Posts Tagged ‘IPM Innovation Lab’


Posted: Jun 09, 2015 6:07 AM CST Updated: Jun 09, 2015 6:11 AM CST

BLACKSBURG (Virginia Tech) – A Virginia Tech-led program working in Nepal has switched gears from development work to disaster relief after the recent earthquakes.The agricultural development program provided seed to farmers for fast-growing vegetable crops and distributed plastic sheeting to meet people’s need for shelter. The sheeting can later be used to set up greenhouses.”With the use of fast-growing vegetables such as dwarf beans, pumpkin, radishes, and mustard greens, farmers can quickly get produce that they can then eat or sell, making them less dependent on handouts,” said Muni Muniappan, director of the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Integrated Pest Management program. “The work is being carried out by our partner organization, iDE-Nepal, and builds on work that we started.”

Materials distributed since the April 25 earthquake covered 457 households in the Lalitpur and Kavre districts in Nepal’s central region.

On May 12, a team from the Virginia Tech-led project had just completed distributing seed packets in the area when the second earthquake struck. “We had just distributed seeds and conducted a training that morning,” recounted Sulav Paudel, the local Integrated Pest Management coordinator. “I was traveling in a van, and our driver was having a hard time controlling the vehicle. We saw an old house on the side of the road crumble right in front of us. Fortunately no one from the area was hurt.”

The integrated pest management program, which dates to 1993, has been active in Nepal since 2005, helping farmers grow high-value horticultural crops without using synthetic pesticides. The program introduced such environmentally friendly practices as using drip irrigation, Trichoderma (a beneficial fungus), biofertilizers, biopesticides, staking, mulching, and pheromone and soap-based insect traps.

Nepalese women’s farming groups have also benefited, with members selling their vegetable crops and earning 50 to 250 percent more by using new techniques.

Plans for the coming months include helping nurseries in the area produce seedlings for crops that take more time to reach maturity but will produce for longer, such as tomato, chili peppers, cabbage, cauliflower, and cucumber.

“We hope that our contributions in the realm of agriculture can help the resilient Nepalese people quickly return to some semblance of normalcy,” Muniappan said.

The agricultural development program is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and managed by the Office of International Research, Education, and Development.

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 240 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $513 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.

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Virginia Tech has won a new $18 million, five-year grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) for a research program that will work to raise the standard of living of people around the world through environmentally sound agricultural practices as part of Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative. The Feed the Future Innovation Lab (formerly Collaborative Research Support Program) for Integrated Pest Management will conduct research and extension activities with farmers, counterpart universities, and host-country government research institutes to implement ecologically sustainable pest and disease control strategies. The predecessor programs to this new award have been led by Virginia Tech University for the past 21 years. USAID recently announced that Virginia Tech would once again lead the program, a move that represents a vote of confidence in the work that has been ongoing since 1993. The new program will have a strong foundation in areas such as sustainable intensification, ecological service provision, ecological research, and empowerment of women farmers.

The new Innovation Lab, managed by Virginia Tech’s Office of International Research, Education, and Development, will commit its core resources to Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania in Africa and to Bangladesh, Burma, Cambodia, Nepal, and Vietnam in Asia.

The Asian arm of the program will include two main sub-programs: one focused on rice in Burma and Cambodia, and a second on horticultural crops in Cambodia, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Vietnam. The Nepal program will additionally address integrated pest management for grains and climate change impacts.

The projects in eastern Africa will focus on innovative crop protection research for increased production and preservation of high-priority Feed the Future staple crops like maize, wheat, and chickpea in Ethiopia; rice and maize in Tanzania; and high-value vegetables in Kenya and Tanzania. The program will also research and implement new strategies to control existing and emergent pest infestations in countries where farmers with limited resources are predicted to be heavily affected by climate variability.

