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Delta farm press

Boll weevil photo
Mississippi farmers, and others throughout most of the nation’s cotton-producing regions, have saved many millions of dollars by no longer having to battle the boll weevils that had destroyed cotton yields for decades

For nearly a decade, not a single boll weevil in Mississippi

Mississippi is now entering its tenth year free of the boll weevil that cost U.S. producers billions of dollars over the past century.

Hembree Brandon | Jul 11, 2017

As he had done for the past nine years, Farrell Boyd was beaming at the joint annual meeting of the Mississippi Boll Weevil Management Corporation and the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation Cotton Policy Committee.

“It’s a pleasure for me to echo what I’ve said for the last nine years: Mississippi continues to be boll weevil-free,” said Boyd, who is program manager for the organization. “We’re going into our 10th year and not the first weevil has been caught — which is great! And we’ve gone from over 500 employees during the height of the eradication effort to just five today.”

Royal-Langley

Robert Royal, left, Midnight, Miss., producer/ginner, and James Langley, V&M Cotton Brokers, Yazoo City, Miss., were among those attending the joint annual meeting of the Mississippi Boll Weevil Management Corporation and the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation Cotton Policy Committee.

Mississippi producers, and others throughout most of the nation’s cotton-producing regions, have saved many millions of dollars by nolonger having to battle the pest that had destroyed cotton yields for decades, he says.

Still, “We’re not letting our guard down — we’re continuing to operate the Mississippi program in a surveillance mode. We have pheromone traps within a mile of every cotton field in the state, and we monitor them throughout the season in case any weevils should slip in on farm equipment coming from the south Texas areas where the eradication effort is still under way.”
SOUTH TEXAS AND MEXICO AREAS REMAIN

Nearly all of the U.S. cotton belt is now weevil-free, Boyd notes. “The only place where weevils still exist is in the Rio Grande Valley bordering Mexico, along the Rio Grande River, and south of Uvalde in the Winter Garden area, which is a reinfestation area. The reinfestation there emphsizes why we have to be so careful — it’s not impossible weevils could reoccur here as a result of being transported in from an infested area. It’s very important that we continue our surveillance program.”

The cooperative program between Mexico, the Texas Boll Weevil Foundation, and APHIS, to provide training and equipment for Mexico has been “very effective” in enhancing the eradication effort in that region, he says. “Unfortunately, they continue to have intermittent problems with drug cartels. A recent report noted that Mexican eradication workers were out of the field several times due to gun battles in the area. That kind of environment makes their eradication effort even more challenging.”Deere picker

deere  picker

Nearly all of the U.S. cotton belt is now boll weevil-free. Only areas in southernmost Texas and across the Rio Grande River in Mexico remain to be eradicated.

But, Boyd says, there has been “significant progress” on both sides of the border. “Through June 12, in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, they had an 81.4 percent decrease in weevil captures compared to a year ago. In the Mexican program across the river, through June 12 they’d captured 539 weevils, a 91 percent decrease over 2016.”

Both areas have significant increases in cotton acreages this year, he says, which could have an impact on weevil numbers, “but we’re still comfortable that they’re going to achieve eradication. The cooperative effort with Mexico has been a major achievement.”

BUFFER ZONE TO PREVENT REINFESTATION

Starting in 2014, he notes, the National Cotton Council Boll Weevil Action Committee established a buffer zone in the lower Rio Grande Valley to hopefully protect the rest of the cotton belt from weevil intrusion.

“An assessment was levied to fund the buffer zone, and in 2014 each state contributed 50 cents per acre, with 25 cents per acre in years since then. The buffer program will be reevaluated at the end of five years. So far, none of the money collected has been spent because the buffer zone is in the area where the Texas boll weevil eradication is going on, so it hasn’t cost any additional money to maintain the buffer. By the end of this year the fund will have accumulated between $11 million and $12 million, which is about enough to operate the program. So, they’re holding the money in escrow in the event some of it is needed for that.”

Everything is still “looking very promising” for eradication in the lower Rio Grande Valley, Boyd says, “and we’re looking forward to another weevil-free season in Mississippi. We appreciate everyone’s assistance in watching for harvest equipment or other equipment coming into our state from south Texas so we can be sure no weevils sneak in.

