surrounding services is recognizing the threshold early in the season for “setting the biofix,” McGhee said — triggering the phenology model that will give predictive advice for when to spray.

After that, growers or consultants can monitor progress.

His concern is that many of the vendors have not publicly validated their approaches against the growing degree-day models and thresholds based on 30 years of university research.

All three companies in this story say they have run trials with university researchers. Meanwhile, in addition to running trusted models, their own vast datasets and artificial intelligence can refine the models and apply them uniquely to each orchard and its microclimate.

“They are changing the way decisions are made,” said Watson of Semios.

One grower’s take

Teah Smith, entomologist and agricultural consultant for Zirkle Fruit, is a fan of camera traps. The company is based in Yakima, Washington, though she is based in the Wenatchee area.

Smith is responsible for steering pest control over 6,500 acres of orchards. She used to send her team of scouts to check traps every week. Camera traps save them time for other things, she said. 

She first experimented with Semios camera traps in 2015 on two 100-acre orchards. She hung standard delta sticky traps next to the automated traps, alternating locations each week, and she found comparable catch rates. She also double-checked the computer results with her visual inspections and found similar data.

Convinced, she expanded the use of camera traps for monitoring leafroller and codling moth over a lot more Zirkle acreage. If the company experienced oriental fruit moth pressure, she would use the traps for that pest, too, she said.

Smith also believes she gets more accurate pheromone emission and timing with camera traps, hung one per eight acres.

She has experienced some data processing limits in areas. Another challenge is the rise of sterile insect release. Currently, somebody or something has to smoosh a moth to find out if it’s irradiated or not, and the camera traps can’t do that. 

However, technology will overcome those problems, she said.“It’s definitely the wave of the future.” 

by Ross CourtneyOctober 21st, 2021|Insects and mitesNew DevelopmentsOctober 2021 IssuePest ManagementPesticidesRoss CourtneyTechnology and equipment

About the Author: Ross Courtney

Ross Courtney

Ross Courtney is an associate editor for Good Fruit Grower, writing articles and taking photos for the print magazine and website. He has a degree from Pacific Lutheran University. — Follow the author — Contact: 509-930-8798 or email.

BMA President Herman van Mellaert:

“We urge the EU to unleash power of biocontrol in support of Farm to Fork”

Europe’s biocontrol industry urges EU lawmakers to back biocontrol, or else miss the Green Deal targets. Reported pushbacks to make Farm to Fork objectives such as 50% reduction of chemical pesticides by 2030 ‘non-binding’ are of deep concern. The biocontrol industry instead recommends the European Commission to go further in its Farm to Fork ambition.

Speaking at the European Commission’s Farm to Fork Conference ‘Building Sustainable Food Systems together’, Jennifer Lewis, Executive Director of The International Biocontrol Manufacturers Association (IBMA), said: “The state of the climate, biodiversity, and health are of deep concern to us all and farmers need to be part of the solution. We need a profound food systems transformation in Europe with biocontrol in every farmers‘ toolbox.”

The Institute for European Environmental Policy report on biocontrol, published in June 2021, identified significant biodiversity, climate, and health benefits from biocontrol. Yet the biocontrol industry suffers from lengthy delays in the EU approval process under European pesticide regulation 1107/2009 which is designed for chemical pesticides and not for biologicals like micro-organisms, pheromones, or botanicals. Another crucial piece of EU legislation, the Directive on Sustainable Use of pesticides, still turns a blind eye to biocontrol.

“We have a full pipeline of natural solutions waiting to help produce sustainable food for all while cutting back rapidly on chemical pesticides. The revision of Sustainable Use Directive (SUD) is one of the first opportunities for the EU to translate Farm to Fork goals into policy. The SUD should be much firmer in promoting alternatives to chemical pesticides. The SUD should include an EU-wide definition of biocontrol as well as mechanisms to set targets for biocontrol, reward its use, and train users”, said Lewis.

