Archive for the ‘Fungi’ Category




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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Thompson Reuters Foundation
Source: World Food Programme – Tue, 8 Apr 2014 12:26 PM
Author: World Food Programme http://www.trust.org/item/20140408170802-3zpig/?dm_i=1ANQ,2D17K,6LPWNX,8KKXQ,1


The Coffee Rust Crisis is hitting households; economies in the small village of La Conquista. One of those is Ilianas: Her husband relocated to Mexico to find work. She grew and sold plantains and bananas, but they are not as profitable as coffee. In order to make ends meet she did not enroll her eldest daughter in school. Fortunately between May and October, WFP and the Government of Guatemala will provide food and technical assistance to the families of La Conquista to help them overcome this crisis.

GUATEMALA CITY. –Iliana Miranda Alvarez lives in the community of La Conquista, Department of San Marcos. She is 31 years old, married, and mother of five children: two girls and three boys. The youngest one is only one year and five months old. Just like her neighbor’s, her family’s main source of income is coffee. Iliana and her husband own a lot of land in which they grow coffee and bananas. The lot is small and yields are low, to supplement their income and cover the family´s basic expenses, Iliana’s husband works as a migrant labourer.

Coffee Rust: The Silent Plague That Began 2 Years Ago Since 2012, La Conquista (in Guatemala) and other coffee growing communities in Central America have been affected by a plague of Coffee Rust. The result: Coffee crop yields have been reduced drastically during the 2012-2013 harvest season and no change is expected for the current 2013-2014 season. The impact has been considerably negative on families whose main source of income is coffee production. Heads of households are forced to find jobs in nearby coffee plantations, but these have also been hit by the plague. Iliana’s husband used to work for “La Union” plantation, which was also the source of income for many other locals. With coffee trees affected by the Coffee Rust at home and nearby plantations, Iliana’s husband was forced to go to Mexico in search of work. He was successful, but now he has to factor in additional expenses, such as transportation fares and living expenditures, which have reduced the family’s income by 10 percent, when compared to the previous year. The highest family income is 450 Quetzals (US$58), which doesn’t even cover a quarter of the cost of Guatemala’s Basic Food Basket- nutritional necessities, which is around 2,900 Quetzals (US$376) a month.

Bananas and Plantains Can’t Replace Coffee Despite their efforts to commercialize alternative crops, such as bananas and plantains, the women of La Conquista are bearing the brunt of the Coffee Rust crisis. To their dismay, the production and market prices of bananas and plantains are simply not enough to replace coffee. In the face of economic hardship, Iliana had to resort to a coping strategy to save money:  This year she decided not to enroll her eldest daughter in school simply because her family cannot afford the cost of uniforms and books. But at this stage any savings could not be enough. The situation will only worsen come May, which is the beginning of the Lean Season. Prices of staple foods such as maize will rise in the local market, making it harder for Coffee-Rust affected families to access nutritious foods.

La Conquista will receive WFP assistance Fortunately La Conquista will receive food and technical assistance from WFP and the Government of Guatemala. In exchange for building assets, the families in La Conquista will receive food to supplement their incomes between May and October, which is the critical Lean Season. The most vulnerable families will receive food rations with maize, beans, and vegetable oil to cover 50 percent of their food needs for the next six months. WFP works in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture, which will also provide technical assistance to the community to improve soil conservation and raise crop yields. Iliana and other women in the community have started to build live fences (groups of trees, bushes, etc.) on their plots to prevent soil erosion and to improve soil quality in preparation for the technical assistance in the months to come.

16,000 Families in 6 Departments Are Receiving Assistance Besides the families in La Conquista, WFP currently supports 16,000 families affected by the Coffee Rust in six departments: Guatemala, Alta Verapaz, Baja Verapaz, Huehuetenango, El Quiche, and San Marcos. The beneficiary families are selected on criteria defined by WFP to guarantee that the most-in-need households receive assistance. Families are selected based on the following:

1. High vulnerability. 2. Own a small land plot with damaged crops caused by the 2012-2013 dry season, 50% of the crops were affected during the last crop cycle, or the family does not own land at all. 3. No food stocks. 4. Children under 5 years old live in the household. 5. Women as head of the household. 6. Members with special needs, elderly people, etc.