Coley Bailey, Jr., Grenada, Miss., producer, and president of the Mississippi Boll Weevil Management Corporation, echoed Boyd’s enthusiasm for the ongoing success of the program: “It’s great to be almost 10 years weevil-free. When I attended my first board meeting we were $60 million in debt; today we’re blessed to be in strong financial condition. But reinfestation could be costly — and we want to do all we can to prevent that from happening.”

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SE farm press

Boll Weevil USDA Agricultural Research Service

The weevil: an historical look at the ‘war’ that changed Southern cotton

The boll weevil and its hunger for cotton was powerful enough to forge an unprecedented partnership between farmers, legislators and scientists.

Dominic Reisig | May 18, 2017

The boll weevil is not much to look at – just a grayish, little beetle with an impressively long snout. But this particular beetle, and its hunger for cotton, was powerful enough to forge an unprecedented partnership between farmers, legislators and scientists. And that partnership showed how much can be accomplished when scientists and farmers work together.

What adult boll weevils lack in size they make up for with their larvae’s ability to feed on and destroy cotton. Boll weevils entered the U.S. from Mexico in the late 1800s, when they were first spotted in Texas. By the 1920s they had spread through all of the major cotton-producing areas in the country. The scope of the damage was breathtaking, as were the control efforts thrown at this insect: at one time, one-third of the insecticide used in the U.S. was used to combat boll weevils.

Editor’s Note: This was originally posted on the North Carolina State University website.

In 1903, the chief of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)

testified before Congress that the insect’s outbreaks were a “wave of evil,” and that afflicted areas in Mexico had abandoned cotton production altogether. Indeed, many scholars agree that the impact was so great on the rural South’s cotton-dependent economy that it was one of the causes of the “Great Migration,” when African Americans moved en masse to the northern U.S. during the early 1900s.Despite the arrival of the boll weevil, cotton production at first actually increased in the U.S., because the price of cotton increased as the boll weevil ran some cotton growers out of business. Cotton production moved in advance of the weevil, creating a boom in cotton plantings in areas that were weevil-free. But as the cotton spread, so did the boll weevil – costing cotton growers billions in revenue.

Declaring War on the Weevil

Then, in 1958, something novel happened. The National Cotton Council of America unanimously agreed, for the first time ever, on a piece of farm legislation. Among other things, that legislation called for cotton research to be expanded – and the boll weevil to be eliminated.

This was an unusual step for many reasons. First, efforts had been made to eradicate insects in livestock before, but no one had ever tried it with a crop pest; this was breaking new ground. Second, this was going to cost a lot of money, which would require the support of the federal government. Third, nobody had yet come up with a way to eradicate the insect. Finally, once eradication began, the eradication process would become a common pool resource. Because of this, cooperation would be vital, given that there would be a temptation for individuals, or whole regions, to get a free ride, relying on the contributions of their neighbors to the eradication effort. So mandatory farmer participation was a must. One by one, each of the challenges were addressed, requiring close collaboration at every step.

Insect eradication was not an entirely new concept. The promoter of eradication was a USDA Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) scientist named Edward Knipling, who had come up with an idea called the sterile insect technique. This technique was pioneered in the 1950s to eliminate screwworm, a parasitic insect pest of cattle. The sterile insect technique relies on flooding the environment with lots of sterile males. Those males then mate with females, but don’t produce any offspring. Knipling now envisioned eradication of the boll weevil, recognizing that it had two chinks in its armor. First, it was an exotic species, which meant that it could be present without some of the parasites and predators that weakened populations in its native Mexico. Second, it was reliant on a single host plant, cotton, which was also not native to the U.S.

Unfortunately, the sterile insect technique bombed. One million sterile boll weevil males were released in a trial. But the sterile males couldn’t compete with their virile wild counterparts and the trial was unsuccessful.

If eradication was going to take place, scientists would have to develop a new method. To that end, the federal government, state governments, and various cotton foundations and associations appropriated millions of dollars to support the research needed to develop the necessary tools for eradication.

For example, Congress funded USDA-ARS laboratories in many states, including one on the campus of Mississippi State University that was critical to creating many of the tools needed for eradication. This support continued through the eradication effort, ensuring that the insect could be eliminated beginning in Virginia and northeastern North Carolina, and moving steadily southward.