IBMA President Herman van Mellaert added: “The revised SUD must take stock of the EU Green Deal and its Farm to Fork Strategy for which biocontrol is a key enabler. As passionate advocates of the Green Deal, the biocontrol industry cannot imagine that the EU Commission would even consider a SUD revision without a proper definition of biocontrol and strong mechanisms to give priority to our nature-based solutions. We urge the European Union to unleash the power of biocontrol in support of the Green Deal and Farm to Fork.”

Read the complete article here.

For more information:
International Biocontrol Manufacturers Association

Publication date: Wed 20 Oct 2021

The Good Virus: A Bioinsecticide Helps Farmers Control Caterpillar Pests

10/19/2021 | 10:12 AM CDT

Progressive Farmer

Emily Unglesbee

By  Emily Unglesbee , DTN Staff ReporterConnect with Emily: @Emily_Unglesbee

Some farmers are taking advantage of a virus-based bioinsecticide that helps control Helicoverpa zea -- that multi-crop-eating pest known as corn earworm, cotton bollworm, soybean podworm and sorghum headworm. (DTN File Photo by Pamela Smith)
Some farmers are taking advantage of a virus-based bioinsecticide that helps control Helicoverpa zea — that multi-crop-eating pest known as corn earworm, cotton bollworm, soybean podworm and sorghum headworm. (DTN File Photo by Pamela Smith)

ROCKVILLE, Md. (DTN) — Frank Appleberry has a list of things to apply each spring to his crop fields in Tillar, Arkansas: preplant fertilizer, preemergence herbicides and oh, don’t forget the liquid blend of pulverized caterpillars, teeming with live viruses.

It sounds unconventional, but for a growing number of American farmers, this type of bioinsecticide is proving a regular and reliable tool to control Helicoverpa zea, the multi-crop pest known as soybean podworm, sorghum headworm, corn earworm and cotton bollworm.

These bioinsecticides are made from a strain of naturally occurring nuclear polyhedrosis viruses (NPVs), recently categorized as Group 31 insecticides. They are sprayed on row crop foliage like a normal insecticide. From there, things get a little gruesome, but only for the targeted caterpillar pests.

After ingesting the bioinsecticide, the caterpillar dies within a week, and the virus turns its corpse into a virus-replicating factory. The blackened, jelly-like remains of the worm overflow with more viruses, ready to infect more caterpillars, who in turn produce more virus. And so the cycle goes, until the caterpillar infestation abates and — without a host — the virus fades into the ecological background.

“It’s just part of what we do now in the spring,” explained Appleberry, who has replaced much of his onerous schedule of spraying soybeans at least every two weeks, with a single application of an NPV-based bioinsecticide called Heligen, around soybean bloom. “The first year we used it, we sprayed 1,150 acres and only had to come back with a pyrethroid for worms on about 200 acres,” he recalled.

These types of viruses are already circulating in nature and are not totally new to agriculture. University researchers dabbled with harnessing their insecticidal properties back in the 1970s, but they were largely supplanted by the advent of fast-acting synthetic insecticides, such as pyrethroids.

Now, a global biotech company, AgBiTech, has scaled up a commercial NPV product in the U.S., Heligen. It uses an NPV strain that targets H. zea (bollworm/earworm/podworm/headworm) and is registered for use in most row crops. AgBiTech also offers a suite of products registered globally to control other caterpillar pests, such as soybean looper (Chrysogen), armyworm (Fawligen), old world bollworm (Armigen), and a dual-virus product combining the H. zea and soybean looper strains (Surtivo). Other brands of NPVs also exist, but AgBiTech has made the largest inroads among American growers, university entomologists and farmers told DTN.

Amid growing insect resistance to insecticides and Bt, as well as interest in more eco-friendly farming practices, the success of NPVs has caught the attention of an even bigger player — Corteva Agriscience. This year, the company announced its plans to commercialize an NPV strain marketed under the brand name, Hearken, developed by a German company, Andermatt Biocontrol.