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Photo: Jaspreet Kindra/IRIN- Wheat under threat

JOHANNESBURG, 2 April 2014 (IRIN) – Outbreaks of a deadly fungal disease in wheat crops in Germany and Ethiopia in 2013 have had the scientific community buzzing over the threat posed to global food security.

Wheat stem rust, also known as wheat black rust, is often referred to as the “polio of agriculture”: The rapidly mutating fungal disease can travel thousands of kilometres and wipe out crops.

Wheat farmers and scientists at a recent summit hosted by the Mexico-based International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT ) have been examining outbreaks of different strains of wheat stem rust in the two countries to identify any similarities.

In Germany “the occurrence of stem rust was favoured by a period of unusually high temperatures… and an unusually late development of the wheat crop due to cold spring and early summer temperatures,” explained Kerstin Flath, senior scientist at Germany’s Federal Research Centre for Cultivated Plants at the Julius Kuehn-Institut. The outbreak occurred in June in central Germany, a mainly wheat producing area, and was the first in the country in several decades.

“A changing climate will ‘definitely’ favour this thermophilic fungus” Scientists noted that the rust came so late that even the fungicides sprayed earlier to prevent leaf rust epidemics proved ineffective.

Then in November 2013 the disease struck a popular variety of wheat in Ethiopia called digalu, used to make bread, said Bekele Abeyo, a senior scientist and wheat breeder at CIMMYT.

What was particularly disconcerting for the scientists was that digalu had been bred with inherent resistance to certain strains of stem rust and another wheat disease called “yellow rust” or “stripe”.

The fact that the fungus has been rapidly mutating has prompted scientists to study the two cases with a view to helping with the preparation of new wheat varieties.

David Hodson, a senior scientist with the Global Cereal Rust Monitoring Program at CIMMYT, says the analysis presented on the German outbreak showed “there were some clear specific differences between the races present in Germany compared to Ethiopia, although the races were similar and fitted into the same race group.”

In Ethiopia, he said, the season had also been favourable for rusts, with above-average and well distributed rainfall – conditions similar to those in 2010 when wheat crops there were affected by yellow rust.

However, said Hodson, “the key factor was the presence of a suitable host and the appearance of a race that was able to attack this host.”

Flath said the big question on the German outbreak was whether it “was a unique situation or if it will repeat this year” – particularly because they had had a rather mild winter, so the spores might have survived.

She reckons a changing climate will “definitely” favour this thermophilic fungus. In the last two years two new aggressive variants of the yellow rust-causing fungus have made huge inroads in central and northern Europe.


Fungicides are the first line of defence. A longer term solution is replacing the world’s entire wheat varieties with those that contain several minor rust-resistant genes, which are pooled together to counter the infection, giving them an edge over single rust-resistant genes in combating various mutated variants of the fungus. Digalu contains single rust-resistant genes.

There are 20 new stem-rust-resistant varieties of wheat available. But getting the new seeds to farmers has been a problem, mainly due to poor distribution networks and cost.

Industrialized countries have an edge in terms of resources, said Flath. But even developing countries, realizing that food security is at stake, are beginning to make massive investments, says Abeyo. For instance, after the outbreak in Ethiopia in 2010, the government invested US$3 in fungicides, which helped contain the fungus in 2013.

With global wheat supplies vulnerable to changing weather patterns, Abeyo says developing countries are realizing the need to become self-sufficient in grain.

“Countries are now making the investment in infrastructure and research to develop better varieties.” But they still have a long way to go. Better partnerships with the developed world in sharing information and skills to monitor and protect their crops are also proving to be effective, he added.


All wheat varieties will have to be replaced
Two new wheat varieties offer hope against stem rust
Mutant wheat killer on the prowl
Another strain of deadly wheat fungus in South Africa

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The INDEPENDENT, 09 April, 2014




Disease spreads from Asia to Africa and may already have jumped to crucial plantations in Latin America

Scientists have warned that the world’s banana crop, worth £26 billion and a crucial part of the diet of more than 400 million people, is facing “disaster” from virulent diseases immune to pesticides or other forms of control.

Alarm at the most potent threat – a fungus known as Panama disease tropical race 4 (TR4) – has risen dramatically after it was announced in recent weeks that it has jumped from South-east Asia, where it has already devastated export crops, to Mozambique and Jordan.