But the researchers of eradication faced a significant challenge up front. They knew that, for eradication to be successful, there had to be a very effective method of controlling boll weevils – one with a success rate of close to 100 percent. And that would require a significant leap over the available control techniques.

During the 1950s, controlling boll weevil infestations required multiple applications of very harsh and toxic insecticides (e.g., aldrin, azinphosmethyl, benzene hexachloride, chlordane, dieldrin, toxaphene, malathion, methyl parathion, and parathion). But a separate scientific advance was just around the corner.

New Weapons

In the 1960s, researchers were just beginning to understand the importance of insect pheromones, the chemicals produced by insect species that change behavior of other individuals in the species. USDA-ARS scientists discovered the sex attractant pheromones of the boll weevil – the combination of chemicals that allowed male boll weevils to find female boll weevils. These researchers were able to perfect a synthetic attractant pheromone blend, creating a lure that could be used to trap the amorous boll weevils. This advance would prove to be the linchpin for successful eradication, as weevils could be attracted, trapped, and monitored.

Another major breakthrough was the discovery of a method of control that increased success from 85-90 percent control to 98-99 percent.

Insect development is dependent on temperature, and lower temperatures slow down weevil development and reproduction. Mississippi scientists discovered that, by making multiple insecticide applications at short intervals during the autumn, they could both reduce the last reproductive generation of the weevils and significantly limit the survival of potentially overwintering adults. This was termed the reproduction-diapause control method.

The combination of the pheromone traps and the reproduction-diapause control method meant that, given cooperation on an area-wide basis, the boll weevil might be eradicated. And the pheromone traps cold also be used to confirm whether eradication efforts were successful. This one-two punch was tested in a pilot program in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana during the early 1970s. The pilot program couldn’t prove that this approach would eradicate boll weevils, but it was successful enough at reducing population levels that government, industry and research officials opted to proceed with a large-scale approach. This next step involved rolling out two companion trials in the late 1970s: one trial took place in Mississippi using the best known control methods for boll weevil at the time, while another trial tested the reproduction-diapause control method in North Carolina and Virginia.

Cooperation was critical to the North Carolina/Virginia trial. The federal government came through with enough funding to support 50 percent of the trial, while the state of North Carolina agreed to pick up another 25 percent of the cost. And more than three-quarters of North Carolina cotton growers approved of the eradication, agreeing to fund the remaining 25 percent. Meanwhile, a new insecticide had become available, diflubenzuron, which proved to make the eradication even more successful.

After three years, the reproduction-diapause method proved so successful that only one weevil was trapped in the North Carolina/Virginia eradication area. Moreover, this weevil was thought to be left over in a contaminated trap that hadn’t been cleaned properly. Insecticide use plummeted after eradication, but expansion and continuation of the program was not easy. Problems with funding, grower support in new eradication areas, and outbreaks of other pests, resulting from intensive insecticide applications used in eradication efforts – which obliterated beneficial insects that normally kept pests in check – slowed the process However, by 2009, the boll weevil was declared eradicated from all U.S. cotton-producing states, with one exception: Texas, which is the biggest cotton producer in the country.

A Fragile Victory

Which brings us to 2017. Eradication efforts have been stalled at the Texas-Mexico border, largely due to the instability created by illegal drug trafficking. That instability has effectively made large cotton farms in Mexico inaccessible for treatment, creating a welcoming habitat for boll weevil populations to rebound. Another problem in Mexico is the presence of non-cotton plant species that can host boll weevil. Further efforts to limit cooperation across the border, including the proposed border wall, ensure that the boll weevil’s “wave of evil” remains a looming threat. As a result, there is an ongoing battle to keep boll weevils in check in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas, funded by an ongoing annual assessment from cotton-producing states, which is aimed at preventing – and tracking – the spread of boll weevil populations.

But this story also highlights the fact that that the boll weevil has been largely conquered in the U.S., thanks to cooperation among growers, scientists and government officials – and due, in large part, to federal research funding. For example, in the southeastern U.S., a boll weevil has not been captured in a pheromone trap in 14 years. And those federal investments, made across the South, continue to pay dividends in the form of new projects, which are poised to tackle today’s native and invasive insects due to the investments made from boll weevil eradication.

