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Natural pesticides tested
Updated at 2:20 pm on 23 March 2015

New Zealand scientists have begun trials to test the effectiveness of some natural pesticides on one of the world’s worst vegetable pests, the diamond back moth.
The moth caterpillar causes serious damage to brassica crops such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and bok choy.
More than a billion dollars a year is spent on trying to control the pest. The moth quickly becomes resistant to whatever chemical pesticide is used on it.
Scientists working under the Bio-Protection Research Centre based at Lincoln University, with the backing of genetic specialists at New Zealands Genomics, have been trying a non-chemical biological approach.
They have been investigating the potential of using several native fungi and bacteria in bio-pesticide sprays.
The centre’s director Professor Travis Glare said work was well advanced and they were two weeks into a 16-week field trial.
“We’ve identified several bacteria and one species of fungus that show real promise. We’ve actually got a new programme funded from the government called the next generation bio pesticide programme, a Bioprotection Research Centre programme that has AgResearch staff in there and Lincoln University and Plant and Food staff.
And we are combining our best (biological control) agents and using them in a field trial against diamond back moth.”
Professor Glare said the use of a combination of biological agents to control pests was also different from the single solution approach taken with chemical pesticides.
“The traditional approach to using biopesticides is really very much to mimic what you would do with a chemical pesticide, so you produce one organism and then you spray it out.”
“Our work in the Bioprotection Research Centre has highlighted that really, nature does things through combination. It rarely uses one agent to get to an end point. And so this sort of silver bullet approach we’ve been looking for, for years, is probably not the best way to go.”
“And so we’re looking at these combinations of agents to see if using different combinations of bacteria and fungi together, will have a greater effect than using any one by itself.”
Professor Glare said bio protection researchers also looked for agents that would control more than one pest.

http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/rural/269398/natural-pesticides-tested

Multimillion-dollar project using unmanned aerial systems to detect emerging pest insects, diseases in food crops
By Greg Tammen K-State News and Communications Services Mar 19, 2015

 

550bad2ac0cac.imageRich Brown, KSU, Salina, KS,prepares an unmanned aircraft for flight.

MANHATTAN — Kansas State University is leading an international, multimillion-dollar project that is looking at unmanned aerial systems — or UAS — as a quick and efficient method to detect pest insects and diseases in food crops before outbreaks happen.

Brian McCornack, associate professor of entomology, is the U.S. principal investigator on the $1.74 million three-year project, “Optimizing Surveillance Protocols Using Unmanned Aerial Systems.” The project partners Kansas State University’s Manhattan and Salina campuses with Australia’s Queensland University of Technology, the Victorian Department of Environment and Primary Industries, and the Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

The project was recently funded by the Plant Biosecurity Cooperative Research Centre — a consortium of several of Australia and New Zealand’s leading governmental research institutions and universities supported by industry and governmental partners. Kansas State University is the center’s only U.S. partner. Australia and Kansas share similar agricultural systems and concerns about emerging diseases and insect pests.

“In both Australia and the U.S., there is a lot of interest in the plant biosecurity field on how to increase the efficiency and detection rates of plant-based threats using emerging technologies,” McCornack said. “Unmanned aerial systems technologies are promising because they’re inexpensive and you can cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time.”

McCornack and researchers at Kansas State University’s Manhattan and Salina campuses are conducting a series of studies that look at how accurately UAS can detect invasive insects and emerging diseases in commercial wheat fields, as well as how to optimize information collected during flights.

The team’s findings may lead to new pest management strategies that use UAS and other imaging technologies for detecting invasive pests in horticulture and grain industries.

The project will initially target the Russian wheat aphid and wheat stripe rust, also commonly referred to as “yellow rust.”

Kansas State University researchers are working with landowners and the Federal Aviation Administration to conduct approved UAS flights in wheat fields around Kansas. Researchers in Australia are conducting complementary flights to collect supporting data.

