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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.

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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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IPM INNOVATION LAB

Feed the Future Lab for Integrated Pest Management

 

 

 

IPM Innovation Lab Call for Concept Notes
Call for Concept Notes:
1. IPM for exportable fruit crops in Vietnam
The USAID Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Integrated Pest Management at Virginia Tech invites the submission of concept notes from U.S. universities, CGIAR institutions, and host country institutions to compete to lead the IPM for Exportable Fruit Crops in Vietnam. Concept notes will be reviewed and may lead to an invitation to submit a full proposal.
U.S. universities as defined under Section 296(d) of Title XII of the Foreign Assistance Act, CGIAR, and host country institutions are eligible to apply as the lead institution for a period of 4.5 years. Total funding (single award) is $0.8 million. Collaboration or partnerships with relevant and appropriate host country organizations, other universities, the CGIAR system, and/or development community partners is required.
Concept notes for IPM for exportable fruit Crops in Vietnam are due January 30, 2015. For complete information see: http://goo.gl/oJ2kuv

2. Biological control of the invasive weed Parthenium hysterophorus in East Africa
The USAID Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Integrated Pest Management at Virginia Tech invites the submission of concept notes from U.S. universities, CGIAR institutions, and host country institutions to compete to lead the Biological control of the invasive weed Parthenium hysterophorus in East Africa. Concept notes will be reviewed and may lead to an invitation to submit a full proposal.
U.S. universities as defined under Section 296(d) of Title XII of the Foreign Assistance Act, CGIAR, and host country institutions are eligible to apply as the lead institution for a period of 4.5 years. Total funding (single award) is $0.75 million. Collaboration or partnerships with relevant and appropriate host country organizations, other universities, the CGIAR system, and/or development community partners is required.
Concept notes for Biological control of the invasive weed Parthenium hysterophorus in East Africa are due January 30, 2015.

For complete information see: http://goo.gl/oJ2kuv
The Virginia Tech IPM Innovation Lab is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development under cooperative agreement AID-OOA-L-15-00001.
Copyright © 2014 Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Integrated Pest Management, All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:
Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Integrated Pest Management
Office of International Research, education, and Development (OIRED)
526 Prices Fork Rd (0378)
Blacksburg, VA 24061

 

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Muni Muniappan wins award for work in tropical agriculture

 

Saving the papaya industry in southern India. Discovering an invasive species in Senegal and Nepal. Connecting researchers in developing countries. These are some of the accomplishments of entomologist Rangaswamy “Muni” Muniappan that caught the attention of the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development and that won him the organization’s 2014 award for scientific excellence.

Muniappan received the BIFAD Award for Scientific Excellence today in Des Moines, Iowa. It is presented each year by the presidentially appointed body that governs U.S. foreign assistance in agriculture.

Muniappan is director of the Integrated Pest Management Innovation Lab, a venture that works in developing countries to achieve three vital aims: minimize crop losses, increase farmer income, and decrease pesticide use. Muniappan, a longtime expert in the study of insects that benefit or harm humans, leads a multimillion dollar research portfolio of projects that includes partners from 16 American universities and 51 overseas organizations.

Muniappan discovered the papaya mealybug in Asia and helped employ biological control to eradicate it, which restored the livelihoods of thousands of farmers on the Asian subcontinent. This translated to an economic benefit of more than $1 billion over five years, according to a study published in the Journal of Crop Protection.

His discovery of the tomato leafminer (Tuta absoluta) in Senegal allowed experts to be warned so that preventive biological control measures could be taken for a pest that likely threatens all sub-Saharan tomato farmers.

Muniappan has created incentives for scientists to work together across national boundaries. He recently brought together scientists from South Asia and Central America in a conference on invasive species in Senegal.

Muniappan’s achievements also include control of such pests as the pink hibiscus mealybug, the fruit-piercing moth, the red coconut scale, the banana weevil, and the Asian cycad scale. He has worked to control weeds including the Siam weed, lantana, and the ivy gourd. He has been instrumental in establishing working groups for the weeds chromolaena and parthenium within the International Organization for Biological Control.

Muniappan’s career includes 36 years spent in Guam; a stint as a Fulbright Research Scholar in India; a UN Food and Agriculture Organization consultant in the Maldives, Palau, and Vanuatu; and a visiting professorship at the University of Guyana.

An honorary member of the International Organization for Biological Control since 2010, Muniappan has published journal articles in the Journal of Economic Entomology and Annals of the Entomological Society of America.

Funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, the innovation lab is managed by Virginia Tech’s Office of International Research, Education, and Development.