For example, those early investments by state and federal governments created the USDA-ARS research system that is still present today across the southern U.S., including the facility at Mississippi State. This system continues to make a difference for U.S. farms. Research units in areas that still have boll weevil populations are using cutting-edge technologies, such as population genetics and aerial infrared imaging, to track movement of the species and identify potential patches of host plants for destruction. As boll weevils have been slowly eradicated, state by state, these researchers and facilities have shifted research priorities to other issues and pests affecting crop production. No one wants to fight another hundred-year war with a plant pest.

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Article taken from The Fruit Grower, written by Sue Jupe

Agrovista

30 January 2017

After three years of UK trials, BASF, working with Agrovista, has launched the first multi-pest pheromone disruption system, named RAK 3+4. Already commercially abailable in Europe, orchards are flooded with high rates of synthetic pheromones, and male moths become confused and give up trying to find a mate – mating is disrupted. With consumers being particularly wary of pesticide residues in fruit, this new approach to pest control in top-fruit offers real benefits for the control of challenging moth species.

Setting the scene, Simon Townsend of BASF said that, in line with other sectors of the industry, top fruit growers have lost valuable actives in the past 15 years following EC Regulation 1107/2009, changing the emphasis on plant protection products from a risk-based to a hazard-based system. Pest and disease challenges have been further compounded with growing biological resistance to some remaining actives.

Following approval through a mutual recognition label in Belgium, UK top fruit growers have a new IPM (integrated pest management) tool – RAK 3+4 – a mating disruption system for Codling Moth (Cydia pomonella) and Summer Fruit Tortrix (Adoxophyes orana). In addition, trials have produced observed efficacy against other Tortix species including Large Fruit Tree Tortix and Dark Fruit Tree Tortrix.

Adult Codling Moths emerge from cocoons in spring. Eggs laid on leaves and developing fruit hatch after a short time and the resulting larvae immediately bore into the fruit making control with insecticides difficult. As the moths directly damage the crop, the economic threshold is very low.

Importantly, in August or September there can be a partial second generation and, according to Agrovista’s Paul Bennett, this is particularly problematic as it necessitates insecticides being applied close to harvest. Whilst growers must adhere to strict harvest intervals, spraying at this stage has the potential for detectable residues to be found on the fruit, he warns.

Among the existing plant protection product options for Codling and Tortrix Moths are the ovicides Chlorantrantiliprole (Coragen) and Fenoxycarb (Insegar) and larvicides Spinosad (Tracer) and Methoxyfenozide (Runner).

How does it work?

As with all good IPM systems, the pest population should be monitored using an appropriate pest forecasting system or monitoring traps. “The new RAK 3+4 mating disruption system relies on the pheromones being in before the first target moths take flight in spring – around Arpil and before the end of the blossom,” explained Simon Townsend. “Designed to give season-long control, the pheromone cloud is released over nine months through to October.”

Simon went on to explain that in nature, female moths emit pheromones producing a concentration gradient which males travel down to locate a mate. “By releasing high rates of synthetic pheromones, male moths become confused and give up trying to locate a female. Mating is disrupted, no fertile eggs are laid and the population reduces,” he says.

With RAK 3+4, volatile female pheromone vapours are released from brown ampoules, each with two chambers – one containing Codling Moth pheromone the other Tortrix pheromone. By using multiple dispensers, a confusing cloud of pheromones is produced. BASF recommends that dispensers are used at a rate of 500 units/ha – at a uniform density of approximately one per 20 sq. metres. To prevent moths from adjacent areas encroaching into the treated orchard, and to maintain pheromone concentration at the edge of the treated area, additional product must be placed at the borders. BASF recommends doubling the dispenser rate at the edges of the treated area – such as orchard edges and along roads through orchards. “the dispensers should be hung in the top third of the tree, as the vapour is heavier than air, and at varying heights to achieve a ‘muddled’ vapour plune,” explained Simon Townsend. “The dispenser should be positioned so that it is clear of the body of the tree.”

