India: GMO eggplant (brinjal)

Indian farmers can’t wait anymore, they are sowing seeds of GM crops one Bt brinjal at a time

The Modi govt’s nod to field trials of two brinjal varieties comes after years of delayed decisions, leaving farmers to deal with daily risks of agriculture.

BARUN S. MITRA 16 September, 2020 3:41 pm ISThttps://www.facebook.com/plugins/like.php?href=https://theprint.in/opinion/indian-farmers-cant-wait-anymore-they-are-sowing-seeds-of-gm-crops-one-bt-brinjal-at-a-time/502675/&layout=button_count&show_faces=false&width=105&action=like&colorscheme=light&height=21

A brinjal on plant. (Representative image)

Earlier this month, the Narendra Modi government reportedly sanctioned biosafety field trials of two new transgenic varieties of brinjal, developed by a public sector research institute. The news created quite the buzz.

Brinjal is among the most widely available and consumed vegetables in India, after potato, onion and tomato. But a brinjal crop is susceptible to pests, particularly the fruit and shoot borer (FSB), which often affects 50-80 per cent of the crop. Farmers frequently spend over half their input costs on pest control, and insecticides may have to be sprayed 30 to 70 times in a five-month crop cycle.https://b2313382ce6a14505bc21532cd71665f.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

Many farmers spray products derived from naturally occurring soil bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), as a bio-pesticide to control several destructive pests, particularly in vegetable crops. But now, advanced molecular biology tools have enabled scientists to identify certain genes in the bacterium that produce insecticidal proteins that specifically kill a certain group of insect pests, and incorporate them in the desired plant by genetic engineering. When the target insects feed on such transgenic plants, they ingest Bt protein and get killed. Thus, this technology provides a built-in control mechanism against the pests, thereby greatly reducing the need to use chemical insecticides. Bt Brinjal has been developed to achieve this objective.

Also read: GM brinjals are helping Bangladesh farmers earn more, save more, study finds

Bt Brinjal in India 

There are two basic technology platforms offering Bt Brinjal today. One, developed by Maharashtra-based company Mahyco, is built on the gene Cry1Ac, with the event EE-1. This has been commercially grown in Bangladesh since 2013. Another Bt Brinjal technology was indigenously developed by the Indian Agriculture Research Institute (IARI), using the gene Cry1Fa1, with the Event-142.

Bt Brinjal Cry1Ac, EE-1: 2001 to 2010 

  • A preliminary greenhouse evaluation to study growth, development and efficacy of Bt Brinjal was introduced by Mahyco, in 2001.
  • Mahyco shared the technology with three public sector research organisations to deploy it in open-pollinated varieties of brinjal in 2005.
  • Two successive subcommittees evaluated the data generated by the trials, and recommended its environmental release in 2009.
  • In October 2009, the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), while recommending Bt Brinjal’s environmental release, placed the final decision before the government in view of “the very important policy implication at the national level”.

Bt Brinjal Cry1Fa1, Event-142: 2001-2010 

This transgenic Bt Brinjal expressing the gene Cry1Fa1 was developed by IARI in 2001-2004.

  • The technology was transferred to Bejo Sheetal Seeds Pvt Ltd (BSSPL), Jalna in 2005, to conduct biosafety studies as per the regulatory requirement.
  • IARI filed a patent in 2006, for inventing the synthetic Cry1Fa1 gene. The patent was granted in 2010.
  • In 2009, biosafety research level, BRL-I, trials were initiated by BSSPL at three locations with two Bt Brinjal hybrids — Janak Bt and BSS 793 Bt — in Jalna, Varanasi and Guntur.
  • Limited seed production of Bt Brinjal hybrids for BRL-II trials was approved by the GEAC in 2010.

But eventually, the science of both these Bt Brinjals failed the political test. On 9 February 2010, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF) announced an indefinite moratorium on Bt Brinjal following a round of ‘national consultations’. Subsequently, all field trials of the GM crops were stopped in 2013.

Also read: APMC laws had shackled farmers, Modi govt’s ordinance makes them as free as other sectors

Bangladesh picks up where India left off 

In 2009, Bangladesh began tests and trials for Bt Brinjal Cry1Ac with EE-1. It approved the first Bt Brinjal (EE-1) variety for commercial release, with 20 farmers sowing the new seeds in 2013.https://b2313382ce6a14505bc21532cd71665f.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

The year 2018 marked the fifth anniversary of Bt Brinjal in Bangladesh. During its meeting in September 2018, the GEAC noted that nearly 50,000 farmers in Bangladesh were growing Bt Brinjal. Over 27,000 farmers had adopted Bt brinjal in 2017-18, not including the farmers who had saved their own seeds from the previous season.

