FAW wksp Addis 2017

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The fall armyworm (FAW), Spodoptera frugiperda, a native to the Americas, arrived in Africa in early 2016. Since its arrival, it has moved quickly and is now in over 25 African countries including Ethiopia, Kenya, Niger, and Tanzania. The pest has the potential to cause significant damage and yield loss to over 80 plant species, including maize, rice, and sorghum. Already, it is estimated that it will cause over $3 billion in damage to maize throughout Africa in regions that are already food insecure.

In order to help farmers and policy makers manage this pest, the USAID-funded Feed the Future Integrated Pest Management Innovation Lab held an awareness and management workshop in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on July 14-15. The workshop, co-organized by USAID Mission in Ethiopia and the International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology, had over 75 participants, including representatives from FAO, CIMMYT, ICRISAT, WorldVeg, DFID, Netherlands Development Agency, EIAR, EARC, KALRO, Desert Locust Research Organization, Fintrac, CropLife, and others. Presentations covered topics including biological control, host plant resistance, and economic impacts among many others. His Excellency Eyassu Abrha, Ethiopian Minister of Agriculture, addressed the participants with the message that IPM is a strategic issue for the Ministry, and encouraged a holistic approach to management of the FAW pest, with pesticides being only one component of an integrated strategy that considers alternative control methods.

Summary of High Priority Recommendations from USAID IPM Innovation Lab Workshop in Addis Ababa

The IPM Innovation Lab, in association with the USAID mission in Ethiopia, organized a two-day workshop on Fall Armyworm in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, July 14-15, 2017. The purpose of the workshop was to assess the magnitude of the problem in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania; develop research strategies; identify high priority areas of research; create awareness; enhance collaboration among national, regional, and international agencies; provide collective insights on training, capacity building, and information dissemination on management options.

The workshop was attended by about 75 participants from national, regional, and international organizations, including members from the governments of Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania. The workshop also included members from plant protection departments, extension, universities, NGOs, the private sector, and international research organizations.

Breakout sessions organized by the workshop resulted in a list of high priority recommendations for combating the Fall Armyworm. They are:

  • Integrate cultural, physical, chemical, and biological controls with host plant resistance in management of FAW.
  • Survey and document natural enemies of the FAW in East Africa.
  • Evaluate the efficacy of the local larval parasitoid Habrobracon hebetor on FAW.
  • Evaluate the efficacy of the local egg parasitoid, Trichogrammatoidea armigera on FAW.
  • Evaluate the efficacy of other local FAW natural enemies.
  • Screen and identify the correct pheromone lure combination for attraction of FAW strains in East Africa.
  • Screen insecticides included in the USAID PERSUAP for efficacy and safety under local conditions in East Africa.
  • Governments should consider fast track registration of pesticides for control of FAW.
  • Conduct FAW host preference and host range studies in East Africa.
  • Collaboration within local governments, private companies, and international agencies.
  • Integrate management technologies developed for FAW in the IPM package that will be developed by the IPM Innovation Lab for maize and other crops (chickpea, rice, horticulture) in East Africa.


New rice IPM book

To see video go to:




  • International Conference on Emerging Trends in Integrated Pest Management for Quality Food Production
  • 25-27 July 2017
  • The Waterfront Hotel, Kuching, Malaysia

To register go  to:



Fall Armyworm Life Cycle

The Life Cycle of Fall Armyworm

1d ago

Fall armyworm life cycleThe Fall armyworm, Spodoptera frugiperda, is a major invasive pest in Africa. It has a voracious appetite and feeds on more than 80 plant species, including maize, rice, sorghum and sugarcane. Another feature which makes it an incredibly successful invasive species is its ability to spread and reproduce quickly. CABI have developed a poster to show the life cycle of the Fall armyworm, which includes egg, 6 growth stages of caterpillar development (instars), pupa and adult moth. Click here to view the full poster, or read about the life cycle below.

Day 1-3
100-200 eggs are generally laid on the underside of the leaves typically near the base of the plant, close to the junction of the leaf and the stem. These are covered in protective scales rubbed off from the moths abdomen after laying. When populations are high, the eggs may be laid higher up the plants or on nearby vegetation.