Researchers will use UAS to repeatedly monitor FAA-sanctioned fields in key Kansas counties over the wheat-growing season. Aerial images captured by the UAS will be compared and used to identify field sections that have abnormalities, possibly caused by key insect pests or diseases.

According to McCornack, using UAS in this manner removes the current needle-in-the-haystack approach to monitoring crop plants.

“Currently, early detection of an invasive pest requires a great amount of luck and sweat,” McCornack said. “Typically, a landowner has to make an educated guess about where to go in a large field to check for infested plants. It works, but if a farmer or scout has several thousand acres to manage, it’s not very time effective. Whereas with remote sensing, you can scan a wide area in a short amount of time.”

In addition to testing for accuracy, researchers will look at how to refine the aerial images captured by the UAS in order to provide landowners with the most usable data. For example, this could include comparing images taken at varying heights and resolutions — from satellite images to pictures taken on the ground with a mobile device.

“It’s important that we’re able to detect the next invasive pest,” McCornack said. “Since 2001, the invasive soybean aphid has changed how we manage much of the 75 million acres of soybean in the North Central U.S. We believe that using UAS and working closely with farmers and scouts to regularly monitor crops and look for those changes early on can reduce the likelihood of repeating what happened with soybean aphid. Using this technology is not a guarantee, but it can help us understand how to quickly manage new pests that do establish.”

http://www.gctelegram.com/news/state/multimillion-dollar-project-using-unmanned-aerial-systems-to-detect-emerging/article_cdcd3e2a-3c31-5182-9901-97fc29f67bc0.html

 

 

 

Radio

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Updated at 2:47 pm on 23 March 2015

eight_col_Lindsay_Smith

Lindsay Smith

In a world first, a Chilean beetle is being introduced in New Zealand as a biocontrol agent to tackle a weed that scientists say could become as big a problem as gorse.

The weed, Darwin’s barberry, is an orange-flowered thorny shrub that originated in Chile.
It has been spreading rapidly across the country, particularly in Southland, and is threatening to overrun native plants and farmland.
Landcare Research scientist Lindsay Smith has been working closely with Chilean scientists for a number of years and said New Zealand would be the first place in the world to use the species – barberry seed weevils – as control agents.

four_col_Barberry_seed_weevil

Barberry seed weevil
Photo: SUPPLED
He said at the start of biocontrol programmes, scientists returned to the pest plant’s country of origin to try and find control agents that could be used.
“In this case it was South America, Chile, so we surveyed the barberry plants in Chile looking for damaging insects and potential agents,” he said.
“In our surveys, we came across two weevils that looked very promising – the seed-feeding weevil and a flowerbud-feeding weevil – and certainly looking at the reduction in seed in Chile by this seed feeder, we thought this would certainly be a great agent to introduce here.”
Mr Smith said 70 barberry seed weevils had been released just north of Invercargill and several thousand more were planned to be released early next year.
“Both the adult and the larvae feed on Darwin’s barberry. The adult feeds on the new growth of the plant but it’s actually the larvae that do the damage,” he said.
“They burrow into the berry, feeding on the seeds within the berry, therefore reducing the amount of seed being dispersed by birds.”
Mr Smith said extensive tests were carried out on both the adult weevils and their larvae to ensure they can’t damage any other plant species.

http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/rural/269397/beetle-introduced-to-tackle-weed

 

112146-3d926a8c-cecf-11e4-bd1f-b87f4e1d2505Gene therapy: Professor James Dale with genetically modified Cavendish bananas, which could hold the key to saving the Far North’s banana industry from Panama disease. Picture: QUT/Erika Fish

KIMBERLEY VLASIC

THE CAIRNS POST

MARCH 23, 2015 11:51AM

THE development of the world’s only “super bananas”, which could save the Far North’s $570 million industry from Panama disease, has been stalled by the Northern Territory Government.