A United Nations agency told The Independent that the spread of TR4 represents an “expanded threat to global banana production”. Experts said there is a risk that the fungus, for which there is currently no effective treatment, has also already made the leap to the world’s most important banana growing areas in Latin America, where the disease threatens to destroy vast plantations of the Cavendish variety. The variety accounts for 95 per cent of the bananas shipped to export markets including the United Kingdom, in a trade worth £5.4bn.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) will warn in the coming days that the presence of TR4 in the Middle East and Africa means “virtually all export banana plantations” are vulnerable unless its spread can be stopped and new resistant strains developed.

In a briefing document obtained by The Independent, the FAO warns: “In view of the challenges associated with control of the disease and the risk posed to the global banana supply, it is evident that a concerted effort is required from industry, research institutions, government and international organisations to prevent spread of the disease.”


An aircraft sprays fungicide over a plantation (Getty Images)


Scientists are particularly concerned about the impact of TR4 across the developing world, where an estimated 410 million people rely on the fruit for up to a third of their daily calories.

According to one estimate, TR4 could destroy up to 85 per cent of the world’s banana crop by volume.

Since it emerged in the 1950s as the replacement for another banana variety ravaged by an earlier form of Panama disease, Cavendish has helped make bananas the most valuable fruit crop in the world, dominated by large multinational growing companies such as Fyffes, Chiquita and Dole.

But the crop – and many other banana varieties – have no defence against TR4, which can live for 30 years or more in the soil and reduces the core of the banana plant to a blackened mush.

It can wipe out plantations within two or three years and despite measures to try to prevent its spread from the original outbreak in Indonesia, it is now on the move. Such is the virulence of soil-based fungus, it can be spread in water droplets or tiny amounts of earth on machinery or shoes.

Professor Rony Swennen, a leading banana expert based at Leuven University in Belgium, said: “If [TR4] is in Latin America, it is going to be a disaster, whatever the multinationals do. Teams of workers move across different countries. The risk is it is going to spread like a bush fire.”

Another senior scientist, who asked not to be named because of his links with the banana industry, said: “There are good grounds for believing that TR4 is already in Latin America.”


Professor Rony Swennen, leading banana expert based at the University of Leuven

The Panama fungus is just one of several diseases which also threaten banana production, in particular among smallholders and subsistence farmers.

Black sigatoka, another fungus to have spread from Asia, has decimated production in parts of the Caribbean since it arrived in the 1990s, reducing exports by 90 to 100 per cent in five countries.


Researchers say they are struggling to secure funding to discover new banana varieties or develop disease-resistant GM strains.

Professor Randy Ploetz, of the University of Florida, said: “The Jordan and Mozambique TR4 outbreaks are alarming but have helped increase awareness about this problem.”

But the large producers insist the problem can be controlled. Dublin-based Fyffes, which last month announced a merger with America’s Chiquita to form the world’s largest banana company, said: “While we continue to monitor the situation, as of yet we do not foresee any serious impact for UK banana supplies.”


A lab holding the World Banana Collection at the University of Leuven A lab holding the World Banana Collection at the University of Leuven

The Cavendish: A top banana under threat

When the world banana industry found itself in crisis in the 1950s, it was saved by a fruit cultivated in Derbyshire and named after a duke.

The Cavendish banana was grown by the gardener and architect Joseph Paxton while he was working for the Duke of Devonshire at Chatsworth House.

Paxton managed to acquire one of two banana plants sent to England in around 1830 and began growing the fruit in the stately home’s glasshouses. He named his banana Musa cavendishii after the 6th Duke of Devonshire, William Cavendish.

The Chatsworth bananas were later sent to Samoa and the Canary Islands, providing forerunners for the variety which emerged in the 1950s to succeed the Gros Michel or Big Mike – the banana sub-species wiped out by an early version of Panama disease between 1903 and 1960.

Cavendish is now the world’s single most successful – and valuable – banana, accounting for 47 per cent of all cultivated bananas and nearly the entire export trade, worth £5.3 billion.

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Image    Image

ARS scientists have found a gene in einkorn wheat, an ancient variety still cultivated in parts of the Mediterranean, that appears to offer near immunity to Ug99, a stem rust that is a serious threat to 90 percent of the world’s wheat. Photo courtesy of Matthew Rouse, ARS.


By Dennis O’Brien
April 7, 2014

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists have pinpointed the location of a gene in a little-known ancient grass that could help save one of the world’s most important cereal crops from an unrelenting fungus.