AgBiTech prides itself on running what Chief Technology Officer Paula Marcon jokingly calls “a five-star hotel for caterpillars” at the company’s manufacturing facility in Fort Worth, Texas. No check-out required for these doomed guests, however, as the company infects the insects with their NPV strain of choice and then blends them into a smoothie-like liquid, ready for the sprayer.

“It’s a little brownish, like syrup and smells wonderful,” Marcon said. “And it’s well adapted to foliar applications.” Since the NPV cocktails contain living organisms, they do come with some special handling requirements. They can last many years in a freezer and several months at room temperature (under 77 degrees), but if they stay at temperatures well above 77 degrees for more than 36 hours, the products can start to break down. “That last mile to the field, you have to be careful,” said Marcon.

And since the viruses are protected by a protein coating that is degraded by highly alkaline environments — such as a caterpillar’s stomach — tank mixes need to stay below a pH of 8 to keep the virus alive, Marcon said. AgBiTech’s products, such as Heligen and Surtivo, can be tank mixed with other active ingredients, such as herbicides or fungicides, as long as the tank’s pH stays low enough, added Marcos Castro, AgBiTech’s vice president of sales and marketing.

Heligen requires a fairly low use rate, ranging from 1 to 2.5 ounces, depending on the crop, with costs landing around $5 to $6 per acre.

Microscopic worms rescue cranberries

  • USDA Agricultural Research Service
  • Oct 19, 2021 Updated Oct 19, 2021

Tiny wormlike organisms called nematodes that attack cranberry pests could offer a natural alternative to using insecticides. 

  • Shawn Steffan

https://1f1e72bdfae6591b8600816cafd353b4.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.htmlhttps://1f1e72bdfae6591b8600816cafd353b4.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.htmlTownNews.com Content Exchange

Nematodes with a taste for “insect innards” may offer cranberry growers a natural alternative to fighting hungry crop pests with chemical insecticides.

Scientists with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service and University of Wisconsin are now exploring the possibility in field trials.

They’ve set their sights on redheaded flea beetles, Sparganothis fruitworms and other cranberry pests that attack the cranberry plant itself or its tart-tasting fruit. Severe infestations can force growers to apply insecticides, ratcheting up their production costs. Developing alternative controls as part of an integrated pest management approach can reduce or replace the need for insecticides, said Shawn Steffan, an entomologist with the Agricultural Research Service Vegetable Crops Research Unit in Madison, Wisconsin.https://1f1e72bdfae6591b8600816cafd353b4.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

For his part, he and UW collaborator Shane Foye are working to formulate a bio-insecticide that’s made of entomopathogenic — “insect-killing” — nematodes. One species they’re particularly excited about came from the self-same environment that cranberries thrive in — the marshland and bogs of central Wisconsin. Cranberry also happens to be the official fruit of the state, which produces 60 percent of the nation’s total crop.

Annually Americans consume 2.3 pounds of cranberries per person, primarily as juice but also in dried fruit snacks and holiday fare such as cranberry relish. However the path from bog to juice bottle can be a perilous one — no thanks to sundry insect pests whose appetites for destruction threaten the crop’s yield, fruit quality or both.

Nature, though, has seen fit to make the pests a favorite food of the nematodes Heterorhabditis georgiana and Oscheius onirici. Both species were found in the acidic wet bogs of central Wisconsin. Interestingly H. georgiana was originally discovered by David Shapiro-Ilan, who is another Agricultural Research Service scientist, in Georgia.

Steffan said, “O. onirici was originally found within caves in Italy, but clearly there are populations making a living in the marshlands of Wisconsin.”

