Archive for the ‘Emerging/invasive pests’ Category


New Zealand


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.


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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.”





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New Zealand


Updated at 2:47 pm on 23 March 2015


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.


Barberry seed weevil
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.



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Wednesday, 18 March 2015, 2:17 pm
Press Release: NZ Genomics
Biopesticides Being Tested Against Moth Pest

tuta S american

Scientists working under the banner of the Lincoln University based New Zealand Bio-Protection Research Centre are examining how to harness naturally occurring fungi and bacteria as biopesticides capable of killing insect pests.

Centre Director Professor Travis Glare says they are currently performing field trials against the diamondback moth, a caterpillar pest, which has become a major problem worldwide attacking cruciferous crops such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and bok choy.

“About $1 billion per year is spent on trying to control this pest. One of the key challenges posed by the diamondback is its ability to quickly become resistant to chemical pesticides.”

Researchers working on the project are tapping into the expertise of specialists at New Zealand Genomics Ltd (NZGL), a genomics infrastructure provider established in 2010 by three universities – Massey University, The University of Auckland and University of Otago – with support from the Government. NZGL provides an integrated suite of genomic services involving gene sequencing, bioinformatics and genomics appropriate information technology.

Professor Glare says the Bio-Protection Research Centre, a Government-funded Centre of Research Excellence (CoRE), is working with strains of Beauveria, a fungus that acts as a parasite and can kill or seriously disable insects. They are testing chemicals released by the fungus for their potential as active agents in biopesticides.

“Beauveria has a lot of strain variations which generate different toxins capable of killing insect pests. We are particularly interested in working out which genes encode for those toxins.”

“So far we have sequenced four strains of Beauveria, and we plan to compare these with strains from elsewhere in the world to find variations that may be even better.”

Professor Glare says NZGL has proved to be an incredible resource for their research, providing not only gene sequencing services but also bioinformatics so the massive amounts of data generated can be analysed fully.

“As a Centre of Research Excellence we rely on NZGL to help us handle the large datasets and bioinformatics that drive our science. It is also incredibly useful to have someone you can talk to and work over results with.”

The research has attracted commercial partner interest and Professor Glare says the spray tests they are now doing are to test their efficacy in field situations.

NZGL Chief Executive Tony Lough says this is exactly the kind of project that NZGL has been set up to assist.

“We provided a package of services, starting with upfront consultation on project design, before advising and assisting with sample preparation. The NZGL team was then able to carry out the sequencing and follow that up with expertise in bioinformatics.”


© Scoop Media

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Tuta absolutatuta-absoluta-invasive-pest-alert

Abigail Rumsey:

Plantwise plant doctors have been helping farmers in Kenya to identify and manage the devastating invasive tomato pest, Tuta absoluta.
Originally posted on CABI Invasives Blog:

Watch a new video illustrating the devastating impacts that Tuta absoluta is having on tomato yields, and what this means for farmers who rely on these crops for sustenance and income.

Dr Arne Witt, from CABI commented on the implications of Tuta absoluta infestation across Africa
“Tomatoes are one of the most widely cultivated crops in Africa and are grown in the backyards of almost every homestead across sub-Saharan Africa. This important cash crop and source of vitamins is now threatened by the recent arrival of the tomato leafminer,  Tuta absoluta.
This Invasive Alien Species is rapidly moving down the African continent, having already decimated crops in Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya and northern Tanzania. Growers are at their wits end as to how best they can control this pest and many have abandoned tomato growing altogether. The race is on to prevent its spread further south with various interventions planned…

To view video:  http://blog.plantwise.org/2015/03/18/tuta-absoluta-on-the-rampage-in-africa/

Note: Tuta absoluta has now invaded India and is poised to move into neighboring countries in Asia. A workshop on Tuta absoluta will be conducted at the XVIII IPPC (International Plant Protection Congress) in Berlin, 24-27 August 2015. Workshop organizer is Dr. R. Muniappan, Program Director, Feed the Future IPM Innovation Lab, VA Tech University <rmuni@vt.edu>



tuta S americaniapps-logo3

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March 4th, 2015

Green-bananas-on-plant-bunch-panoramaPhoto: http://www.shutterstock.com
The Australian banana industry is on high alert after a suspected case of Panama Disease Tropical Race IV (TR4) was detected on a plantation in the North Queensland region of Tully. Green bananas on plant bunch panorama

The disease had previously only been present in the Northern Territory within Australia, and further testing is being conducted to confirm whether this is indeed the first case in the leading banana-growing state of Queensland.

Biosecurity Queensland has quarantined the farm.

Australian Banana Growers’ Council (ABGC) chairman Doug Phillips had advised all banana growers to immediately review their on-farm biosecurity practices.

“Biosecurity is the most important issue to the Australian banana industry and Panama TR4 is the most serious of all biosecurity risks for us,” Phillips said in a release.

“This suspected case has been identified through the banana industry’s ongoing communication with growers about biosecurity risks and our surveillance work, with the plant sample collected by one of our field officers after being notified by the grower of an unhealthy plant.

“Although this is a suspected case of Panama TR4 both ABGC and Biosecurity Queensland are treating this case with the utmost seriousness.”




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Jerusalem Post


By SHARON UDASIN 02/22/2015

Nematode wormsNematode worms.. (photo credit:BIOBEE)
Originating in Southeast Asia, the red palm weevil has spread throughout the Mediterranean area as well as other countries such as China, Japan and even the United states, according to Agriculture Ministry data. The larvae of the weevil gnaw into the trunks and crowns of palm trees and cause severe damage – usually leading to the death and collapse of the tree and the destruction of entire orchards or parks.

In Israel, the red palm weevils first presented itself in palm groves north of the Dead Sea in 1999, after which they were controlled through mass trappings and chemical treatments, according to the Agriculture Ministry. Infections have occurred on and off since.

BioBee, a company that engages in “biologically based integrated pest management” – using living organisms to control agricultural pests – has brought in the nematode worms, which are not dangerous in any way to humans or animals, the company said.

The firm stressed that the weevils have become resistant to many of the chemical treatments against them, which can also be toxic to humans or other animals.

As part of the biologically based control method, workers place nematode worms in each of the affected palm trees, and the worms are able to identify the red palm weevil larvae and target them, BioBee said. The nematodes infect the weevils in a parasitic way, causing their death and dying with them as they lose their own food source.

In addition to bringing in the nematodes, BioBee is also making use of traps from Spain that mimic the smell of an infected tree. The weevils are attracted to the smell and enter the trap to drown. This method has proved successful in the Canary Islands, which have also suffered damage from the weevils, the company said.


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