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists Matt Rouse and Yue Jin, with the agency’s Cereal Disease Research Laboratory in St. Paul, Minn., found the gene while studying the DNA of ancient grasses. They were searching for genes that could make wheat more resistant to Ug99 (Puccinia graminis), a type of stem rust that is constantly evolving. ARS is USDA’s principal intramural scientific research agency, and this work supports the USDA priority of promoting international food security.

Ug99 has not yet been found in the United States, but it is spreading overseas and is considered a potential threat to up to 90 percent of the world’s wheat. Genes in wheat that seem to offer immunity one growing season become susceptible to newly developed “races” the next. Ug99 was first reported by scientists in Uganda in 1999, and controlling it has since become an international priority.

Scientists often study a crop’s wild relatives for genes that will confer resistance to pests and pathogens. But what makes the efforts of Rouse and Jin noteworthy is the diversity of grasses being studied. They include einkorn wheat, an ancient variety still cultivated in parts of the Mediterranean; emmer wheat, found in archeological sites and still growing wild in the Near East; and goatgrass, a wild relative of wheat with genes that breeders have tapped to boost immunity in commercial wheat varieties.

In one study, Rouse and his colleagues at Kansas State University and the University of California at Davis focused on locating a gene in einkorn wheat that confers near immunity to Ug99. They focused on locating a gene, known as Sr35, which was previously discovered in einkorn. But the exact location of this gene in the plant’s vast genome remained a mystery. The wheat genome is huge, containing nearly two times more genetic information than the human genome.

To find Sr35′s position, the researchers sequenced areas of the plant’s genome where they suspected it was located. In one set of mutant plants, they knocked out the cloned sequences and found it made those plants susceptible to Ug99. In another set they inserted the same sequences into previously susceptible plants and found it made them resistant.

The results, published in Science in 2013, marked the first time that scientists managed to isolate and clone a Ug99 resistance gene. The achievement should make it easier to insert useful genes into wheat varieties.



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Global Wheat Surveillance Network Moves Quickly to Combat Dangerous Outbreak of Stem Rust in Southern Ethiopia

At celebration of crop science legend, news underscores Nobel Peace Prize winner Norman Borlaug’s warning that “stem rust never sleeps”; outbreak occurs even as wheat yields in Ethiopia soar

Released: 3/18/2014 10:00 AM EDT
Embargo expired: 3/23/2014 8:00 PM EDT
Source Newsroom: Borlaug Global Rust Initiative and International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT)