The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), together with Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI), carried out a randomised control trial among Bt Brinjal and non-Bt Brinjal farmers in Bangladesh in 2018. The key findings showed that net yields were 42 per cent higher for Bt Brinjal farmers. The Bt Brinjal farmers also witnessed a 31 per cent reduction in costs per kg of produce, and a 27.3 per cent increase in gross revenue per hectare.

While the quantity of pesticides used decreased by 39 per cent, the rate of FSB infestation in Bt Brinjal plants was only 1.8 per cent, in contrast to 33.9 per cent of the other.  A report published in 2020, assessed the impact based on a survey of brinjal farmers in five districts. Results indicated that Bt Brinjal provided an average of 19.6 per cent higher yield and 21.7 cent higher revenue compared to non-Bt varieties.

Bangladesh recognises that Bt Brinjal needs to be made available in more varieties suitable for different agro-climatic areas in the country, and in varieties that appeal to local tastes.

Also read: Halt Bt brinjal trials, it is against the national interest, RSS affiliate writes to Modi

Political merry-go-round on GM crops 

Prime Minister Modi’s 2014 claim that there was a possibility of genetic engineering in ancient India raised expectations among many farmers on the prospects of genetically modified (GM) crops. But here is a glance at what really happened to the GM crops.

  • In July 2014, the GEAC recommended experimentation and field trials of a number of GM crops, including brinjal, chickpea, cotton, rice, and mustard.
  • In November 2014, BSSPL sought an NOC from five states for BRL-II field trials of Bt Brinjal, but made no headway.
  • In a written reply during Rajya Sabha’s 2014 winter session, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said, “There is no scientific evidence to prove that GM crops would harm soil, human health and environment… GM crops have beneficial traits… that may help in food security.”
  • By the end of 2016, some companies withdrew their applications for GM crops, which were at different stages of development. By 2018, some other companies had sought permission to defer their trials due to policy uncertainties.
  • In September 2018, the GEAC met to discuss Mahyco’s request to revive large scale field trials of Bt Brinjal. The GEAC sought relevant data on post-commercial release of Bt Brinjal from Bangladesh.
  • In April 2019, reports of unauthorised Bt Brinjal cultivation in Haryana surfaced. Samples tested by government agencies suggested evidence of genetic modification, but did not specify the particular gene involved.
  • Led by the Shetkari Sanghatana, a voluntary farmers network in Maharashtra, farmers and friends came together to contribute Rs 50,000 to compensate Jeevan Saini, a marginal farmer, whose half-acre plot of land allegedly growing Bt Brinjal was uprooted in May 2019.
  • In June 2019, the Shetkari Sanghatana launched a Kisan Satyagraha to demand access to latest technologies, by publicly sowing the unapproved herbicide-tolerant Bt cotton, offering dual protection against herbicides and bollworms, in Maharashtra and Haryana. The protesting farmers promised to sow Bt Brinjal as part of farmers’ “field trial” since the government had stopped all trials.
Jeevan Saini, the farmer from Fatehabad district, Haryana, who was felicitated by groups of farmers from Haryana and Maharashtra | Source: GS Mann, a farmer in Hisar

Also read: Why farmers are still having to protest for their right to sow GM seeds, even in a pandemic

Is there light at the end of the tunnel? 

The second decade of the 21st century, 2011 to 2020, has turned out to be the lost decade for India, as far as agriculture biotechnology is concerned. The GEAC has held only 35 meetings in 10 years, and even recommended trials were not held. This contrasts sharply with the previous decade, when the GEAC held almost 81 meetings, and over a dozen GM crops were in various stages of development.

In May 2020, the GEAC, once again granted permission to BSSPL to conduct BRL-II confined field trials with two transgenic Bt Brinjal hybrids (Event-42), in at least two of the eight designated states, provided the state governments issue NOCs. This is a repeat of the recommendations for confined field trials issued in 2010, and again in 2014, both of which had failed to make any difference on the ground. In September, BSSPL said that it hopes to begin the field trials in April 2021.

This chronology of Bt Brinjal’s development in India suggests that policymakers have merely used the regulatory mechanism to avoid taking a clear decision, focussing on hypothetical risks rather than real ones. The endless demand for trials and tests only suggests that in the name of science, there is an attempt to choke the progress of science and stop its adoption for practical use.

This is a complete reversal of the fundamental legal philosophy of modern civilisation, which holds that one is innocent unless proven guilty. The yardstick now being used for GM crops is that these crops are inherently dangerous, and therefore presumed guilty, unless it can be shown that they are not. But a negative can never be proven.

As any toxicologist knows, it is the dosage that makes a poison.

Increasingly, it is the farmers, who bear the daily risks of agriculture, who are now speaking up in support of technologies that could reduce their risks and improve their wellbeing. It is the farmers who are defying the legal diktat. By taking the risk of sowing unapproved GM crops without any assurance of quality, they are engaging in the largest field trial ever possible. These brave farmers are demonstrating their capacity to take on the risk society is imposing on them by denying them access to new technologies, including GM crops.