The researchers hope both nematode species will prove to be an especially useful ally to both conventional and organic cranberry growers. Neither species is a threat to people, pets or other vertebrate animals. But what they do to their preferred prey isn’t pretty. After entering a natural body cavity, the nematodes release symbiotic bacteria that liquefy their prey’s internal organs and tissues. That creates a nutritious soup that the nematodes eat. Afterward they mate and deposit eggs inside their host’s remains. Eventually juvenile nematodes wriggle free in search of new hosts to infect, a cycle that lasts as long as their prey does.https://1f1e72bdfae6591b8600816cafd353b4.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

In field trials, spraying a solution of the nematodes onto cranberry beds reduced flea beetle numbers by as much as 93 percent. Average levels of control typically reached 60 percent to 70 percent — equal to two insecticide applications, Steffan said. In related laboratory experiments, O. onirici also proved lethal to the adult and larval stages of the spotted wing drosophila, an invasive species from Asia that’s become an established U.S. pest of many different fruit crops.

Encouraged by the results, the researchers have devised a method of rearing the nematodes by the billions and creating a clean highly concentrated mass of them that can be mixed with water and sprayed onto cranberry plants

“(And) we are trying some side-by-side trials this year involving commercial nematodes,” Steffan said. “This will give us some idea as to how our native Wisconsin nematodes compare to ‘off-the-shelf’ varieties.”

Thank you for reading kmaland.comAt KMA, we attempt to be accurate in our reporting. If you see a typo or mistake in a story, please contact us by emailing kmaradio@kmaland.com.

This article originally ran on agupdate.com.

Development of blight-resistant potato is a staggering breakthrough


Last week saw the launch of a new blight-resistant potato variety that is also resistant to many other diseases.

I believe this news must rank as one of the most important breakthroughs within the field of agricultural science in living memory.

What makes this development all the more memorable is the fact that it has been achieved without the use of genetic modification (GM) and/or genomic editing.

It truly was a case of plant breeders seeking out the native potato strains that they needed in Peru, and taking the project on from there.

Blight-resistant potato

In my opinion, the scale of this breakthrough is truly hard to quantify. Currently, blight-related losses within the international potato sector amount to €8.5 billion.

Meanwhile, the costs associated with the purchase of fungicides to treat the disease come in at a similar value.

So the end result of all this represents a ‘win-win’ scenario, both for growers and those who consume the humble spud.

For the record, one third of the world’s population still rely on potatoes as the main source of energy in their diets.

Commercial scale

The coming years will see if the claims made by the plant breeders for the new potato variety can be verified on a truly commercial scale in countries around the world.

One of the most significant aspects to the work undertaken, has been its total dependence on the plant biodiversity that exists in Peru.

If ever the world needed proof that we do away with native species and the vast diversity within the natural world that is all around us at our peril, this is it.

This plant breeding breakthrough also flies in the face of the likes of Monsanto, which seems to think that GM is the answer to all our problems.

In truth, I am fast coming to the conclusion that GM and all other related sciences could be creating long-term issues for humanity – many, or all of which, could prove very difficult to step back from.

It’s also worth pointing out that the development of the new variety completes the circle, where the humble potato is concerned.

The original tubers were brought into this country from South America almost five centuries ago.

So it is right and fitting that plant breeders went back to that part of the world to solve a problem that has been at the heart of world hunger for so many years.Also Read: Danish pig industry committed to improving maternal linesOPINIONPOTATOES

Bacteria, fungi interactions


Bacteria, fungi interact far more often than previously thought



Unique bioinformatics approaches help understand extent of fungal bacteriome

Los Alamos, N.M., Oct. 19, 2021 – In a novel, broad assessment of bacterial-fungal interactions, researchers using unique bioinformatics found that fungi host a remarkable diversity of bacteria, making bacterial-fungal interactions far more common and diverse than previously known.

“Until now, examples of bacterial-fungal interactions were pretty limited in number and diversity,” said Aaron Robinson, a biologist at Los Alamos National Laboratory and lead author of a new paper describing the research in Nature’s Communications Biology journal. “It had been assumed that bacterial-fungal associations might not be that common. But we found a lot of diverse bacteria that appear to associate with fungi, and we detected those associations at a frequent rate.”