To check efficacy during the season, pheromone monitoring traps (that attract male moths) should be installed in the treated orchards and checked weekly. If these traps no longer catch moths, this indicates that RAK 3+4 is working properly. However, it is always possible that mated females may enter the treated orchard from outside, and it is therefore important to check for fruit damage during the season. If the latest monitoring thresholds are exceeded, this is an indication that the moth population is too high, meaning that treatment with RAK pheromones alone may be insufficient. In this case, treatment with a conventional insecticide is necessary.

UK trials at Wisbech Contract Farming

Trials over several seasons at Wisbech Contract Farming in Norfolk have produced impressive results.

A modern progressive fruit farm, the highly uniform GPS-planted orchards employ modern post-and-wire hedgerow systems. Working closely with Paul Bennett of Agrovista, John Portass of Wisbech Contract Farming has trialled RAK 3+4 for the past three years on a total of 8ha.

The RAK 3+4 ampoules were distributed from a picking platform at the same time as workers carried out other operations, and took approximately 12 man-hours/ha. “In the first year of trials we selected an orchard with low moth pressure,” explained John. “The results gave us the confidence to extend the trial in the second year to a higher pest-pressure orchard. With no moths recovered in the traps we didn’t need to spray at all. We had extremely low level damage in fruit of just 1 or 2 per 1000 and as the season went on the moth population reduced.” In comparison, in untreated areas 60-70 codling-affected apples per 1000 fruit were recorded.

Summarising the results at the end of the third year of trials, Codling Moth numbers had been reduced by 95%, Summer Fruit Tortrix by over 89% and Fruit Tree Tortrix by over 99%. The economic thresholds were never exceeded and no caterpillar sprays were needed. Putting it in context, Paul Bennett said, “Using conventional pesticides the overwintering population tends to stay the same. Using 3+4 system the background population is reducing year-on-year.”

Impressed with the results, John Portass envisages rolling out the RAK 3+4 strategy to 60-70% of his 90ha in 2017. “We will be using it in high value varieties, such as the scab resistant Opal, but at this stage not the lower value Bramleys,” he says.

Commercial use in Europe

Mating disruption systems are already in commercial use in top fruit in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and France. It is estimated that 47% of top fruit in Belgium (7,000ha) currently uses mating disruption, with the RAK 3+4 system accounting for 20% and RAK 3 for a further 20%. While orchards receive a supplementary insecticide when required, or just around the outside rows, monitoring of 34 orchards in Wallonia showed 19 had used no additional insecticide.

According to Simon Townsend, pest pheromone disruption systems have been shown to work well in central Europe, withstanding extremes of temperature, and are already widespread in Germany in various crops, including vines. Trials in Belgium have shown that, compared to a reference orchard, RAK 3+4 delivers a major decrease in the number of males caught in traps and a significant decrease in infected fruit. The mating disruption system also showed a useful effect on many other species of Tortrix Moth including Fruit Tree Trotrix, Rose Trotrix an dMarbled Orchard Tortrix.

Simon Townsend is keen to point out that RAK 3+4 only controls specific moth species – Codling and Tortrix. It is therefore important that growers monitor for the occurence of these pests during the season, particularly at orchard borders. If thresholds are exceeded, BASF recommends that growers use a well-timed insecticide spray in addition to RAK 3+4. Under high pest pressure the level of control from RAK 3+4 can be reduced, making careful monitoring essential. “Growers should be mindful that using mating disruption does not rely on using any broad-spectrum insecticides, so new or past pest species may become a problem and will need to be controlled iwth appropriate IPM measures,” says Simon. “In some UK trials, there has been a resurgence of moth pests that have not previously been a problem (for example, Blastobasis sp). Other moth species not controlled that are potential pests in top-fruit include Spilonota sp and Epiphyas sp.

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New York Times

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/30/science/you-say-tomato-these-moths-say-dinner.html

Photo

People throwing tomatoes at one another during last year’s La Tomatina festival in Buñol, Spain. Credit Alberto Saiz/Associated Press

The streets of Buñol, Spain, will run red this week as 20,000 people hurl tomatoes at one another during La Tomatina, the world’s biggest food fight.

It’s a luxury that others envy.