Indian farmers are the true representatives of Aatmanirbhar Bharat, and their produce is the original ‘Make in India’, long before these slogans were coined.

The author is an independent policy analyst and the former founder-director of Liberty Institute. He has an interest in agriculture reforms and is working with farmers’ networks on the ground. Views are personal.

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Wildlife & Nature

Scientists Fight Tree-Killing Beetle with Beetle-Killing Wasps

The emerald ash borer is responsible for the destruction of tens of millions of ash trees in 30 states. (istock)
The emerald ash borer is responsible for the destruction of tens of millions of ash trees in 30 states. (istock)

By ecoRI News staff

When the invasive emerald ash borer, a beetle native to Asia, was found in Rhode Island in 2018, it was a sign that most of the state’s mature ash trees were likely to die soon. Now a team of entomologists from the University of Rhode Island is fighting the invader with predatory wasps from its native land in hopes that the region’s next generation of ash trees will survive.

Lisa Tewksbury, director of the URI Biocontrol Laboratory, and her students have been on the lookout for the emerald ash borer for more than a decade, soon after it was first discovered in the United States in Michigan. Now that they know it’s here, they are deploying three species of parasitic wasp from Asia that lay their eggs in the beetle’s eggs or larvae. When the wasp eggs hatch, the wasp larvae consume the beetle eggs and larvae from the inside.

“The beetle doesn’t have any natural enemies in the U.S., so we’re reuniting it with its natural enemies from back where it came from,” Tewksbury said. “We’re using one organism to control another.”

The parasitic wasps — they don’t have common names, but their Latin names are Oobius agrili, Tetrastichus planipennisi, and Spathius galinae — have been extensively tested to ensure that they will only prey upon emerald ash borers. They are being raised at a federal laboratory in Michigan and shipped to Rhode Island as pupae that are about to become adult wasps inside blocks of ash wood, which the URI team delivers to areas where the beetle has previously been found. Once there, the wasps will emerge and lay eggs in beetle larvae in the ash trees nearby.

Tewksbury has a permit from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to release the wasps in targeted locations.

Ash trees make up just 2 percent of forests in Rhode Island, but they are found extensively in parks and along streets throughout the state.

“The emerald ash borer isn’t a huge concern for our forests,” Tewksbury said. “But it will be a concern to people who have ash trees in their yards and on their streets. There are a lot of them in Newport and Providence.”

Last year, Tewksbury released the three parasitic wasps in Hopkinton, near where the beetles were first discovered, and this year they are being released in five additional locations in Burrillville and Cumberland. The last round of releases for this year are taking place this month, and ongoing statewide surveillance for the beetle will indicate where additional wasp releases may take place next year.

Next year will also be the beginning of an effort to determine if the wasps have become established and are doing their job. Tewksbury will peel back the bark of dead and dying ash trees to see if she can find evidence of dead beetle larvae.

“We are resigned to the fact that we’re going to lose most of our larger ash trees, but by doing this biological control effort we’re hoping the wasps can protect the smaller trees so we’ll have some ash left in the future,” Tewksbury said.

Targeted biocontrol efforts such as this are often the most cost-effective and least damaging way of fighting invasive insects, according to Tewksbury. Her lab is involved in testing another predatory wasp for possible future deployment against what she expects will be the state’s next harmful pest, the spotted lanternfly, another tree-killing invasive species from Asia that is expected to arrive in Rhode Island in two or three years.

Queensland: Sterile fruit flies

Sterile fruit flies contribute to reduction in Queensland fruit fly population

Releases of sterile fruit flies at two Australian locations have significantly reduced Queensland fruit fly numbers.

The pilot, which ran from September 2019 to mid-April 2020 in Hillston, NSW and Cobram, VIC involved releasing sterile fruit flies each week from a plane and is part of the Hort Innovation research project – Post Factory Pilot of SITPlus Fly production.*

Cobram agronomist Russell Fox said, “The sterile fruit fly releases have worked well so far and are widely supported by local growers and community. The program is a very useful complement to the regional fruit fly management strategy.”

Goulburn Murray Valley Regional Fruit Fly Coordinator Ross Abberfield said, “The timing of the SITPlus project has been ideal to fit in with our area wide management activity.

“In Cobram, the sterile fruit fly releases contributed to an 83% reduction in Queensland fruit fly activity.”

Plant and Food Research New Zealand Plant and Food Scientist, Lloyd Stringer said, “The rate of capture of wild male Queensland fruit fly in traps is on average 10 times higher in Mooroopna than in Cobram where sterile flies are being used.”

In Hillston, initial analysis indicates wild Queensland fruit fly were detected in very low numbers in town and almost undetected on nearby farms. Residents claimed they were able to eat their backyard fruit for the first time in years.