The research contributes to an emerging understanding of the fungal bacteriome, the existence of bacteria both within and in close association with a fungal host, opening up possibilities for studying the interactions more intimately and connecting that research to issues such as ecosystem functioning and climate change impacts.

“This is a starting point to investigate mechanisms of bacterial-fungal interactions at a more intimate level,” said Robinson. “That research will be valuable for understanding what allows bacteria to associate with fungi, and how to best leverage that insight to accomplish goals for the Laboratory, for the Department of Energy, and for society in general. Understanding how these organisms interact with each other and contribute to larger systems is highly valuable in everything from modeling things like climate change to societally beneficial activities such as agricultural or industrial utilization of microbes.”

Researchers screened a total of 294 diverse fungal isolates from four culture collections from Europe, North America, and South America for potential bacterial associates. Collaborations with the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies at Los Alamos allowed researchers to visually examine several of these associations using fluorescence in situ hybridization techniques.

These fluorescence microscopy examinations complemented the screening and confirmed the widespread and variable presence of bacterial associates among diverse fungal isolates and even within the hyphae (fungal tissue) of a single fungal host.

In addition to screening the culture collections, the research team also screened 408 fungal genome sequencing projects from the MycoCosm portal, a repository of fungal genome projects developed and maintained by the Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute.

Bacterial signatures were detected in 79 percent of the examined fungal genome projects. In multiple cases, the authors recovered complete or nearly complete genomes of these bacterial associates. Recovery of these fungal-associating bacterial genomes allowed for comparisons between fungal-associating and free-living bacteria.

Of the 702 total fungal isolates examined by the research team, bacterial associates were found in 88 percent—an unexpected detection rate relative to previous, more limited studies. The results shed light on the complexity and diversity of the fungal bacteriome across the fungal tree of life.

The study’s overview and description of diverse fungal-bacterial associations provides a path forward for understanding the associations in more depth. Continued analysis of the interactions will aid in a more complete understanding of environmental microbiome processes, particularly fungal and bacterial contributions to nutrient cycling, plant health and climate modeling.

Within the context of changing climate conditions, understanding how bacterial-fungal interactions impact plants, animals, and general ecosystem functioning in diverse environments and under diverse conditions, such as drought and warming, will also help predict and potentially manipulate the impacts of these interactions.

About Los Alamos National Laboratory
Los Alamos National Laboratory, a multidisciplinary research institution engaged in strategic science on behalf of national security, is managed by Triad, a public service oriented, national security science organization equally owned by its three founding members: Battelle Memorial Institute (Battelle), the Texas A&M University System (TAMUS), and the Regents of the University of California (UC) for the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration.

Los Alamos enhances national security by ensuring the safety and reliability of the U.S. nuclear stockpile, developing technologies to reduce threats from weapons of mass destruction, and solving problems related to energy, environment, infrastructure, health, and global security concerns.


Communications Biology

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.

Bayer develops herbicides for cassava to tackle weeds and raise yields

12 October 2021Bayer has developed and launched a new crop protection product known as Lagon to help farmers tackle the problem of cassava weeds in cassava and boost yield. Tested on more than 200 trials and demos across Nigeria and Tanzania, users rated Lagon among the best preemergence herbicides for controlling grasses and broadleaf weeds in cassava.

Bayer develops herbicides for cassava to tackle weeds and raise yields
Cassava Farmer, Marcos Antonio Dalevedove; Country Sales Manager, Bayer Nigeria Limited, Temitope Banjo; IITA Director for Development and Delivery, Dr Alfred Dixon; Nigeria Cassava Growers Association representative, Simeon Adetunji during the launch of Lagon for weed control in Cassava in Ibadan.

“The launch of Lagon today provides a big relief to farmers,” said Bayer Nigeria Country Sales Manager, Temitope Banjo. “These are exciting times for cassava farmers, and they need not worry about weeds anymore,” he added.