Related articles:
1. Speckled beetle key to saving crops in Ethiopia
http://www.vtnews.vt.edu/articles/2014/08/082214-outreach-oiredspeckledbeetle.html
2. Halting crop destruction in India saves up to $309 million
http://www.vtnews.vt.edu/articles/2014/01/012214-outreach-oiredindiasaveddollars.html
3. Virginia Tech research program confirms presence of invasive insect in Senegal
http://www.vtnews.vt.edu/articles/2012/09/092812-oired-tuta.html
4. Virginia Tech entomologist helps Asian farmers fend off papaya mealybug
http://www.vt.edu/spotlight/innovation/2012-10-15-india/mealybug.html

 

 

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Researchers in Indonesia are releasing the parasitic wasp Anagyrus lopezi in an attempt to save cassava crops from destructive mealybugs.

Image credit: CIAT International Center for Tropical Agriculture | http://bit.ly/1B6NA9p
Rights information: http://bit.ly/otwhKG

INSIDE SCIENCE NEWS SERVICE

Last-ditch effort to aims to save Indonesia’s cassava cash crop.

Originally published: Sep 24 2014 – 9:30am
By: Ker Than, Contributor
(Inside Science) — Scientists today released 2,000 South American parasitic wasps in Indonesia as part of a project aimed at thwarting an invasive insect pest that is devastating the country’s cassava food crop.

The wasps were released into a small, confined field, enabling scientists to assess their performance under local environmental conditions.

“Today’s release constitutes the start of what could eventually become a nationwide release campaign,” said Kris Wyckhuys, an entomologist at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, a Colombia-based nonprofit that is helping organize the release. The technique has been used, with success, to protect cassava in other countries.

“Once the wasps have completed a couple of generations in the field cages and perform well, the cages could be opened and a full field release can be initiated,” Wyckhuys said.

The use of the parasitic wasps to control cassava mealybugs is a textbook case of classical biological control, in which the natural enemies of a pest are imported from its native country to slow its spread. Edwin Rajotte, an entomologist at Pennsylvania State University in University Park, said that while there are famous situations where classical biological control has not gone according to plan – the introduction of cane toads in Australia is one – the technique’s benefits outweigh its risks.

“A natural enemy has evolved with the pest in its home range, so it is adapted to efficiently seek and parasitize the pest. And they are usually able to move with the pest population as it invades new areas,” said Rajotte, who is not involved in the Indonesia project. “Pests are also not likely to develop resistance to a natural enemy.”

Cassava, also called manioc and yuca, is a bush-like plant that is originally from South America. Its tubers and leaves are now a major food source in many parts of the world, especially Africa and Southeast Asia.

Indonesia is a major cassava producer, and plants roughly one million hectares of the crop every year. In recent years, however, a pill-shaped insect known as the cassava pink mealybug has been ravaging the country’s crops. Also from South America, the mealybug is one of the most destructive cassava pests in the world, capable of reducing cassava yields by up to 84 percent. It kills cassava plants by sucking on their sap, depriving them of vital nutrients and water.

Chemical insecticides have proven ineffective against the mealybug because its body is covered in a protective wax coating. So to slow the mealybug’s spread in Asia, scientists have recruited a natural enemy from its homeland, the tiny Anagyrus lopezi wasp.

“Cassava is originally from South America, so it makes sense that the crop’s pests come from there too,” Wyckhuys said.

About two millimeters long, the parasitic wasp lays its eggs inside the mealybug’s body. When the larvae hatch, they eat their way out of the mealybugs, slowly mummifying and killing them. Scientists estimate that a single female wasp can kill up to 200 mealybugs during the two to three weeks that it lives.

The A. lopezi wasp was first exported to fight mealybug infestations in sub-Saharan Africa in the 1980s, with spectacular results. Scientists estimate the wasps saved about U.S. $20 billion in damages to the cassava industry there.

Since then, however, the mealybug has spread to many parts of Southeast Asia, probably by hitchhiking on infected cassava as it was transported across countries and continents.

“Farmers, traders and middlemen often source planting material from one cassava-growing area to another, and more often than not, they do so without given proper care and attention to mealybug-infestation,” Wyckhuys said.

The Indonesia experiment will mark the second time the wasp has been purposely recruited to fight the mealybugs in Southeast Asia. In 2010, more than a quarter-million wasps were released in Thailand, where they have done a “relatively good job” fighting the mealybug infestation there, Wychkuys said. He noted that occasional outbreaks are reported in large cassava plantations.

Rangaswamy Muniappan, director of the Integrated Pest Management Innovation Lab at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, which is a key partner in the Indonesia release operation, stressed that before being released, the wasps were kept in quarantine to ensure that they fed only on cassava mealybugs and posed no threat to humans, animals or other insects.

“That has been proven, and the Indonesian government has given permission for this field release,” Muniappan said.

Scientists say that once a full deployment is begun, it should take about a year and a half for the wasps to reduce the mealybug population down to about 15 percent of its current level.

“At that point, they will no longer be of concern,” Muniappan said, “because they won’t be causing much economic damage.”

Ker Than is a freelance writer living in the Bay Area. He tweets at @kerthan.

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