The project is a pilot that enables grower groups to confidently consider the Sterile Insect Technique, or SIT, for management of Queensland fruit fly. The project is testing efficacy of Queensland fruit fly SIT in the field and rearing sterile flies in localised centres. It’s also testing the development of quality control procedures in the dedicated rearing out centres. The project also underpins economic modelling for future operational Queensland fruit fly SIT use.

Hort Innovation SITPlus Program Director Dan Ryan said, “A well-established method of pest insect control, the sterile insect technique is based on the mass rearing, sterilisation, and release of targeted pest insects. Once released in the environment, the sterile insects’ mate with their wild counterparts which disrupts reproduction and suppresses pest population numbers.”

Ross Abberfield said, “In the Goulburn-Murray Valley, an area-wide management program coordinated through Moira Shire Council has been in place since June 2017. This activity has included the removal of feral fruit trees, abandoned orchards, and neglected urban trees on both public and private land. This non-SIT area-wide management program activity has shown that Queensland fruit fly activity has reduced by 57%.”

Dan Ryan said, “The area-wide program has been an important contribution to achieving Cobram’s outstanding success.”

Season two of the SITPlus Pilot begins in mid-September and will continue through to April 2021.

Publication date: Tue 8 Sep 2020

Diamondback moth oviposition

Science News from research organizations

Diamondback moth uses plant defense substances as oviposition cues

Date:September 10, 2020Source:Max Planck Institute for Chemical EcologySummary:Researchers showed that isothiocyanates produced by cruciferous plants to fend off pests serve as oviposition cues. The scientists identified two olfactory receptors whose sole function is to detect these defense substances and to guide female moths to the ideal sites to lay their eggs. They uncovered the molecular mechanism that explains why some insects that specialize in feeding on certain host plants are attracted by substances that are supposed to keep pests away.Share:    FULL STORY

A research team from the Nanjing Agricultural University in Nanjing, China, and the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, Germany, showed that isothiocyanates produced by cruciferous plants to fend off pests serve as oviposition cues. The plant defense substances serve as odor signals for females of the diamondback moth to lay their eggs on these plants. The scientists identified two olfactory receptors whose sole function is to detect these defense substances and to guide the moths to the ideal oviposition sites. They uncovered the molecular mechanism that explains why some insects that specialize in feeding on certain host plants are attracted by substances that are supposed to keep pests away.

From repellent to attractant

Cruciferous plants, such as cabbage, rape (canola), mustard and horseradish, produce glucosinolates. Upon mechanical damage of the plant tissues, e.g. caused by a chewing insect, glucosinolates are hydrolyzed by the endogenous plant enzyme myrosinase. This leads to the formation of a variety of toxic breakdown products, mainly isothiocyanates, to defend themselves against voracious insects. This defense mechanism is very effective against most herbivores. The diamondback moth Plutella xylostella, however, has evolved mechanisms of its own to outwit this defense: It is able to feed successfully on plants of the cabbage family and make use of the plants for its own reproductive purposes.

“We wanted to know whether the moths use isothiocyanates as odor cues to locate their host plants. In fact, behavioral experiments showed that three isothiocyanates are key signals for female moths to locate and lay eggs on cruciferous plants,” says study leader Shuang-Lin Dong from Nanjing Agricultural University.

Two olfactory receptors specialized on isothiocyanates control egg-laying

The main scientific question was, what are the molecular mechanisms on which female Plutella xylostella moths base their choice of the oviposition site? The researchers therefore analyzed, which olfactory receptors were highly expressed in female moths, and studied the function of these receptors in the frog oocytes. “With this method, we were able to investigate which odors an individual receptor was responding to. We showed that two receptors, OR35 and OR49, responded to the three isothiocyanates that we had previously identified as being crucial for oviposition,” says Markus Knaden from the Max Planck Institute in Jena. These two receptors did not respond to any other plant-related odors or to the sex pheromones of the moths. Presumably, OR35 and OR49 evolved to detect precisely those egg-laying signals. “We were surprised that even two receptors are specifically tuned to the isothiocyanates. The two receptors, however, detect the isothiocyanates with different sensitivities. We hypothesize that the more sensitive receptor could make sure that female moths locate plants from a distance, while the other may help to provide a more accurate detection of the isothiocyanate concentration. This will give the female moths more information about the substrate on which they will lay their eggs,” says Shuang-Lin Dong.

Validation of gene function using CRISPR-Cas9 gene knockout techniques

The researchers used the CRISPR-Cas9 genetic scissors to knock out the genes encoding the two receptors in moths. This method is used to test the function of a specific gene. For egg-laying assays, they used plants of the thale cress Arabidopsis thaliana, a model plant that belongs to the cruciferous plant family. Some of these plants were unmodified and produced isothiocyanates that were attractive to the moths, whereas the others were mutants that were unable to produce isothiocyanates. When one of the two receptors was inactivated, the moths laid considerably fewer eggs on the isothiocyanates-emitting plants. When both receptors were knocked out, the moths were unable to discriminate between unmodified Arabidopsis plants and the mutant plants.