Around the world, tomato crops are being ravaged by an invasive moth no larger than an eyelash. Originally from Chile, Tuta absoluta, also known as the tomato leaf miner, was introduced to Europe in 2006 via a container of infested tomatoes imported to Castellón, a Spanish province not far from Buñol. It spread throughout Europe, then to the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

The toll is particularly devastating in developing countries, where many farmers can’t afford integrated pest management (I.P.M.), the multipronged approach that has proved most effective at keeping the moth at bay.

Earlier this year, officials in northern Nigeria, where tomatoes are a staple, declared a state of emergency in Kaduna State, a major producer of the country’s tomatoes. By May, the moth had destroyed more than 80 percent of tomato crops in Kaduna; the price for a large basket of tomatoes rose to $212, from just $1.50 to $7.50 before the shortage.

At the peak of the outbreak, a Nigerian website published an article about Spain’s tomatofest headlined: “La Tomatina: 17 tomato photos that will make Nigerians cry ‘where is our God?’

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Though the leaf miner’s range in Europe is extensive, from Spain to Lithuania, many farmers have kept the moth’s numbers under control with an arsenal of specialized tactics. These include pheromones that lure the moths into traps or disrupt their mating; biopesticides based on bacteria, fungi or oils; chemical pesticides that are highly selective; and the introduction of the leaf miner’s natural enemies.

The last measure has been extremely effective in Spain, said Alberto Urbaneja, a professor at the Valencian Institute of Agricultural Research and one of the first to research the Tuta absoluta invasion in Europe. “If you can establish a good I.P.M. system based on biological control, it is possible to manage Tuta,” he said.

In countries with low financial resources, farmers often don’t take action until the pest has moved in. When it does, farmers turn to the pesticides they have on hand, which typically kill a broad spectrum of pests.

These chemicals are environmentally harmful and eventually lead to pesticide-resistant bugs.

In some countries, the problem comes down to a lack of technical knowledge or government support. With funding from USAID, Muni Muniappan, the director of the IPM Innovation Lab based at Virginia Tech, has been running workshops around the world to help farmers prepare for the inevitable spread of the leaf miner, which also attacks such crops as potatoes, eggplants and peppers.

Meeting the pest head-on “requires lots of training and information,” Dr. Muniappan said. But his work is currently limited to seven countries in Africa and Asia, including Bangladesh and Nepal, where scientists successfully caught the start of a Tuta absoluta invasion earlier this summer.

Experts say it’s only a matter of time before the moth invades the remaining countries within its geographical limits, including the United States, where the Agriculture Department has been monitoring Tuta absoluta and regulating the import of tomatoes since 2009.

Photo

A Tuta absoluta larva on a tomato leaf. The moth, also known as the tomato leaf miner, can destroy entire crops. Credit Costas Metaxakis/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The moths have a high reproductive capacity — each female produces up to 300 offspring in her lifetime — and they are small enough to be transported by wind, Dr. Urbanejo said. Their larvae devour tomato leaves, stems, fruits and flowers; uncontrolled, the pest can damage 100 percent of a crop.

Nevertheless, with the right combination of methods, countries should be able to keep the moth at manageable levels, Dr. Urbanejo said.

The problem is already showing signs of stabilizing in some African countries, including Kenya, where the moth was first detected in 2013. Farmers there are starting to use pheromone lures and adaptive practices like alternating tomatoes with other crops, said Fathiya Khamis, a scientist at the International Center of Insect Physiology and Ecology in Nairobi.

At least one company in Kenya, Kenya Biologics, now sells pheromone traps locally, and Dr. Khamis’s team is looking into other options as well, like fungal biopesticides and specialized nets.

As farmers adopt more sustainable strategies, tomato lovers may ultimately have to adjust to higher prices. Still, the drastic price hikes that initially accompanied outbreaks have settled down. In Kenya, tomato prices rose to $1.25 a kilogram after the moth outbreak from just 60 cents. Now, prices hover around $1. Tomato prices are now just slightly above what they were before the outbreak in Nigeria as well, said Orode Doherty, a doctor who lives in Lagos.

As for La Tomatina, its organizers say it is not contributing to tomato shortages; 145 to 160 tons of wild tomatoes are grown in western Spain just for the festival. These tomatoes aren’t cultivated, harvested or processed as they would be for human consumption, said Miguel Sanfeliu, a representative at La Tomatina.