Newswise — CIUDAD OBREGÓN, MEXICO (26 MARCH 2014)—Wheat farmers in East Africa and the Middle East are on alert after a damaging strain of a plant disease called stem rust decimated more than 10,000 hectares of wheat in southern Ethiopia, the largest wheat producer in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), according to a report discussed today at an international gathering of the world’s top wheat experts.
The details of the stem rust outbreak in Ethiopia’s Bale zone is a prominent topic at the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative (BGRI) 2014 Technical Workshop. Together with the Borlaug Summit on Wheat for Food Security from 25-28 March, the BGRI is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of Dr. Norman Borlaug, a legendary scientist who developed high-yielding, semi-dwarf wheat that is credited with sparking the Green Revolution and saving over one billion people from starvation.
“Dr. Borlaug taught us that rust never sleeps, which is why we now have the capabilities to detect an outbreak like the one that has occurred in Ethiopia, and to quickly mobilize a global response,” said Ronnie Coffman, professor of plant breeding and genetics at Cornell University, and director of the Durable Rust Resistance in Wheat (DRRW) project. He noted that the global consortiums Borlaug helped organize late in his life – now known as the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative and the DRRW project – have been key to aggressive rust intervention in Ethiopia.
Detective work by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), DRRW, the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR), the USDA-ARS Cereals Disease Laboratory in Minnesota and the Global Rust Reference Centre (GRRC) in Denmark have revealed that the strain of stem rust damaging wheat in Ethiopia is possibly similar to a strain found in Turkey since 2007 and in Egypt and Germany in 2013. However, the pathogen did not have a noticeable impact on production in these areas.
According to David Hodson, a senior scientist with CIMMYT’s Global Cereal Rust Monitoring Program, the previous lack of damage could mean that wheat varieties under cultivation there are resistant to an infection, there were slight differences in the strains, or that environmental conditions have not been conducive to a stem rust outbreak. (Though Hodson said wheat experts were surprised to see stem rust of any type in Germany, where the pathogen has not been detected for decades.)
But during the 2013 growing season in Ethiopia, the strain was lethal to a popular variety of bread wheat called Digalu. Like other stem rusts, the disease produced brick-red blisters on the plant and caused grains to shrivel. Ironically, Digalu gained popularity in Ethiopia because it carries resistance to other strains of stem rust and to another wheat disease known as yellow or stripe rust. And these qualities have helped wheat farmers in the country produce record harvests.
“With such widespread planting of Digalu, we have not seen the major yellow rust outbreaks that were a problem in recent years and most farmers in Ethiopia have enjoyed bumper crops this season,” said Bekele Abeyo, a senior scientist and wheat breeder at CIMMYT. “But the widespread planting of Digalu may have opened the door for the incursion of a new and destructive strain of stem rust.”
Abeyo said that at the time of the stem rust outbreak in late 2013 the wheat crop was at a vulnerable stage only in the southern part of Ethiopia. Concern now turns, he said, to regions where farmers may already have begun planting for the short rainy season that runs from February/March to June/July, and are probably still using the now vulnerable Digalu variety. Wind models indicate the disease also could spread in a southwesterly direction toward Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and – less probably – to countries in the Middle East. Efforts are underway to identify varieties being cultivated in these areas that might be susceptible to the strain of stem rust causing problems in Ethiopia. Officials report that a variety popular in Kenya called “Robin” is likely to be vulnerable, but, to date, there have been no confirmed reports of the Ethiopian stem rust strain in Kenya.
Dr. Bedada Girma, DRRW-Ethiopia coordinator, said working with farmers and other stakeholders to replace vulnerable varieties with resistant varieties is a high priority. But he said it will be a challenge to obtain enough seed before farmers move ahead with their next planting. Ethiopian agriculture officials also are advising farmers about how to properly use fungicides to control an outbreak.
Borlaug Legacy: A World Well-Prepared for a Mutating Pathogen
Stem rust has long been a major threat to wheat, which is a key source of calories and protein for 4.5 billion people in 100+ countries – more than half of them wheat-dependent poor who live on less than US$2 per day.
Borlaug’s signature achievement was the development and dissemination of high-yielding, stem rust-resistant semi-dwarf wheat, which helped launch the Green Revolution in farm production in Asia and Latin America. The resistance Borlaug and co-workers pioneered held up for decades, until it succumbed to a new strain of stem rust known as “Ug99,” identified in Uganda in 1999. The researchers noted that the stem rust detected in Ethiopia is not a Ug99 strain and noted that Ethiopian farmers have been aggressive in adopting new wheat varieties, like Digalu, that are resistant to both yellow rust and the Ug99 strains.
Wheat experts at the Mexico meetings noted that the stem rust outbreak in Ethiopia, while a cause for concern, needs to be seen in the context of a world in which there is now a strong global network of wheat researchers capable of responding quickly to emerging threats by rapidly developing new disease-resistant varieties. In fact, Ethiopia is often cited as a model for the potential to dramatically improve wheat yields in SSA, even though production is scattered across millions of small farms that are less than one hectare in size.
According to Girma, just a few years ago, most of the wheat cultivated in Ethiopia was susceptible to either the Ug99 stem rust strains or to various strains of yellow rust. Now, most of Ethiopia’s wheat is resistant to one or both diseases. And the results can be seen in harvests that in 2004 and 2005 averaged 1.5 tons per hectare (t/ha), but now average about 2.37 t/ha. In some areas, Ethiopian farmers have even been harvesting 5 to 8 t/ha.
“Smallholder farmers in Ethiopia are getting much better yields than they used to,” said Hodson. “That’s an incredible advance and exactly what Dr. Borlaug envisioned – that if you provide farmers in developing countries with high-yielding, disease-resistant wheat, they can begin to create the same kind of bread baskets that you see in developed countries.”
CIMMYT scientists believe many African countries are realizing only a small fraction of their wheat production potential. They are looking for ways to close the wheat yield gap and reduce the huge dependency on costly foreign imports. In 2012, CIMMYT and the International Food Policy Research Institute conducted an in-depth analysis of wheat prospects for SSA that found farmers in the region may only be growing about 10 to 25 percent of what is biologically possible and economically profitable. Such studies are attracting the attention of policy-makers, as ministers of agriculture from across Africa recently endorsed wheat as a strategic food security crop for the continent.
“The recent stem rust outbreak shows that rust preparedness is an ongoing ‘arms race.’ As pathogens evolve, new varieties must be developed,” said Coffman. “The East African highlands are hot spots for rust, but for all countries in Sub-Saharan Africa – where food security is such an issue – it is important that we continue to invest in the kinds of agricultural development partnerships that bring results.”