Cheaters in plant-insect interactions

In the course of evolution, plants have developed various strategies to defend themselves against herbivores. A crucial part of plant-insect interaction is chemical communication. “In most cases, it is useful for a plant to communicate to potential herbivores that its defense system is already activated. However, there will be always someone who misuses the communication for its own benefit, like in our case the diamondback moth, which uses a plant defense signal as an attractant and lays eggs and spreads on this plant,” says Markus Knaden. Finding out how these “cheaters” outwit plant defenses and even use these defenses for their own purposes could help improve the control of global crop pests (such as the diamondback moth): “Our results offer various approaches to control this pest: On the one hand, we could use the identified isothiocyanates or other attractive substances as attractants to trap these pests. On the other hand, we could try to develop chemical agents to interrupt or block the perception of the isothiocyanates and thus interfere with the females’ location of their host plants,” summarizes Shuang-Lin Dong.

Further investigations are planned to study whether other insects that attack cruciferous plants also use special receptors to detect isothiocyanates and to locate the plants for oviposition. The results may provide information on the extent to which the perception of these odors by specialized receptors is also conserved in other species.

Story Source:

Materials provided by Max Planck Institute for Chemical EcologyNote: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Xiao-Long Liu, Jin Zhang, Qi Yan, Chun-Li Miao, Wei-Kang Han, Wen Hou, Ke Yang, Bill S. Hansson, Ying-Chuan Peng, Jin-Meng Guo, Hao Xu, Chen-Zhu Wang, Shuang-Lin Dong, Markus Knaden. The Molecular Basis of Host Selection in a Crucifer-Specialized MothCurrent Biology, 2020; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2020.08.047

Cite This Page:

Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology. “Diamondback moth uses plant defense substances as oviposition cues.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 September 2020. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/09/200910120123.htm>.

ARS News ServiceSpotted lanternfly adult and nymphs on a tree branchSpotted lanternfly winged adult and nymphs.ARS Scientists Seek Answers from Spotted Lanternfly DispersalFor media inquiries contact: Autumn Canaday, (202) 669-5480
September 11, 2020The black spots and beautiful colors can be deceiving.At first glance, the Spotted Lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) is a beautiful insect whose colors mimic the beloved ladybug with its polka-dotted outer wings and red hind wing. But this is not the family-friendly insect that people love to see crawling on their wrist or captured in a framed print in a powder room.The Spotted Lanternfly is an invasive species that destroy fruit crops, trees and plants by hopping from plant to plant, crop to crop, and tree to tree. Although native to regions in China, India, and Vietnam, it was first detected in Berks County, Pennsylvania in 2014. Since then, Pennsylvania vineyards have seen considerable damage in high infestation areas and the Mid-Atlantic states of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Virginia and West Virginia have also suffered from its presence. Insecticides are effective at killing the insect on grapevines, but they are expensive and of limited use because of constant re-infestation from the Spotted Lanternfly dispersing from wild hosts to surrounding vineyards.The good thing is that the Spotted Lanternfly isn’t known to bite or sting—but they are known to ruin an agricultural harvest. So, U.S. Department of Agriculture Scientists Dr. Tracy Leskey and Dr. Laura Nixon of the Appalachian Fruit Research Station in Kearneysville, West Virginia, initiated research on the invasive pest to see if they could develop sustainable pest management strategies and use the insect’s dispersal patterns for other prolific specialty crop pests.Leskey and Nixon collected Spotted Lanternfly nymphs and adults from host plants in sites within a quarantine zone in Virginia. They then measured the pest’s vertical climbing and horizontal jumping capacity and evaluated the effect of fluorescent marking powders on the nymph and adult’s mobility and ability to survive. Each color of powder (green, blue, orange, and pink) was tested at least twice per host plant. When the presence of fluorescent powder wasn’t visible, a UV flashlight was shone onto a nymph to confirm fluorescence. To establish baseline vertical walking and horizontal jumping dispersal capacity, Leskey and Nixon also evaluated all mobile life stages using bioassays conducted under field conditions in the quarantine zone.The findings were surprising. Spotted Lanternfly nymphs climbed significantly longer vertical distances compared with adults, while early adults (pre-oviposition period) jumped longer horizontal distances compared with nymphs or late adults (oviposition period) based on single jump measurements. The research also showed that marking nymphs and adults with fluorescent powder has no significant effect on vertical or horizontal movement and did not affect their mortality. Rather, research showed that the pest can be marked with fluorescent powders and retrieved from potted host plants within 24 hours. This means that marking the Spotted Lanternfly with fluorescent powder can serve as an appropriate method for measuring their dispersal in the environment. This can ultimately help researchers understand the Spotted Lanternfly’s migration pattern and find a way to prevent future movement and destruction.Dr. Leskey and Dr. Nixon are currently working to continue their research of Spotted Lanternfly dispersal behavior so they can continue to deliver scientific solutions to national and global agricultural challenges.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 $20 of economic impact.Interested in reading more about ARS research? Visit our news archiveU.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Agricultural Research Service