“It’s like growing trees to make confetti for a party,” he said.

Correction: August 30, 2016
An earlier version of this article misstated the number of countries in which Muni Muniappan has been running workshops to help farmers prepare for the inevitable spread of Tuta absoluta. It is seven, not six.

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California eradicates the European grapevine moth

Pest first discovered in Napa vineyard in 2009
  • Trap counts quickly surpassed 1,000 in Napa County alone
  • Pest eventually spread to other grape growing regions in California

California agriculture officials report the European grapevine moth (pictured) has been eradicated.

 

In what’s being heralded a  “success story,” California is officially eradicated of the European grapevine moth (EGVM).

The good news means the lifting of quarantine restrictions in several grape-growing regions throughout the state.

The EGVM was first detected in a Napa County Chardonnay vineyard in 2009, the first time ever the pest was discovered in North America. Subsequent detections in the counties of Fresno, Mendocino, Merced, Nevada, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, San Joaquin, Solano and Sonoma led to quarantine restrictions and a mass effort to determine pest numbers through trapping.

The last EGVM detection in California was June, 2014.

How the EGVM first wound up in Napa County remains a mystery.

“It is no easy feat to eradicate an invasive species, especially one like the European grapevine moth when it gains a foothold in a place as hospitable as California’s prime wine grape growing region,” said Karen Ross, Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

Napa Valley wine grape grower Steven Moulds calls the eradication “a hard-fought victory.”

EGVM numbers quickly rose, particularly in Napa County, where trap counts in 2010 exceeded 100,000 moths from 3,800 traps blanketing the county. Quick collaboration between local agricultural officials, state and federal government agencies, and a group of international researchers including University of California wine grape specialists, helped identify the problem and recommend a course of action leading to eradication.

The EGVM, or Lobesia botrana, originates from southern Europe.

First and second generation insects feed on grape flowers and developing berries. By the third generation, larvae can cause great damage by feeding on grape berries, contaminating the fruit and exposing it to Botrytis and other infections.

Over the years, growers in the San Joaquin Valley and elsewhere outside of the Napa and Sonoma wine regions were able to quickly eliminate moth counts. As this happened, quarantines covering 2,334 square miles in 2013 fell to 446 square miles in 2014.

The Napa wine region took a mating disruption approach to eradication, while those in the San Joaquin Valley took a more direct approach by using labeled insecticides to kill the insect.

Napa County Agricultural Commissioner Greg Clark credits the collaborative effort between all parties involved, from local growers and staff in his office, to local and international university researchers, to the state and federal government, with the success achieved.

At the end of the day, Clark says the success of the eradication efforts needs to be pinned on local efforts.

“Eradication of the EGVM is an important accomplishment in itself, but this program is perhaps even more valuable as an example of what we are capable of as a community,” Clark said.

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Southeast Farm Press

  • Soybeans were an effective trap crop, pheromone traps killed stink bugs in the trap crop, and buckwheat plants fed beneficial wasps that reduced stink bug numbers.
Agricultural Research Service

Cotton growers in the United States are concerned about native stink bugs that have attacked cotton and other crops for decades.

The green stink bug (Chinavia hilaris), southern green stink bug (Nezara viridula), and brown stink bug (Euschistus servus) continue to threaten cotton. But an Agricultural Research Service scientist in Georgia has found some environmentally friendly alternatives to insecticides.

“Cotton growers are increasingly interested in producing their crops in ways that have less impact on the environment,” says ARS entomologist Patricia Glynn Tillman, who is based in Tifton, Georgia.

The three native stink bugs are immune to the insect-killing toxins incorporated into most modern cotton varieties. Insecticides are effective, but they also kill the stink bug’s natural enemies, and they often require repeated use throughout the growing season. Organic growers can’t use conventional insecticides.

Stink bugs continue to pose a serious economic threat. Last year, they collectively infested roughly a million acres of cotton in Georgia alone, and growers there spent $12 million to control them. The bugs are a particular problem in the southeastern United States, where cotton is often grown alongside peanuts. Brown and southern green stink bugs develop in peanut fields and migrate into cotton. Green stink bugs move into cotton from nearby wooded areas.