Muniappan headshotDr. Rangaswamy (Muni) Muniappan is the Principal Investigator of the IPM Innovation Lab. As a world-renowned specialist in tropical economic entomology, biological control of insect pests and weeds, and integrated pest management, Muniappan has devoted his life’s work to improving conditions for farmers in the developing world. In his eight years at the helm of the IPM Innovation Lab, Muniappan has made considerable contributions: he initiated the development of crop-specific “packages”—easy-to-use sets of technical methods for a given crop; he developed partnerships with private sector organizations; he encouraged scaling up through the dissemination of information via a market systems approach as well as through national extension organizations and NGOs; and he actively worked to promote South-South partnerships for capacity building. His work on the papaya mealybug in India alone brought about economic benefits of well over $500 million, saving the livelihood of thousands of farmers. Not only has Muniappan contributed through program management and research, he has also served in management positions for international scientific bodies. As an honorary member of the International Organization for Biological Control (IOBC), he was instrumental in establishing the IOBC global working groups on Chromolaena in 1988 and on Parthenium in 2009. As chairman of the global working group on Chromolaena, he conducted international workshops in Africa, Asia and Australia from 1988 to 2006. Muniappan has co-written and edited two textbooks: Biological Control of Tropical Weeds Using Arthropods (2009), published by Cambridge University Press, and Arthropod Pests of Horticultural Crops in Tropical Asia (2012), by CABI . While managing the IPM Innovation Lab, Muniappan has mentored dozens of young scientists in developing countries, and continued his own research—making discoveries about invasive pests and publishing his findings. This research has made him a well-regarded scientist of international stature, called on by governments around the world to consult on invasive pests.Dr. Muniappan is an International Association for the Plant Protection Sciences (IAPPS) Governing Board Member and Region XIII Coordinator: North America.


Brhane image1Dr. Brhane Gebrekidan is the Africa Program Manager of the IPM Innovation Lab. He is also an IAPPS Governing Board Member and is Region V Coordinator: East Africa. Gebrekidan has over 40 years of Ethiopian, African, and global experience in agricultural research, education, technology transfer, and project management. A plant breeder, Gebrekidan has developed new varieties of sorghum and maize for different ecological zones across Ethiopia. Gebrekidan brings a wealth of experience in research, teaching, and management. He has taught courses in plant breeding, genetics, biometry, and cropping systems at the former Alemaya College of Agriculture at Addis Ababa University (now Haramaya University). He is a founding fellow, vice president, and board member of the Ethiopian Academy of Sciences. He has served as the founding editor of the Ethiopian Journal of Agricultural Sciences, as the chairman of the Agriculture Working Group of the Ethiopian Academy of Sciences, and as vice-chair of the Ethiopian Association of Agricultural Professionals. He is also vice-chair of the Professional Advisory Group of Colleges of Agriculture of Ethiopian Public Universities, and serves as an advisor to the Agricultural Transformation Agency of Ethiopia. Gebrekidan was director of the IPM CRSP from 1994 to 2002. He has also served as chief of party and senior research advisor for the USAID-funded Amhara Micro-enterprise development, Agricultural Research, Extension and Watershed Management (AMAREW) project based in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia. Gebrekidan’s other management experience includes stints as the associate program director of the International Sorghum and Millet CRSP (INTSORMIL), the Ethiopian national team leader and coordinator for sorghum and millet for International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), maize breeder and team leader for Eastern and Southern Africa under the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), and Head of the Plant Sciences Department of Alemaya College of Agriculture at Addis Ababa University. As leader of both the Ethiopian and eastern and southern Africa regional sorghum/maize programs, he has worked closely for over two decades with the Ethiopian Institute for Agricultural Research and the other national research institutes in the region. Throughout his career, Gebrekidan has devoted himself to promoting good practices and policies in maize, sorghum, and millet improvement, and agricultural development in general.

Dr. E. A. “Short” Heinrichs is the Asia Program Manager of the IPM Innovation Lab. Heinrichs is a world-renowned specialist in rice entomology, host plant resistance to insects, and integrated pest management. He has had long experience in agricultural development programs in Asia, South America, and Africa, and has conducted collaborative research with national agricultural research systems in 36 countries. His experience with IPM is both broad and deep. He served as director of the IPM CRSP from 2002-2005, and has held IPM-related management positions with a number of international development organizations, serving as the interim coordinator of the Global IPM Facility of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), heading up the entomology department for a decade at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), and serving for six years as entomologist at the Africa Rice Center in Côte d’Ivoire. He also served as the associate director of the USAID-funded Sorghum, Millet and Other Grains Collaborative Research Support Program (the INTSORMIL CRSP) for eight years. He has consulted on IPM with international agencies, including USAID, the World Bank, and the African Development Bank. Heinrichs has published about 300 peer-reviewed scientific articles and authored or co-authored ten books, including Biology and Management of Rice Insects (in Asia), published in 1994 by Wiley, and Rice-Feeding Insects and Selected Natural Enemies in West Africa, published in 2004 by IRRI with the West Africa Rice Development Association. In the teaching and research realm, Heinrichs has taught entomology at four universities in the United States and the Philippines. He developed the IRRI Rice IPM Training Program and has worked with farmer field schools in order to spread new agricultural techniques. Where appropriate materials weren’t available, he created his own, for example, at IRRI, co-authoring IRRI training modules and then working to implement them. Heinrichs is associate director emeritus and research professor in the department of entomology at the University of Nebraska and IAPPS Secretary General, a position he has held for eleven years.