Aphelenchoides besseyi



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EPPO Datasheet: Aphelenchoides besseyi

Last updated: 2020-07-24


Preferred name:Aphelenchoides besseyi
Authority: Christie
Taxonomic position: Animalia: Nematoda: Chromadorea: Rhabditida: Aphelenchoididae
Other scientific names: Aphelenchoides oryzae Yokoo, Asteroaphelenchoides besseyi (Christie) Drozdovski
Common names in English: rice leaf nematode, rice white-tip nematode, strawberry crimp disease nematode, white-tip nematode
view more common names online…
Notes on taxonomy and nomenclature

The taxonomy used in this datasheet reflects developments suggested by several recent publications, summarised in Decraemer & Hunt (2013), which place Aphelenchoides in the Order Rhabditida, Suborder Tylenchina. This contrasts with the taxonomy nomenclature occasionally used by some authors (such as the CABI Invasive Species Compendium CABI, 2019; Wheeler & Crow, 2020), which place Aphelenchoides in the Order Aphelenchida, Suborder Aphelenchina (Hunt, 1993). Whilst this makes no difference to classification from the level of Superfamily (Aphelenchoidea) to species level (Aphelenchoides besseyi), those studying the species might need to be aware of differences in the literature.EPPO Categorization: A2 list
EU Categorization: RNQP (Annex IV)
view more categorizations online…
EPPO Code: APLOBE HOSTS 2020-07-24 GEOGRAPHICAL DISTRIBUTION 2020-07-24 BIOLOGY 2020-07-24 DETECTION AND IDENTIFICATION 2020-07-24 PATHWAYS FOR MOVEMENT 2020-07-24 PEST SIGNIFICANCE 2020-07-24 PHYTOSANITARY MEASURES 2020-07-24 REFERENCES 2020-07-24 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS 2020-07-24 How to cite this datasheet? Datasheet history 2020-07-24

Matt Hayes:

‘Researchers help inform cassava breeding worldwide’

“Scientists in Cornell’s NextGen Cassava project have uncovered new details regarding cassava’s genetic architecture that may help breeders more easily pinpoint traits for one of Africa’s most vital crops.

Their findings are reported in a study published July 31 in Plant Molecular Biology.

The scientists analyzed large breeding populations measured extensively over successive years and stages of selection in multi-environment field trials in Nigeria. The genome-wide association analysis explored genomic regions most responsible for desirable traits in cassava, a food crop that provides the main source of calories for 500 million people across the globe.

The scientists found more than 40 quantitative trait loci associated with a total of 14 traits, responsible for characteristics such as disease responses, nutritional quality and yield. The traits were classified broadly into four categories – biotic stress, quality, plant agronomy and agro-morphology.

“Our findings provide critical new entries into the catalogue of major loci available to cassava breeders,” said Ismail Rabbi, a molecular geneticist and plant breeder at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and a member of the NextGen project. “These markers should greatly improve cassava research and provide another powerful tool for the breeders’ toolbox.”

“Cassava is an incredibly useful food and industrial crop today and will be more so in the future as climate change reshapes agriculture everywhere, but first we must better understand its complex genome,” said Chiedozie Egesi, NextGen program director and co-author on the study.

Based in the Department of Global Development, the NextGen Cassava Breeding project supports scientists from many disciplines with advanced technologies and methods. The project works to empower smallholder cassava farmers in sub-Saharan Africa by developing, releasing and distributing improved cassava varieties.

Plant diseases and pests like cassava mosaic disease (CMD) and cassava green mite are major constraints to cassava production in Africa, India and across Asia, including Vietnam and Thailand. Infections of CMD can lead to yield losses of 82%, or more than 30 million tons each year.

“A complete understanding of cassava’s genetic architecture is the critical step needed to accelerating genetic improvement and bring lasting benefits to farmers and consumers who depend on this crop for food and income throughout the world,” said Egesi, who’s also a visiting scientist in the Department of Global Development and an adjunct professor of plant breeding and genetics in the School of Integrative Plant Science, in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

While the findings revealed novel genomic regions, it also revealed additional markers associated with previously measured traits.

Data from the study was made freely available through several commercial genotyping service vendors. The scientists plan further studies using germplasm from other regions, including East Africa and Latin America, which they say should bolster the catalogue of major effect loci available for molecular breeding.