Weeds are a major challenge to increased cassava productivity in Nigeria and Africa in general, with women spending about 500 hours annually to keep a hectare of cassava weed-free using hoes. The manual method of weed control compromises the health of resource-constrained farmers, and in some cases, children are pulled out of school to support weeding.

When left uncontrolled, weeds compete with cassava for water, nutrients, and space, reducing yields by 40 to 90%. To tackle the menace of weeds, the IITA-managed Cassava Weed Management Project has screened more than 40 preemergence herbicides in the last eight years, both on-station and on-farm. The trials and subsequent demonstrations were conducted in Abia, Benue, Ogun, and Oyo states in Nigeria and in Tanzania.

Across the four states, which represent the key agroecological zones that predominantly grow cassava in Nigeria, cassava yields from Lagon-treated fields were more than double the national average and above 20 tons per hectare. Furthermore, cassava plants treated with Lagon were more robust than those on untreated fields or where the product was not used.

IITA Director for Development and Delivery Alfred Dixon said that the Cassava Weed Management Project team also conducted residue analysis on cassava leaves, stems, and roots. “The residue analysis provided negative results, meaning that Lagon is safe for application on field crops, particularly cassava,” Dixon added.

Farmers who use Lagon commended the Bayer preemergence herbicides for their efficacy.

According to Chichi Ngufan, using Lagon on farmers’ fields was doing “wonders” and helping farmers increase their yields and profits. Ngufan, a cassava commercial seed producer, said the use of Lagon has helped her group increase the size of their cassava farm in Benue.

“This is possible because we now manage weeds in cassava better,” she said, adding that with Lagon, farmers were saving more on weeding costs.

Ngufan called on the government to support the dissemination of Lagon so that more farmers could have access to the product and make more returns from growing cassava.FacebookTwitterEmailShare

Simulation tool predicts pests and disease spread in crops

Future Farming

08-06 | Updated on 19-07 |Crop solutions | Weed/Pest control | NewsFacebookTwitterEmailLinkedInPrint

Just as meteorologists incorporate data into models to forecast weather, ecological scientists are using data to improve forecasting of environmental events - including pest or pathogen spread. - Photo: NCSU/Vaclav Petras
Just as meteorologists incorporate data into models to forecast weather, ecological scientists are using data to improve forecasting of environmental events – including pest or pathogen spread. – Photo: NCSU/Vaclav Petras

North Carolina State University researchers have developed a computer simulation tool to predict when and where pests and diseases will attack crops.

The computer modeling system is called “PoPS”, for the Pest or Pathogen Spread Forecasting Platform. Working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the North Carolina State University (NCSU) researchers created the tool to forecast any type of disease or pathogen, no matter the location.

Model improves by adding data

The system works by combining information on climate conditions suitable for spread of a certain disease or pest with data on where cases have been recorded, the reproductive rate of the pathogen or pest and how it moves in the environment. Over time, the model improves as natural resource managers add data they gather from the field. This repeated feedback with new data helps the forecasting system get better at predicting future spread, the researchers said.

Increasing number of threats to crops

According to NCSU this tool can be put into the hands of a non-technical user to learn about disease dynamics and management, and how management decisions will affect spread in the future. The researchers say the tool is needed as state and federal agencies in the U.S. charged with controlling pests and crop diseases face an increasing number of threats to crops, trees and other important natural resources.

PoPS used to track 8 emerging pests and diseases

Researchers have been using PoPS to track the spread of 8 different emerging pests and diseases. They are improving the model to track spotted lanternfly, an invasive pest in the United States that primarily infests a certain invasive type of tree known as “tree of heaven.” Spotted lanternfly has been infesting fruit crops in Pennsylvania and neighboring states since 2014. It can attack grape, apple and cherry crops, as well as almonds and walnuts.

The study, “Iteratively Forecasting Invasions with PoPS and a Little Help From Our Friends,” was published June 3, 2021, in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.FacebookTwitterEmailLinkedInPrint


Hugo ClaverWeb editor for Future Farming