Queensland scientists trialling genetically modified (GM) Cavendish bananas near Darwin have been served with an eviction notice as the Top End focuses on eradicating a different, less threatening fungus called “banana freckle”.

The decision delays their globally significant research on Panama disease Tropical Race 4 and could mean Far Northern banana growers will be waiting longer for a resistant variety to become commercially available.

Heidi Quagliata, the daughter of the Dingo Pocket banana farmer affected by TR4, wants authorities to prioritise the disease that has crippled her family’s business.

The Robsons’ 160ha property was quarantined this month after testing positive for TR4 in the first Australian case outside the NT.

Samples taken from other banana farms were yesterday cleared of the disease, while further testing has confirmed the strain of TR4 at the infected property to be the most common one.

“I don’t know much about banana freckle but they should both be on a high priority list,” Mrs Quagliata said.

“TR4 seems to be the one that stays around longer, so resources should be more focused on that.”

Banana freckle affects the leaves and fruit of banana plants, causing blemishes on the fruit reducing their value.

banana 112228-b30609f6-cef0-11e4-bd1f-b87f4e1d2505 (1)Eradication: Banana Freckle Response inspector and team leader Maurice Thompson (left) and team member Ronald Bond carry away one of the last banana trees in the Northern Territory Botanical Garden area. Picture: Ivan Rachman
A national biosecurity response is under way to eradicate the disease from the NT and Australia after a new strain that infects a wide range of varieties, including Cavendish, was found in 2013.

This involves destroying all banana plants, including the “super bananas” being trialled, from six heavily infected sites by next month.

“As far as I know, we’re the only group in the world that are developing GM bananas that could have resistance to TR4,” said Professor James Dale, director of the Queensland University of Technology’s Centre for Tropical Crops and Biocommodities.

“We completely understand the biosecurity plan to eradicate all bananas, if they can eradicate freckle that would be terrific.

“Banana freckle won’t wipe out the industry, whereas TR4 already has in the NT, but it really is a good idea to eradicate it, it’s just unfortunate timing with our field trial.”

Prof Dale and his team have transferred genes from a wild banana found in Indonesia and Malaysia to create the GM banana.

He said it could be released commercially in 6-8 years if trials were successful.

“We’re very pleased with the results so far and we’re going to do a final assessment at the end of April,” he said.

“We’ll probably have at least 12 months out of the ground and then hopefully, if freckle is eradicated, we’ll be able to go back and recommence field trials in the NT.”

Prof Dale ruled out moving trials to Tully Valley.

Australian Banana Growers’ Council chief executive officer Jim Pekin said the NT Government was acting on the “unanimous advice of all jurisdictions” in destroying the GM banana plants.

“The ABGC supports the Banana Freckle response plan and is aware that this will unfortunately delay research trials in the NT eradication zones,” he said.

Originally published as NT dashes ‘super banana’ trials

 

CBS/AP March 20, 2015, 2:43 PM

Last Updated Mar 20, 2015 3:30 PM EDT

BOISE, Idaho — Potatoes that won’t bruise and apples that won’t brown are a step closer to grocery store aisles.

The Food and Drug Administration on Friday approved the genetically engineered foods, saying they are “as safe and nutritious as their conventional counterparts.”

The approval covers six varieties of potatoes by Boise, Idaho-based J. R. Simplot Co. and two varieties of apples from the Canadian company Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc.

Okanagan, based in British Columbia, is trying to make apples a more convenient snack with its non-browning version. The company says bagged apples wouldn’t have to be washed in antioxidants like they are now, a process that can affect taste. Neal Carter, the company’s founder, says they want to see bagged apples become as prolific as bagged baby carrots.

“We know that in a convenience-driven world, a whole apple is too big of a commitment,” Carter said.

The apples are dubbed Arctic Apples, and Carter said he wants them to be labeled as such, since they bring an advantage to the marketplace. The first two varieties to get the non-browning treatment will be Granny Smith and Golden Delicious, and Carter says there won’t be significant plantings until 2017.

