Editors, note: I encourage IAPPS Blog readers to read the report of the PestNet Review and send your comments and suggestions to Grahame Jackson, author of the letter below. It would be great if the PestNet activity could be expanded globally to provide services to Africa and other regions.  Do you have ideas as to how this might be achieved? Also,do you have suggestions as to how IAPPS can contribute to the PestNet activities? If so, contact Grahame and me. 


E.A. “Short” Heinrichs

IAPPS Secretary General



Dear Everyone

Geoff Norton has completed the PestNet Review.

I am attaching the report, and I have also put it on the PestNet website, so you can find it at www.pestnet.org   Click on the menu on the left side – second from the bottom.

The moderators want to thank Geoff for his efforts, and also the many PestNet members who provided comment. The report is a milestone for PestNet: it provides a very useful synthesis of PestNet’s origin and development over the years, members’ opinions of the service and use statistics, and suggestions how the service might be improved. The report has a very complete 3-page summary.
We are keen to have feedback from you, and in particular welcome any thoughts that you have on future options, some of which concern funding, the scale of Pestnet globally, ways of improving the email service and the website, and how other sites might be used to complement Pestnet activities.
We look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards
PestNet moderators

Grahame Jackson
24 Alt street
Queens Park
NSW 2022

Phone: 612 9387 8030
Fax: 612 9387 8004
Mobile: 61 412 994 206
Skype: gvhjackson



Press Trust of India | Washington April 22, 2014 Last Updated at 07:12 IST

Observing that climate change is altering the planet in ways that will have profound impacts on humankind, US President Barack Obama has urged Americans to protect environment for a healthy, sustainable future.

“Today, we face a problem that threatens us all. The overwhelming judgement of science tells us that climate change is altering our planet in ways that will have profound impacts on all of humankind,” Obama said in a proclamation issued yesterday.

“Farmers must cope with increased soil erosion following heavy downpours and greater stresses from weeds, plant diseases, and insect pests.

“Increasingly severe weather patterns strain infrastructure and damage our communities, especially low- income communities, which are disproportionately vulnerable and have few resources to prepare,” he said.

The consequences of climate change will only grow more dire in the years to come, Obama warned, arguing that this is why, last year, he took executive action to prepare US for the impacts of climate change.

“As my Administration works to build a more resilient country, we also remain committed to averting the most catastrophic effects.

He said since he took office, America has increased the electricity it produces from solar energy by more than tenfold, tripled the electricity it generates from wind energy, and brought carbon pollution to its lowest levels in nearly two decades.

“In the international community, we are working with our partners to reduce greenhouse gas emissions around the globe. Along with States, utilities, health groups, and advocates, we will develop commonsense and achievable carbon pollution standards for our biggest pollution source — power plants,” he said.

“Because caring for our planet requires commitment from all of us, we are engaging organisations, businesses, and individuals in these efforts, the US President said.



Fresh Plaza

Fruit growers fear fire blight. Time and again this bacteria causes great damage to apple growth, reports German website Proplanta.de. The last large epidemic was in 2007 and caused damage estimated at 50 million Swiss francs (around 41 million Euro). A quarter of a million trees had to be destroyed to try and stop the spread of the Erwinia amylovora bacteria, and caused growers to use sprays containing antibiotic streptomycin – a controversial method of saving fruit trees and crops.

Researchers into plant pathogens, Cesar Gesslar from the ‘Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich’ (ETH) and the Julius Kühne Institute in Germany, in the latest edition of ‘Plant Bio-technical Journal’ presented a genetically modified variant of the favourite Gala variety, resistant against fire blight.

It is the first time that researchers have been successful in finding a wild apple resistant to fire blight and to isolate and confirm the gene responsible. The gene carried the genetic code for a protein which recognised the surface protein of the attacking bacteria and caused the plant to produce an immune response to it. This one gene is sufficient to provide the plant with protection and with this genetic code researchers were then able to successfully develop a Gala apple resistant to the bacteria.