Because of work by Tillman and others, some growers are planting “trap crops,” such as soybean and grain sorghum, to lure stink bugs away from cotton. Other options include pheromone-baited traps, which capture and kill stink bugs, and nectar-producing plants, such as milkweed and buckwheat, to feed native parasitoid wasps that attack stink bugs.

In previous work, Tillman showed the effectiveness of setting up plastic barriers between the cotton and peanut rows. Her recent study focused on whether combining a trap crop, a nectar-producing plant, and pheromone traps would control stink bugs where cotton and peanuts grow.

Tillman and her colleagues grew cotton and peanuts side by side for 2 years. In the first year, they planted soybeans as a trap crop (with and without pheromone traps), between the cotton and peanut plots. In other areas, they placed 6-foot-high plastic barriers between the plots.

In the second year of the study, they added nectar-producing buckwheat plants near the cotton. Each week of the May-to-October growing season, they counted stink bugs and stink bug eggs killed by wasps, and they documented damage to cotton bolls.

They found that the plastic barriers between peanut and cotton were the most effective tool, but the multipronged approach is an effective alternative if barriers are not feasible. Soybeans were an effective trap crop, pheromone traps killed stink bugs in the trap crop, and buckwheat plants fed beneficial wasps that reduced stink bug numbers.

“Protecting Cotton From Stink Bugs” was published in the July 2016 issue of AgResearch Magazine.

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  • Soybeans were an effective trap crop, pheromone traps killed stink bugs in the trap crop, and buckwheat plants fed beneficial wasps that reduced stink bug numbers.
Agricultural Research Service

Cotton growers in the United States are concerned about native stink bugs that have attacked cotton and other crops for decades.

The green stink bug (Chinavia hilaris), southern green stink bug (Nezara viridula), and brown stink bug (Euschistus servus) continue to threaten cotton. But an Agricultural Research Service scientist in Georgia has found some environmentally friendly alternatives to insecticides.

“Cotton growers are increasingly interested in producing their crops in ways that have less impact on the environment,” says ARS entomologist Patricia Glynn Tillman, who is based in Tifton, Georgia.

The three native stink bugs are immune to the insect-killing toxins incorporated into most modern cotton varieties. Insecticides are effective, but they also kill the stink bug’s natural enemies, and they often require repeated use throughout the growing season. Organic growers can’t use conventional insecticides.

Stink bugs continue to pose a serious economic threat. Last year, they collectively infested roughly a million acres of cotton in Georgia alone, and growers there spent $12 million to control them. The bugs are a particular problem in the southeastern United States, where cotton is often grown alongside peanuts. Brown and southern green stink bugs develop in peanut fields and migrate into cotton. Green stink bugs move into cotton from nearby wooded areas.

Because of work by Tillman and others, some growers are planting “trap crops,” such as soybean and grain sorghum, to lure stink bugs away from cotton. Other options include pheromone-baited traps, which capture and kill stink bugs, and nectar-producing plants, such as milkweed and buckwheat, to feed native parasitoid wasps that attack stink bugs.

In previous work, Tillman showed the effectiveness of setting up plastic barriers between the cotton and peanut rows. Her recent study focused on whether combining a trap crop, a nectar-producing plant, and pheromone traps would control stink bugs where cotton and peanuts grow.

Tillman and her colleagues grew cotton and peanuts side by side for 2 years. In the first year, they planted soybeans as a trap crop (with and without pheromone traps), between the cotton and peanut plots. In other areas, they placed 6-foot-high plastic barriers between the plots.

In the second year of the study, they added nectar-producing buckwheat plants near the cotton. Each week of the May-to-October growing season, they counted stink bugs and stink bug eggs killed by wasps, and they documented damage to cotton bolls.

They found that the plastic barriers between peanut and cotton were the most effective tool, but the multipronged approach is an effective alternative if barriers are not feasible. Soybeans were an effective trap crop, pheromone traps killed stink bugs in the trap crop, and buckwheat plants fed beneficial wasps that reduced stink bug numbers.

“Protecting Cotton From Stink Bugs” was published in the July 2016 issue of AgResearch Magazine.

Read Full Post »

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