Study co-authors include Cornell adjunct professor Jean-Luc Jannink and researchers from IITA and the National Root Crops Research Institute in Nigeria. Researchers from the Boyce Thompson Institute and the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agriculture Research Service also contributed.

NextGen Cassava is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and by UK Aid, a British government initiative.

Matt Hayes is associate director for communications for Global Development in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.”

By Matt Hayes for Cornell University

Publication date: Thu 27 Aug 2020

cover cropsJosh HiemstraPLANTING GREEN: Seventy-one percent of farmers responding to a national cover crop survey reported they had better weed control by planting green, and 68% reported better soil moisture management even during a wet spring.

National survey reveals farmers like cover crops

Survey documents a wide range of benefits as acreage expands.

Fran O’Leary | Aug 20, 2020

“Many U.S. farmers have turned to cover crops as part of their strategy to improve soil health while reducing input costs and maintaining yields,” reports Mike Smith, who managed the national survey for the nonprofit organization Conservation Technology Information Center.

Survey participants averaged 465 acres in cover crops in 2019, an increase of 38% in four years. The USDA Census of Agriculture found a 50% increase in cover crop acreage during the five-year period between 2012 and 2017.https://tpc.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

Multiple benefits

“Farmers are using cover crops for a variety of reasons, and many have tried new approaches to cover cropping,” Smith says. “This year’s survey also indicated that some of the concerns that many growers have had about the effects of cover crops on planting dates in a wet year turned out not to be true. In fact, in many cases, cover crops helped farmers plant earlier in the very wet spring of 2019.”

Despite the crippling rainfall that significantly delayed planting across much of the country in 2019, more than 90% of farmers participating in the survey reported that cover crops allowed them to plant earlier or at the same time as fields without cover crops. Among those who had “planted green,” seeding cash crops into growing cover crops, 54% said the practice helped them plant earlier than on other fields.

These findings are among several new insights from the 2019-20 National Cover Crop Survey, conducted by CTIC with financial support from the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program and the American Seed Trade Association. These organizations have worked together on several past national cover crop surveys, with the first survey dating back to 2012.

The 2019-20 survey, which includes perspectives from 1,172 farmers representing every state, is the first by SARE, CTIC and ASTA to include detailed exploration of planting green — a tactic employed by 52% of the respondents — as well as crop insurance use among cover croppers and the impact of cover crops on the profitability of horticultural operations.

According to Rob Myers, regional director of Extension programs for North Central SARE, “Many farmers are finding that cover crops improve the resiliency of their soil, and the longer they use cover crops, the greater the yield increases and cost savings that are reported by producers.”

The survey shows a majority of farmers are buying cover crop seed from cover crop seed companies and retailers.

“We are pleased to see farmers appreciate the expertise of cover crop seed companies, with 46% saying they buy from them and another 42% buying from retailers,” says Jane DeMarchi with ASTA. “Professionally produced cover crop seed is grown for seed from the start and has been selected, harvested, cleaned and tested for performance. The study shows farmers are using a range of cover crop seed and mixes to address their individual needs, with 46% paying $15 or under per acre.”

Of the 1,172 farmers who provided responses in the 2019-20 survey, 81% were commodity producers (corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton), and 19% categorized themselves as horticultural producers.

Following are some highlights from the survey.

Higher yields, lower costs

The previous five national cover crop surveys sponsored by SARE, CTIC and ASTA all reported yield boosts from cover crops, most notably in the drought year of 2012 — soybean yields were 11.6% improved following cover crops, and corn yields were 9.6% better.

In 2019, when wet early conditions prevailed across much of the corn and soybean regions, yield gains were more modest but still statistically significant. Following the use of cover crops, soybean yields improved 5% and corn yields increased 2% on average, while spring wheat yields improved 2.6%.

Many farmers reported economic benefits from cover crops beyond yield improvements. Of farmers growing corn, soybeans, spring wheat or cotton, the following percent had savings on production costs with fertilizers and/or herbicides:

  • Soybeans: 41% saved on herbicide costs and 41% on fertilizer costs
  • Corn: 39% saved on herbicide costs and 49% on fertilizer costs
  • Spring wheat: 32% saved on herbicide costs and 43% on fertilizer costs
  • Cotton: 71% saved on herbicide costs and 53% on fertilizer costs

While cover crop seed purchase and planting do represent an extra cost for farmers, most are finding ways to economize on cover crop seed costs. Whereas earlier surveys from 2012 and 2013 reported on a median cover crop seed cost of $25 per acre, most farmers reported paying less in 2019.

Of the responding farmers, 16% paid only $6 $10 per acre for cover crop seed, 27% paid $11 to $15 per acre, 20% paid $16 to $20 per acre, and 14% paid $21 to $25 per acre. Only about one-fourth paid $26 or more per acre, according to the report.