Publication date: 3/24/2014

From latest edition of ‘Plant Bio-technical Journal’ 






Foldscope Team


Speed read:
– The Foldscope is lightweight and durable, and only costs 50 US cents

– Ten thousand will be given to people who propose novel Foldscope experiments

– Field trials aim to see if the tool can help diagnose diseases including malaria


Ten thousand ‘print-and-fold’ paper microscopes initially designed as low-cost medical diagnostic tools are being given away to researchers and citizen scientists who come up with novel ways to use them to test their ideas.

The goal of the Ten Thousand Microscopes initiative, funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, is to create a crowd sourced lab manual for Foldscope, the low-cost microscope launched earlier this year by a US bioengineering team that combines pragmatic, origami design with sophisticated micro-optics.

The idea is to make “microscopy for everyone”, says Manu Prakash, a bioengineering researcher at Stanford University, United States, who led the development of the frugal innovation to address the lack of cheap, easy-to-use diagnostic tools for diseases in remote and impoverished communities.


“The technology is a small piece of the entire solution and engaging people is as important. We need a much broader group of people thinking about global challenges.”

Manu Prakash, Stanford University


“The technology is a small piece of the entire solution and engaging people is as important. We need a much broader group of people thinking about global challenges.”

Manu Prakash, Stanford University Assembled from a single sheet of paper, Foldscope microscopes are fitted with tiny ball lenses — about the size of a grain of salt — that can magnify samples up to 2,000 times.

Yet, as well as being lightweight, Foldscope is durable and, at roughly 50 US cents each, cheap enough to manufacture and distribute on a large scale, according to Prakash.

“We wanted to find a method by which we could manufacture [microscopes] in large enough quantities and at an extremely low cost, while keeping the design simple so that they could last out in the field and be used by anyone,” he says.

Foldscope is undergoing field trials in India and Uganda as a diagnostic tool for malaria, sleeping sickness and schistosomiasis, with the results due to be published later this year.

And the Stanford team is developing 30 Foldscope variants to target specific pathogens and diseases by using add-ons such as LED lights and fluorescent filters.

But the microscope’s potential applications are virtually limitless, says Prakash, who describes the innovation as a “platform technology”.

“The impact [of Foldscope] will ultimately be driven by developing new applications that are context-specific,” he says. “Scale-up will really be about getting the right sets of communities to engage and build an initial set of examples.”

Platform technologies such as Foldscope that are easy to adapt for local use have great potential for successful scale-up, says Ali Jazairy, who is senior counsellor for the innovation and technology sector at the World Intellectual Property Organization.

“These kinds of ‘appropriate technologies’ can become very useful because they are very simple, which means they can be easily adapted to local contexts,” he says. “This innovative, folded approach — that is almost playful — is also a good example of how science can be integrated into everyday technologies and made accessible.”

About 7,000 potential testers from more than 30 countries have already responded to the open call to develop new Foldscope experiments, according to Prakash, with proposals ranging from using the microscopes to test for diseases in bee populations to using it as a low-cost way of monitoring pathogens in milk in Mongolia.

“The response has been phenomenal,” says Prakash. “People have dreamt up applications for Foldscope I never would have thought of.”

Ultimately, Prakash hopes citizen scientists will use Foldscope to solve development problems.

“It’s very important to me to connect hands-on science education with global health issues,” he says. “This is the much bigger challenge. The technology is a small piece of the entire solution and engaging people is as important. We need a much broader group of people thinking about global challenges.”

See 10 rice field bird photos at:




The blue-tailed bee-eater nests in holes burrowed into tall sandbanks

Rice fields cover 160 million hectares around the world — an area more than six times the size of the United Kingdom. They are an important ecosystem for various animals, including a number of birds that can be seen at the experimental paddies run by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

The IRRI fields in the Philippines cover just 250 hectares, but can be considered a microcosm of millions of rice fields globally in which sustainable agricultural practices, such as non-lethal methods of controlling rice-eating birds, are used.

These images were part of photography exhibition, Feathers in the Fields: The Birds of IRRI. They show the abundance of birds within a rice field ecosystem. This emphasises the need to carefully manage rice fields and, ultimately, the wildlife that depends on them, as well as the need to prevent their conversion to urban uses. It also offers a way to correct the misconception among many farmers that birds are pests and raise awareness that 90 per cent feed on harmful insects. The birds reduce dependence to pesticides producing greener rice farming.