Simplot calls its potatoes Innate and the varieties selected include Ranger Russet, Russet Burbank and Atlantic.

“We’re trying to improve potatoes so everyone gets a better experience, just like it’s right out of the field,” said Haven Baker, vice president of plant sciences for Simplot.

The potatoes have 40 percent less bruising from impacts and pressure during harvest and storage then conventional potatoes, which the company said could reduce the more than 3 billion pounds of potatoes discarded each year by consumers.

Unlike in Europe, where there are strict regulations governing genetically modified organisms (GMOs), in the U.S. the FDA review process is voluntary. Both companies asked for a review to ensure their products met safety standards. As part of the process, FDA compares safety and data of the genetically engineered food with conventional varieties.

The federal government does not require that genetically modified foods say so on their labels, although polls have shown a majority of consumers want to know. An Associated Press-GfK poll in December found 66 percent of Americans support mandatory labels on genetically modified foods. About 40 percent said they consider it “very” or “extremely important.”

Despite consumer unease and ongoing controversy, genetically modified ingredients can already be found in a wide variety of products in American supermarkets. A Consumer Reports study last year found that scores of items from cereals to baby formulas to snack chips contained some ingredients which have had their DNA manipulated.

Aware of potential resistance from consumers, Simplot officials say Innate potato traits come exclusively from genes from domestic potato varieties.

It could be years before the potatoes become available to the average customer. The company has about 400 acres of Innate potatoes in storage from the 2014 harvest that it plans to deliver to growers, packers and shippers to be sent to a tightly-controlled network for use in small-scale test markets.

The company said those markets haven’t been determined, and it’s not clear yet how the potatoes will be labeled. The company said it’s not selling Innate seed potatoes on the open market.

“I think everybody wants to get what they pay for,” said Doug Cole, Simplot’s director of marketing and communications.

The potatoes will have 70 percent less acrylamide, a chemical that can be created when potatoes are cooked at high temperatures, the company says.

The company is touting that as a potential health benefit, as some studies have shown acrylamide to be a potential carcinogen, though the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health says scientists “do not yet know with any certainty” whether the substance can be harmful in food.

The FDA in its approval Friday noted that acrylamide has been found to be a carcinogenic in rodents.

However, one of the company’s oldest business partners — McDonald’s — has previously said it has no plans to use genetically modified potatoes. The company didn’t respond to inquiries from The Associated Press on Friday.

Gregory Jaffe, biotechnology director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, in a statement Friday objected to the voluntary system for approving genetically engineered foods.

“There’s no reason why these ‘Arctic’ apples and ‘Innate’ potatoes would pose any food safety or environmental risk,” he wrote. “That said, the process for allowing such new crops is badly flawed. Congress should pass legislation that requires new biotech crops to undergo a rigorous and mandatory approval process before foods made from those crops reach the marketplace.”

Simplot is working on a second generation Innate potato that will have additional traits, including resistance to late blight, which the company said will result in a 25 to 50 percent reduction in the need for pesticides. Late blight helped cause the Irish potato famine of the mid-19th century.

CBS/AP

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/genetically-modified-apples-potatoes-win-fda-approval/

 

FreshPlaza

Publication date: 3/23/2015

eight_col_064_IS09AL1QZFarmer with basket of organic potatoes.

New research shows a plastic mesh cover laid over potato crops could be the answer to fighting potato pests without using chemical sprays.

Scientists at the Future Farming Centre and Lincoln University say field trials of the mesh cover is showing exciting results in controlling the tomato potato psyllid as well as reducing potato blight.

The psyllid arrived in New Zealand in 2006 and can cause severe crop loss through its bacterium.

Researchers Dr Charles Merfield said the trials over two growing seasons in Canterbury showed potatoes under the mesh covers had reduced numbers of psyllids, increased tuber size and an increase in overall yield.

He says the covers were widely used in other countries and he expected them to become popular in New Zealand.