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BLACKSBURG, Va., Aug. 22, 2014 – An invasive weed poses a serious and frightening threat to farming families in Ethiopia, but scientists from a Virginia Tech-led program have unleashed a new weapon in the fight against hunger: a tiny, speckled beetle.

The weed, called parthenium, is so destructive that farmers in the east African nation have despairingly given it the nickname “faramsissa” in Amharic, which, translated, means “sign your land away.” Farmers have doused the weed in pesticides and ripped it out with their hands, but it has only spread further.

After a decade-long effort, scientists from the Integrated Pest Management Innovation Lab released a parthenium-eating beetle called Zygogramma bicolorata.

“Extensive research has shown us that the beetle eats and breeds only on parthenium leaves,” said Muni Muniappan, director of the Integrated Pest Management Innovation Lab, a program funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development. “It’s been tested in Australia, India, South Africa, and Mexico with similar results.”

Parthenium is native to the Americas, where a suite of natural enemies that includes the Zygogramma beetle keeps the weed in check. But in the early 1970s, parthenium entered Ethiopia in shipments of food aid from the United States. With no serious contenders, the plant flourished.

In the past three decades, parthenium has become the second most common weed in Ethiopia, suppressing the growth of all other plants and wreaking havoc in the fields and gardens of smallholder farmers.

“The plant is an aggressive invader. A single plant can produce 25,000 seeds and completes its life cycle in six to eight weeks,” said Wondi Mersie, a Virginia State University professor and principal investigator of the Virginia Tech-led project. “It displaces native species, affects human health, and negatively impacts quality of life.”

Parthenium is poisonous. People who come into contact with it can suffer from skin irritations, bronchial asthma, and fever. Animals that eat it can experience intestinal damage, and their milk and meat becomes bitter and useless.

The Innovation Lab built a quarantine facility in 2007 to ensure that the pea-sized beetle had eyes for parthenium alone. Testing under quarantine is one of the crucial steps involved in biological control, a rigorously tested method where an invasive species’ natural enemies are used to regulate it.

“Opportunities for biocontrol in Ethiopia are huge, and there would be enormous benefits,” said Arne Witt, a biologist not associated with the Virginia Tech program who works with UK-based nonprofit CABI.

After a laborious process involving many agencies and much red tape, Zygogramma bicolorata was approved for release. Researchers collaborated with farmers, local government officials, and extension agents to construct a breeding facility and increase the number of beetles.

Finally, on July 16, the Innovation Lab team joined a group of about 30 scientists and farmers in Wollenchitti, Ethiopia, to release the insects. The group moved from parthenium patch to parthenium patch, dumping beetles from containers.

Ethiopian researchers will monitor the sites and assess the impact. As a second step, scientists are poised to release a stem-boring weevil that will join Zygogramma. But even these measures will not eliminate parthenium from Ethiopian farmland.

“Biocontrol is control, not eradication,” said Witt. “But it means that a farmer sprays less pesticide. We need an integrated strategy, and biological control is the most cost-effective strategy – let’s embrace it.”

The Integrated Pest Management Innovation Lab is managed by the Office of International Research and Education at Virginia Tech.

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 225 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $496 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.

Written by Kelly Izlar

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At a Virginia Tech-led conference in Nepal, agriculture experts learn that employing Trichoderma can save millions of people from disease, save billions of dollars in crop loss, and safeguard the environment by reducing toxic pesticide use.

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