This article has been produced by SciDev.Net’s South-East Asia & Pacific desk.

Carroll County Times

Posted: Monday, April 21, 2014 12:15 am
By Timothy Sandoval Times Staff Writer

It’s a problem that affects farmers, governments and communities at large: Invasive plants, insects and diseases that harm the natural environment and are often costly for those affected.
That’s why the Maryland Department of Agriculture is calling on the public to help stop the threat of invasive species wherever they are proliferating, releasing a set of recommendations for residents and farmers that may interact with the species. The U.S. Department of Agriculture designates April as Invasive Plant, Pest and Disease Awareness Month.
“People are starting to camp and fish and they’re outside more,” MDA spokeswoman Vanessa Orlando said. “So we’re just trying to get the word out on some helpful things they can do to try to keep things from latching onto them and going where they’re not supposed to go.”
The MDA’s recommendations call on all residents to determine where invasive species exist in order to avoid them, and ensure that one removes any invasive plants or seeds that may be stuck on any boots or equipment before leaving an infected area.
Invasive pests often arrive in the U.S. through cargo ships and by international travelers, according to the MDA. Since the pests have no natural predators in the U.S., they can spread rapidly, disrupting natural habitats and damaging commercial crops.
Many people in Carroll County, like in much of the state, are affected by the problems invasive species cause.
Visitors of Piney Run Lake, for instance, have noticed an increased surge of an exotic invasive plant, hydrilla verticillata, that has affected boating and fishing at the lake, said Jeff Degitz, administrator of the Carroll County Department of Recreation and Parks, at a recent Carroll County budget session.
Degitz said the plant grows quickly and must be mowed regularly in the lake. It is difficult, if not impossible, to get rid of the plant now that it is filmy entrenched in the lake, he said.
“Once you have it, you pretty much have it,” Degitz said, when asked by a county commissioner if it was possible to eliminate the plant from the water.
Degitz asked for $51,655 for the salary and benefits of a maintenance specialist for Fiscal Year 2015 to help remove the plant from the lake.
Melvin Baile, a grain farmer in New Windsor, said in an interview that in recent years he has had to battle brown marmorated stink bugs that damage his crops. He said the stink bugs, which are originally from Asia and are classified as an invasive species by the state, can highly affect the maturity of the crops he grows.
Baile said it is hard to know how much the bugs have affected his profits, although he noted that he must spray insecticide that keeps the bugs away. Purchasing the insecticide cuts into his bottom line, he said, but is highly necessary.
He said in 2010 there were areas of his soybean field that he could not harvest because the maturity of plants had been adversely affected by the bugs. He said other farmers across the county have to deal with stink bugs and other invasive plants and pests as well.
“Species, when they are taken out of where they are supposed to be, usually create issues that take a very long time to overcome,” Baile said.
Baile said he thought the awareness month was a good idea, as public education on the issue is important.
“It’s an excellent thing to have awareness of it,” Baile said.

Reach staff writer Timothy Sandoval at 410-857-7874 or timothy.sandoval@carrollcountytimes.com.© 2014 Carroll County Times. All rights


MDA’s recommendations to prevent spread of invasive species
For residents and farmers:
• Learn where infested areas are and avoid passing through them.
• Remove all seeds and other plant parts from your equipment, boots, gear, truck bed, tires, animals, and harvesting equipment before leaving an infested area or after working a site to make sure you are not spreading seeds, insects, or spores to a new location.
• Remove or eliminate from your property any junk piles or other places bees can nest.
• Do not move firewood. Buy or use firewood that is close to your campsite.
• Hunters, don’t use invasive plants for food plots.
• Farmers and ranchers: be sure to control invasive plants along fencerows, ditches, and other areas adjacent to fields.
• Always use weed-free hay and feed for your animals.
• Report any invasive pest sightings to the local land manager, MDA or local APHIS office (www.aphis.usda.gov).
For gardeners:
• Buy local. There is a wide variety of beautiful, easy-to-care-for plants available at local nurseries and garden centers.
• Avoid using invasive plant species at all costs and remove invasive plants from your garden.
• Until you are able to rid your garden of invasive plants, remove and destroy seed heads before they can spread.
• Don not share invasives with other gardeners.
• Talk to other gardeners about invasives and how you plan to help in the fight against them.
• If you are worried that your garden will lose its luster after removing invasives, talk to your local nursery about suitable replacements.
• Clean your boots, gear, truck bed, tires, and harvesting equipment after working a site to make sure you are not spreading seeds, insects, or spores to a new location.
• Report any sightings to your county extension agent or local APHIS office (click on the “Report a pest or disease” link at http://www.aphis.usda.gov). The sooner invasive species are detected, the easier and cheaper it is to control them.