“These mesh crop covers have been in use in Europe for probably nearly two decades now, so they’re very widely used over there for pest control, particularly amongst organic growers, so these strike me as being an ideal way of controlling psyllids on potatoes on field crops.

“We did some initial trials at the Future Farming Centre and we’ve got some very good results in terms of controlling psyllid – and we also got the surprise effect of a dramatic reduction in potato blight as well.”

Dr Merfield said the mesh could also control a wide range of pests on many different field crops and was being used by organic growers in Hawke’s Bay to control root fly on carrots.

Source: radionz.co.nz

http://www.freshplaza.com/article/137097/NZ-Mesh-cover-to-fight-potato-pests?utm_campaign=newsletter&utm_medium=ed5&utm_source=s1

DukeToday

planthopper_SmallOne of the leading pests of rice, brown planthoppers can grow up to have either short or long wings, depending on conditions such as day length and temperature in the rice fields where they suck sap. The hormone insulin controls the switch that tells young planthoppers whether to develop into short- or long-winged adults, finds a new study. Photo by Chuan-Xi Zhang of Zhejiang University in China

Insulin tells young planthoppers whether to develop short or long wings

DURHAM, NC – Each year, rice in Asia faces a big threat from a sesame seed-sized insect called the brown planthopper, Nilaparvata lugens. Now, a study reveals the molecular switch that enables some planthoppers to develop short wings and others long — a major factor in their ability to invade new rice fields.

Lodged in the stalks of rice plants, planthoppers use their sucking mouthparts to siphon sap. Eventually the plants turn yellow and dry up, a condition called “hopper burn.”

Each year, planthopper outbreaks destroy hundreds of thousands of acres of rice, the staple crop for roughly half the world’s population.

The insects have a developmental strategy that makes them particularly effective pests. When conditions in a rice field are good, young planthoppers develop into adults with stubby wings that barely reach their middles.

Short-winged adults can’t fly but they’re prolific breeders. A single short-winged female can lay more than 700 eggs in her lifetime.

“The short-winged ones have great big fat abdomens. They’re basically designed to stay put and reproduce,” said biologist Fred Nijhout of Duke University, who co-authored the study with colleagues at Zhejiang University in China.

But in the fall as days get shorter and temperatures begin to drop — signs that the rice plants they’re munching on will soon disappear — more planthopper nymphs develop into slender adults with long wings. Long-winged planthoppers lay fewer eggs but are built for travel, eventually flying away to invade new rice fields.

Until now, scientists did not know exactly how the shorter days and cooler temperatures triggered the shift between short and long wings, or which hormones were involved.

To find out, the researchers used a technique called RNA interference (RNAi) to silence the genes for two different insulin receptors — regions on the cell membrane that bind to the hormone insulin — and measured the effects on the animals’ wings.

“Previously it had been assumed that all insects only had a single insulin receptor gene. We discovered that brown planthoppers have two,” Nijhout said.

When the researchers silenced the first insulin receptor, short-winged adults emerged. Silencing the second receptor produced adults with long wings.

Further study revealed that long wings are the default design. But when planthoppers secrete a particular type of insulin in response to changing temperatures or day length, the second insulin receptor deactivates the first receptor in the developing wings, leading to short-winged adults.

“The second insulin receptor acts by interfering with the first one, therefore shutting down the signal,” Nijhout said.

It’s too early to say whether the findings could lead to techniques to treat planthopper populations so they are unable to invade new rice fields, Nijhout says.

But the researchers have found similar mechanisms in other planthopper species, and are now trying to find out if insulin plays a similar role in other insect pests with flying and flightless forms, such as aphids.

This research was supported by the National Basic Research Program of China (973 Program, no. 2010CB126205) and by the National Science Foundation of China (no. 31201509 and no. 31471765).

https://today.duke.edu/2015/03/planthoppers

The appeared Mar. 18 in the journal Nature.

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