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  • Los países centroamericanos afectado por la roya del café se unieron para enfrentar la crisis
  • La peste ha generado pérdidas por US$550 millones y 441 mil personas quedaron sin trabajo
  • Los países solicitarán un crédito por US$800 millones para combatir el ataque del hongo

De los países cafetaleros latinoamericanos afectados, cinco son centroamericanos: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras y Nicaragua.

Según la OIC, esta es la peor plaga desde que el hongo se detectó por primera vez en Latinoamérica en la década de 1970. La peste debilita las plantas, provocando la caída prematura del fruto. 

El tema se discutió durante el Primer Congreso Internacional sobre la Crisis de la Roya del Café, realizado en la Ciudad de Guatemala (18 a 20 de abril) con la presencia de asociaciones de productores, comercializadores e investigadores agrícolas, así como entidades internacionales de financiamiento.

La cita concluyó con la propuesta de mejorar los precios para la compra de café, y una solicitud que se presentará a escala regional al Fondo Monetario Internacional, al Banco Mundial y al Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo, para establecer una línea de crédito por US$800 millones para combatir la roya.

Para el reembolso del crédito se propondrá un plazo de 20 años, con una tasa de interés del 2,5 por ciento. 

Jacques Avelino, fitopatólogo e investigador del Cirad-Promecafé-Catie, explica a SciDev.Net que la virulencia que ha mostrado la roya se debe a una variabilidad climática que ha alterado tanto los perfiles de plagas y enfermedades como las épocas de surgimiento.

Avelino destaca que su combate incluye aplicar fungicidas cuando se inician las lluvias, fertilizar apropiadamente la planta y mejorar la calidad del sustrato, porque los suelos ácidos aumentan la susceptibilidad al hongo.

El experto agrega que gran parte de los cafetales centroamericanos son viejos —entre 20 y 50 años de antigüedad—, por lo que no responden tan bien a la poda. Por ello, señala, este sería el mejor momento para renovar las parcelas con variedades de cafetos resistentes a distintas enfermedades. 

En Guatemala, donde se estima que se perderán 79 mil empleos directos y las divisas por el grano disminuirán de US$936 millones a US$550 millones, ya se han tomado medidas. 

La Asociación Nacional de Café (Anacafé) ha identificado qué plantaciones necesitan renovación, solo poda o aplicación de fungicidas y negoció un lote de fungicidas a un precio favorable para los pequeños productores, indica a SciDev.Net su vicepresidente, Miguel Medina.

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Protecting vital crops in China

The Almagest

28 Nov 2013

Evidence of disease in oilseed rape crops across China and how it may spread has been mapped by researchers led by the University of Hertfordshire – providing new strategic information on crop protection to the Chinese government.

Oilseed rape is prone to phoma stem canker, also known as blackleg disease, caused by twoLeptosphaeria species.  The more damaging pathogen Leptosphaeria maculans (L. maculans) has been spreading globally in oilseed rape crops over the last thirty years causing widespread losses with serious economic consequences.  In China, phoma stem canker on oilseed rape has not generally been a serious problem because only the less damaging Leptosphaeria biglobosa (L. biglobosa) has been found there.  However, as China began to import millions of tons of oilseed rape to crush for cooking oil, the route opened for L.maculans to spread via contaminated seed between countries.  This put China, the world’s biggest producer of rapeseed, at risk of this highly infectious crop pathogen.

Bruce Fitt, professor of plant pathology at the University of Hertfordshire, said: “Phoma stem canker is responsible for losses worth more than £1,200 million in oilseed rape crops across the world.  Given the fragile state of the world’s economy and concern over food shortages, we need to protect our arable crops from disease.  In China this is of particular concern as food supplies are already tight for their population of 1.35 billion people – the largest population in the world. Ensuring that they have enough food is one of the most important goals for the Chinese government.”

A widespread survey, by Chinese collaborators of winter oilseed rape crops in central China and spring oilseed crops in north China, found no evidence of L. maculans. However, the survey did confirm that the less damaging L. biglobosa is widespread across China – and in other countries this has shown to be a precursor to the spread of the more destructive L. maculans.