Day 3-6
Growth stages 1-3: After hatching, the young caterpillars feed superficially, usually on the undersides of leaves. Feeding results in semitransparent patches, or “windows”, on the leaves. Young caterpillars can spin silken threads which catch the wind and transport the caterpillars to a new plant. The leaf whorl is preferred in young plants, whereas the leaves around the cob silks are attractive in older plants. If the plant has already developed cobs then the caterpillar will eat its way through the protective leaf bracts into the side of the cob where it begins to feed on the developing kernels. Feeding is more active during the night.

Day 6-14
Growth stages 4-6: By stages 4-6, the fall armyworm will have reached the protective region of the whorl, where it does the most damage, resulting in ragged holes in the leaves. Feeding on young plants can kill the growing point, resulting in no new leaves or cobs. Often only 1 or 2 caterpillars found in each whorl, as they become cannibalistic when larger and will eat each other to reduce competition for food. Large quantities of frass (caterpillar poo) , which resembles sawdust, will be present.

Day 14-23
After approximately 14 days the fully grown caterpillar will drop to the ground. The caterpillar will then burrow 2-8 cm into the soil before pupating. The loose silk oval shape cocoon is 20-30 mm in length. If the soil is too hard then the caterpillar will cover itself in leaf debris before pupating. After approximately 8-9 days the adult moth emerges to restart the cycle.

This information has been adapted from ‘Fall Armyworm: Life cycle and damage to Maize’
To read more about what CABI is doing to help control Fall Armyworm in sub-Saharan Africa, please visit www.cabi.org/fallarmyworm

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  1. Reblogged this on The Invasives Blog.



LSU AgCenter weed scientist Daniel Stephenson holds a ragweed parthenium plant Photo by Olivia McClure/LSU AgCenter
LSU AgCenter weed scientist Daniel Stephenson holds a ragweed parthenium plant at the annual field day at the Dean Lee Research and Extension Center in Alexandria on July 13, 2017.

False ragweed becoming major row-crop pest in Louisiana

Ragweed parthenium (also know as false ragweed) has gone from a nuisance in pastures to a major pest in Louisiana row crops.

Bruce Schultz 1, Olivia McClure | Jul 18, 2017

An LSU AgCenter weed scientist speaking at a field day on July 13 at the Dean Lee Research and Extension Center warned farmers about ragweed infestations in their fields.

The scientist, Daniel Stephenson, said ragweed parthenium has gone from a nuisance in pastures to a major pest in Louisiana row crops. Ragweed parthenium is also known as false ragweed.

 The weed can become a major problem quickly if it is not controlled early. Ragweed parthenium often germinates after spring burndown herbicide applications and is not discovered until after crops have emerged, Stephenson said.

Applications of certain herbicides prior to or at planting can provide control of an existing population, he said.

Current research shows that after crop emergence, control options are limited, but Stephenson recommended sequential applications of either Liberty, Liberty plus Roundup PowerMax, or Roundup PowerMax plus a half pound per acre of dicamba.

Stephenson said it’s likely the weed has been spread by equipment.“Ragweed parthenium is a very troublesome weed that is difficult to control with herbicides,” he said. “If a producer sees it in their field, they need to remove it.”

The fruit fly brain


Examples of eight fruit fly brains with regions highlighted that are significantly correlated with (clockwise from top left) walking, stopping, increased jumping, increased female chasing, increased wing angle, increased wing grooming, increased wing extension, and backing up.

Kristin Branson

Artificial intelligence helps scientists map behavior in the fruit fly brain

Can you imagine watching 20,000 videos, 16 minutes apiece, of fruit flies walking, grooming, and chasing mates? Fortunately, you don’t have to, because scientists have designed a computer program that can do it faster. Aided by artificial intelligence, researchers have made 100 billion annotations of behavior from 400,000 flies to create a collection of maps linking fly mannerisms to their corresponding brain regions.

Experts say the work is a significant step toward understanding how both simple and complex behaviors can be tied to specific circuits in the brain. “The scale of the study is unprecedented,” says Thomas Serre, a computer vision expert and computational neuroscientist at Brown University. “This is going to be a huge and valuable tool for the community,” adds Bing Zhang, a fly neurobiologist at the University of Missouri in Columbia. “I am sure that follow-up studies will show this is a gold mine.”