Planting green

Planting green refers to planting a cash crop such as corn, soybeans or cotton into a still-living cover crop, and then terminating it soon after with herbicides, a roller-crimper or other methods. In this year’s survey, 52% of farmers planted green into cover crops on at least some of their fields. In the 2016-17 report, 39% of respondents had planted green.

Of the farmers planting green:

  • 71% reported better weed control
  • 68% reported better soil moisture management, which is particularly valuable during a wet spring

The majority of farmers said levels of early-season diseases, slugs and voles — often feared as the potential downsides of planting green into cover crops — were about the same or better after planting green into cover crops. Though many farmers noted they did not have problems with voles, several pointed out challenges with cutworms when planting green.

The top two reasons farmers plant cover crops:

  1. Most use cover crops to improve soil structure or soil health.
  2. Many plant cover crops to improve weed management.

The majority of farmers responding to the survey said they plant cereal rye as a cover crop. Radishes are the second most popular cover crop. But when they are using a mix, radishes are the No. 1 most planted cover crop, followed closely by a rye mix. Half of respondents say they are increasing the number of crops in their cover crop mix.

For the full survey report, including past years’ survey reports, visit sare.org/covercropsurvey.

Farm Weekly

Russian wheat aphid infiltrates south east

26 Aug 2020, 10 a.m.Cropping NewsAaDiscolouration and streaking on a wheat leaf caused by the exotic cereal pest, Russian wheat aphid.

 Discolouration and streaking on a wheat leaf caused by the exotic cereal pest, Russian wheat aphid.

A PEST never before seen in Western Australia has been detected on the south east coast of the State.

A sighting of Russian wheat aphid, which was discovered in South Australia in 2016 and subsequently in Victoria, parts of New South Wales and Tasmania, has been confirmed in two wheat crops north of Esperance.

Grain growers and consultants have been urged to survey cereal crops and grassy weeds for aphids and report any activity.

As it is difficult to distinguish between aphid species, landholders and consultants are encouraged to report all aphid activity via the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development’s (DPIRD) MyPestGuide Reporter app.

DPIRD chief plant biosecurity officer Sonya Broughton said they had been working with industry to ensure it was well prepared in the event the pest was found in WA.

“Department officers have been working with stakeholders and the broader research community across Australia over several years to minimise the impact of this pest, as it has become broadly established across Australia,” Dr Broughton said.

“A lot has been learned from the research and growers’ experiences interstate about how cereal crops respond to Russian wheat aphid and how best to manage the pest.

“Crop monitoring by landholders and delimiting surveillance by the department will help us to determine the extent of spread of the pest in WA and what actions are required.”

The National Management Group, comprising all Australian governments, Grain Producers Australia and Plant Health Australia, determined in 2016 that the pest was not technically feasible or cost-beneficial to eradicate from Australia.

Eradication in WA is unlikely due to the biology of the pest and its ability to spread on the wind.

The crops where the detection was made will be sprayed to contain the pest, while further surveillance is undertaken.

Dr Broughton said inspecting the edges of wheat, barley and oat crops, where pests often colonise first, or where plants are under stress and looking for damage near the base of newly emerged leaves was most effective.

“Symptoms could look like herbicide, thrips, mite or wheat streak damage,” she said.

“Look for a noticeable loss of green colouration across the crop and, on closer inspection, white, yellow, purple or red streaking, leaf curling, stunted plant growth and loss of vigour.”

As Russian wheat aphids are only about two millimetres long, pale yellowish green with a fine waxy coating, a hand lens or smartphone macro lens may be useful.

Chemical permits are available to control Russian wheat aphids in grains crops, with more information available from the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority’s website.

Dear friends and colleagues,

I want to share with you an open-access book that I co-edited for the Earthscan Food and Agricultural series of the publisher Taylor and Francis/Routledge.

The book is entitled “Transforming Agriculture in Southern Africa”. It contains 34 short chapters written by experts and covers a wide range of topics across scientific fields dealing with agriculture of the smallholder farmer.

The book targets Southern Africa but the chapters are designed to be of importance where ever smallholder farmers are fighting for food security and survival.

The book can be downloaded as a pdf file or read online in order to save space on the computer.

The Link:       https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=https-3A__www.taylorfrancis.com_books_e_9780429401701&d=DwID-g&c=Cu5g146wZdoqVuKpTNsYHeFX_rg6kWhlkLF8Eft-wwo&r=20cHrmWg3G9lvuF1XJ0DAVTU8QbZGlMPZmMplM_ZfXU&m=2nE3aWaVBmOKJun642gNsk6je4V0RG1jcd6z56IyIDE&s=XApFy5Tvt8DCmUqsZKLsFDAGckvFsFJQDoPn0fjzcXU&e=

Please send this link to your colleagues and if you have access to Newsletters of organizations working in international development in agriculture please forward it to them too.

I hope you can use the book in your work and maybe even in classes for students.

Best regards

Richard Sikora