The researchers modelled the potential spread of the destructive L. maculans pathogen across the oilseed rape crops in China – with predicted rates of spread of up to seventy kilometers per year and having a devastating effect on oilseed rape production.

Professor Fitt continued: “Reducing the risk of phoma stem canker in oilseed rape crops in China is a priority for Chinese government and industry.  There is a pressing need to decrease the amounts of crop debris, a potent source of pathogen inoculum, in seed imports. And a number of the recommendations about preventing severe epidemics of phoma stem canker have already been taken up.”

Short term strategies for the Chinese government include training farmers to recognise the symptoms of the disease, to import oilseed rape through Chinese ports in regions where little oilseed rape is grown, to test for the pathogen on imported seed, and importing rapeseed oil rather than importing the seed and crushing this locally.  Longer-term strategies focus on introducing genes to the Chinese oilseed rape plants to build disease resistance.

The paper, “Leptosphaeria spp., phoma stem canker and potential spread of L. maculans on oilseed rape crops in China”, is published in Plant Pathology.



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Blight that caused Irish famine is destroying California tomatoes

Strains of the disease that caused the Great Famine in Ireland have been traced to tomato crops in the Salinas Valley, researchers have found. “It’s still a problem today,” said Frank Martin, a Salinas native and plant pathologist at the USDA, according to The Californian.com. “It hasn’t gone away.”

Although the Irish strain has since died out, both potato or late blight and tomato blight are caused by a fungus-like, single-celled microbe called Phytophthora infestans, which thrives in wet environments and produces long-lived spores that travel in the wind.

Wayne Gularte, a tomato farmer for Rincon Farms in Gonzales, said that he lost about half of his crop this year to tomato blight. Just a little rain or fog can create the perfect environment for an outbreak. Gularte says there are preventative sprays that protect the fruit before it rains, but once the blight sets in, there is nothing a farmer can do to save his crop.

Scientists believe the disease originated in Toluca Valley, Mexico. It traveled through the US in the 1800s and then jumped across the Atlantic Ocean to Europe in 1845. The organism that caused the Great Famine was a pandemic strain that spread throughout Europe and went extinct after potato breeding programs developed a tuber resistant to the organism.

The origin of modern strains is still unclear to researchers, although they do believe they also came from the US and then spread to Africa, Asia and South America. About 120 different species of Phytophthora exist. Farmers lose over $6 billion a year on damaged crops and fungicide costs, and tomato growers in the Salinas Valley feel the effects of the blight keenly.

Martin is currently working on developing tests that will rapidly detect Phytophthora infestans as well as other related organisms that cause plant diseases worldwide.

Source: irishcentral.com


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From: pestnet@yahoogroups.com  on behalf of; grahame jackson <gjackson@zip.com.au>

Thanks to Plantwise

June 5th, 2013

The Brazilian government’s Executive Commission for Cacao Farm Planning  (Ceplac) is set to officially launch a biofungicide that targets witch’s broom, a disease that devastated crops in the state of Bahia during the 1990s.Cacao pods - Wikimedia Commons _ small

The disease is caused by the fungus Moniliophthora perniciosa, which germinates via water and tends to spread during rain seasons, currently exists in Brazil, Panama and parts of the Caribbean.

On June 16, Ceplac will present the treatment Tricovab, developed by fermenting the a fungus called Trichoderma stromaticum which is antagonistic to Moniliophthora perniciosa.

“The fungus is colonized in grains of rice. When in contact with water that will be used for application, the fungus is ‘activated’ and, in plants, becomes the natural enemy of Moniliophthora perniciosa,” Cepec Cacao Research Center head Adonias de Castro said in a release.

The commission plans to distribute 10,240kg (22,575lbs) to growers who adapt to the recommended technological package. It is expected that 640 properties of 2ha each in size will take on the biofungicide, across 30 municipalities.

“Ceplac gives society an effective response to the issue of plant health, but more than that an environmentally friendly product provides an effective gain for farming and the environment,” Ceplac Bahia superintendent Juvenal Maynart said.

“It opens the possibility of increasing grower income with the highest possible productivity. All this will create more jobs in the field. With these factors assured, we will ensure the sustainability of cacao agribusiness.”

Photo: Wikimedia Commons


More news: Brazil > Cacao



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