At a mere 100,000 neurons—compared with our 86 billion—the small size of the fly brain makes it a good place to pick apart the inner workings of neurobiology. Yet scientists are still far from being able to understand a fly’s every move.

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To conduct the new research, computer scientist Kristin Branson of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Ashburn, Virginia, and colleagues acquired 2204 different genetically modified fruit fly strains (Drosophila melanogaster). Each enables the researchers to control different, but sometimes overlapping, subsets of the brain by simply raising the temperature to activate the neurons.

Then it was off to the Fly Bowl, a shallowly sloped, enclosed arena with a camera positioned directly overhead. The team placed groups of 10 male and 10 female flies inside at a time and captured 30,000 frames of video per 16-minute session. A computer program then tracked the coordinates and wing movements of each fly in the dish. The team did this about eight times for each of the strains, recording more than 20,000 videos. “That would be 225 straight days of flies walking around the dish if you watched them all,” Branson says.

Next, the team picked 14 easily recognizable behaviors to study, such as walking backward, touching, or attempting to mate with other flies. This required a researcher to manually label about 9000 frames of footage for each action, which was used to train a machine-learning computer program to recognize and label these behaviors on its own. Then the scientists derived 203 statistics describing the behaviors in the collected data, such as how often the flies walked and their average speed. Thanks to the computer vision, they detected differences between the strains too subtle for the human eye to accurately describe, such as when the flies increased their walking pace by a mere 5% or less.

“When we started this study we had no idea how often we would see behavioral differences,” between the different fly strains, Branson says. Yet it turns out that almost every strain—98% in all—had a significant difference in at least one of the behavior statistics measured. And there were plenty of oddballs: Some superjumpy flies hopped 100 times more often than normal; some males chased other flies 20 times more often than others; and some flies practically never stopped moving, whereas a few couch potatoes barely budged.

Then came the mapping. The scientists divided the fly brain into a novel set of 7065 tiny regions and linked them to the behaviors they had observed. The end product, called the Browsable Atlas of Behavior-Anatomy Maps, shows that some common behaviors, such as walking, are broadly correlated with neural circuits all over the brain, the team reports today in Cell. On the other hand, behaviors that are observed much less frequently, such as female flies chasing males, can be pinpointed to tiny regions of the brain, although this study didn’t prove that any of these regions were absolutely necessary for those behaviors. “We also learned that you can upload an unlimited number of videos on YouTube,” Branson says, noting that clips of all 20,000 videos are available online.

Branson hopes the resource will serve as a launching pad for other neurobiologists seeking to manipulate part of the brain or study a specific behavior. For instance, not much is known about female aggression in fruit flies, and the new maps gives leads for which brain regions might be driving these actions.

Because the genetically modified strains are specific to flies, Serre doesn’t think the results will be immediately applicable to other species, such as mice, but he still views this as a watershed moment for getting researchers excited about using computer vision in neuroscience. “I am usually more tempered in my public comments, but here I was very impressed,” he says.



Scientists uncover trick to spider’s stealth

You almost never notice a spider descend from the ceiling until it’s right in front of you. Coming down on its silk thread—the dragline—it barely moves or spins. Now, scientists have figured out why. In a study published this month in Applied Physics Letters researchers collected some golden silk orb-weaver spiders (Nephila edulis and N. pilipes, the latter pictured), raised them in the lab, and collected their dragline silk. They used a device that can measure extremely small forces—the torsion pendulum, the same apparatus that Henry Cavendish used to estimate Earth’s mass about 200 years ago—now equipped with image processing capability. All the other fibers they tested—including human hair, metal wires, and carbon fiber—behaved like an elastic material when twisted, just like a rubber band that comes back to its original shape when twisted or stretched. But, the dragline silk underwent permanent molecular deformation upon twisting. This warping rapidly slows down any movements, steadying the spider. The unique arrangement of molecules in dragline silk—rigid structures that help maintain its overall shape, and soft structures that act like a cushion, absorbing any motion—is responsible for this behavior, the authors suspect. The findings could lead to ropes for rescue helicopter ladders or rappelling climbers that don’t throw us into a spin.