Photo: http://www.shutterstock.com

April 21st, 2014

Major banana-producing regions went on alert last week , heeding a warning from the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on the frightening return of Panama Disease.

The FAO asked traders and producers to step up their monitoring and prevention efforts for Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense, the soil-borne fungus that propagates Panama Disease and brought the commercial industry to its knees in the 1950s.

Although planted for its resistance, the leading Cavendish variety has fallen prey to a recent Fusarium mutation, dubbed Tropical Race 4 (TR4). This evolved strain of Panama Disease has threatened Asian producers since the 1990s.

Fear now grows that this killer fungus could spread further into Asia, Africa and Latin America, following new detections in Mozambique and Jordan.

Gianluca Gondolini, secretariat of the World Banana Forum, said Latin American in particular will need to implement prevention efforts to protect the livelihood of its banana-producing nations.

“Latin America has three of the world’s biggest exporters, Ecuador, Costa Rica and Guatemala. That poses a threat from a market perspective and has companies and governments on alert because it relates to revenue as well as the livelihood of the people working with banana plantations,” Gondolini told http://www.freshfruitportal.com.

“It could create a similar portrait to what happened in Panama 50 years ago when the entire industry was devastated by Fusarium and all the Gros Michel was replaced with Cavendish.”

Although the consequences of Fusarium propagation are hard to predict, Gondolini pointed to historical examples of Panama Disease to demonstrate what could lie ahead.

“We can talk about what has happened in the past and analyze what has been the impact of Fusarium in previous varieties like Gros Michel, which created a sort of crossroad between the industry entirely failing or replacing it with another variety, which was the case in the 60s,” he said.

“There are places in Asia that have been affected for 20 years by TR4 and the consequence is quite impressive for them because the disease is expanding every year. It is estimated in the Philippines, the fourth largest exporter in the world, that the track is increasing by 7% a year.”

TR4 has already been detected in three of the top 10 banana-producing nations: China, the Philippines and Indonesia. In addition to the recent cases in Mozambique and Jordan, TR4 has also attacked plantations in Australia, Malaysia and Thailand.

Click here for a map of where Panama Disease Race 1 and Race 4 are present.  http://panamadisease.org/map/map

“The point is that the industry is not able to manage Fusarium in agronomic terms. Once it gets in the soil of the plant, it is impossible. There are no options unless you abandon the plantation for years,” he said.

“To say that it won’t spread, that’s an issue. It’s a matter of time. It’s expanding because of the different nature of the disease. It’s through movement of equipment and people. There is always potential risk.”


In response, the World Banana Forum has created a task force that brings together banana companies, NGOs, government bodies and academics to collaborate on an action plan. TR4 is also on the agenda for upcoming meetings in Kenya, South Africa, and Trinidad and Tobago, the FAO reported.

“We need immediate action and long-term action. The immediate action is raising awareness, defining informational materials, defining groups. We also need capacity building, training materials, quarantines,” Gondolini said.

“In the long term, the issue relates to resistant varieties, which could be the best solution. We also need an early warning system to detect the disease and prevent spread to other areas.”

Gondolini emphasized the social and economic importance of bananas on a global level.

FAOSTAT lists bananas as the eighth most important food crop in the world and the fourth most important food crop among the world’s least-developed countries.

Bananas not only rank as the fruit of choice for U.S. shoppers, but it is also a dietary staple for many living in West Africa, Central America and Asia.

“It is a global crop so it has an impact on the livelihood of people in producing countries and actors involved along the supply chain,” Gondolini said.

“This is a risk for the sector but also an opportunity to collaborate, so we should really leverage the support of everyone involved in the banana sector.”




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