A new dedicated website for the Starting in January 1, 2016, a dedicated website for the Arab Journal of Plant Protection was launched. All society members and others are invited to visit the site www.ajpp.asplantprotection.org, and the journal editorial board welcomes any comments that aims to improve the site and makes it more user friendly. This step was implemented in response to the request of a variety of international scientific journals indexing institutions. At present, the Arab Journal of Plant Protection is indexed by the Arab Impact Factor in Egypt and received an impact factor (IF) in 2015 of 1.6, and also by the Scientific Indexing services (SIS), USA, and received an IF for 2015 of 0.832. The journal is now also being indexed by SCOPUS ELSEVIER, The Netherlands, and by the Institute for Information Resources-Global Impact Factor, Australia. The Arab Society for Plant protection aims from this multi-institutional indexing to establish its excellence status among respected scientific journals in the region and globally.
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.
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.
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.
In This Issue: Awareness Needed to Increase Preparedness for Tomato Leafminer; Bats and Owls Combat Pests and Protect Children From Pesticide Exposure in South Africa; Drones Diagnose Plant Health and Cut Insecticide Use
Awareness Needed to Increase Preparedness for Tomato Leafminer
A moth known as the tomato leafminer (Tuta absoluta) is currently damaging crops in several countries around the world, and some experts indicate the pest is destined for North American shores. To date, U.S. media have not yet given it much attention. Dr. Muni Muniappan of Virginia Tech’s IPM Innovation Lab suggested in a recent editorial that this needs to change as quickly as possible to increase preparedness by US growers.
T. absoluta has long been a tomato pest in South American countries, was identified abroad in Spain in 2006 and has since spread to France, Italy, Greece, Malta, Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia and Senegal. A full distribution map is available at the Tuta absoluta Information Network. In 2016, the pest reached Nigeria, where it wiped out 80% of the nation’s tomato crop, a staple for the nation. Nigeria is one of Africa’s largest producers of the vegetable.
The leafminer deposits eggs on the leaves and stems of tomato plants. As larvae hatch, they mine leaves and burrow into tomatoes to feed, and can cause 100% crop loss. Richard Hopkins, head of pest behavior at the London-based University of Greenwich’s Natural Resources Institute, has been quoted as saying that “Tuta has the potential to effectively eliminate tomato from the agricultural cycle.”
As with many pests that feed under cover of plant tissue, leafminer larvae are difficult to control. Some strains are resistant to organophosphate and pyrethroid insecticides. The leafminer has up to ten to 12 generations per season in favorable conditions. Eggs, pupae and adults have been observed to overwinter in many climates.
Dr. Muniappan is director of the IPM Innovation Lab at Virginia Tech, part of the Office of International Research, Education and Development, one of 24 US AID-funded labs working to reduce hunger worldwide. Dr. Muniappan argues that proactive, preventative IPM methods may be the only effective defense against this pest. The Innovation Lab has conducted IPM workshops for growers in Nepal and Bangladesh that helped growers quickly identify the moth as it arrived and set up controls before populations could explode. Pheromone traps for monitoring and mass-trapping have been employed with some success in Europe, and other researchers are currently exploring biological control via damsel bugs. The U.S. government has responded to the threat of Tuta’s arrival by banning all imports of tomatoes with stems and leafy tops attached from affected countries.
Bats and Owls Combat Pests and Protect Children From Pesticide Exposure in South Africa
A South African pest management company has been employing bats and owls to control insects and rodents as an innovative IPM solution and is now taking aim at tomato leafminer in Nigeria. Johannesburg-based EcoSolutions has more than nineteen branch locations in South Africa and earns the greater share of its income from use of these biological controls for crop pests.
Pesticide risks in developing countries can be greater than in the U.S., Europe and other developed nations. For example, aldicarb is not permitted for use as a rodenticide in the U.S., but is used in South Africa for that purpose. Ingestion of rodenticides by children is a growing concern with over 500 children hospitalized last year alone as a result of eating rat poison. Bats and owls offer an eco-friendly solution.
EcoSolutions sells bat houses, owl houses, and environmental designs with maps on where they should be placed. Getting bats to occupy bat houses is an “exact science” according to director Jonathan Haw. Bat houses should ideally be close to a water source and a calcium source, and be at an ideal height, properly oriented and with a certain air flow. Bats can consume up to 400 to 500 insects a night and a single bat house can hold 150 bats. Bats also have a behavioral influence on insects-certain pests, including leafminer moths, can hear echolocation and will leave the area when they do. Simply playing sounds of bats echolocating over an orchard can reduce pest activity.
Haw suspects that bats could be effective controls for tomato leafminer in Nigeria. “It’s taken 100 years to get to a point where people are starting to embrace it as a realistic alternative,” he said. “We can bring [bats and owls] back as allies…Food security is a problem in Africa and one of the biggest threats is insects. Bats will travel long distances to find insects. They’ll keep coming back. They’re perfect in an integrated pest management program.” To solve the Nigerian leaf miner problem, Haw has proposed creation of large-scale “bat towers made of brick and concrete costing about $5,000 to $10,000 per structure, that would look a bit like Dutch windmills, [and] that hold 10,000 bats. They would provide a regulated thermal consistency. It’s a project that would have to involve the Nigerian government.”
To read more about EcoSolutions’ innovative IPM approach, visit AFK Insider or visit their company homepage.
Drones Diagnose Plant Health and Cut Insecticide Use
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), also known as drones, are being used to diagnose field plant stress levels and facilitate targeted insecticide applications in Western Australia. Researchers at the Department of Agriculture and Food of Western Australia have been assessing crops via infrared imaging technology to detect signs of stress and nutrient deficiencies in field crops. Nutrient deficient plants are more susceptible to attacks by pests, particularly aphids.
In one study, researchers sent out an eight-winged rotocopter equipped with a multi-sensor camera over canola that had been seeded four months earlier. Since the cell structures of plants are highly efficient at reflecting near-infrared light when hit by sunlight, the scientists used an infrared camera to detect areas that reflected less near-infrared light. The more leaves and biomass a plant has, the better its health, and the greater its reflection of the sun’s rays. They found this method was 99.9% accurate from 120 meters above ground level at detecting areas of fields that were nutrient deficient and suffering from aphid infestations.
Early detection and more targeted pesticide applications can save growers money. To read more about this early-stage research, visit phys.org.
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The largest agricultural robot on Earth working in an Arizona energy sorghum varietal trial.
The crop analytic robot is a Volkswagen-sized field scanner measuring crop growth with unprecedented resolution.
Plant data collected by the field scanner will be shared with crop breeders to speed up the breeding process in energy sorghum.
Pedro Andrade, left, University of Arizona, and Jeff White, USDA Agricultural Research Service, based in Maricopa, Ariz., stand in an energy sorghum variety trial where the world’s largest crop analytical robot records critical plant data.
Captain Kirk of Star Trek movie fame would feel right at home operating the controls of Planet Earth’s largest agricultural robot, currently operating in an energy sorghum varietal trial in Maricopa, Ariz.
The crop analytic robot, similar in appearance to a gantry crane, features a Volkswagen-sized field scanner loaded with the latest precision agriculture tools to precisely measure crop growth with unprecedented resolution.
The field scanner which moves east-to-west, north-to-south, and up-and-down above the field is located at the University of Arizona’s (UA) Maricopa Agricultural Center (MAC).
Over time, plant data collected by the field scanner will be shared with commercial and university crop breeders to help speed up the natural breeding process in energy sorghum varieties to boost yields and biomass content. The same tools could one day by use to collect plant data for breeding other types of crops.
Over the long term, improved energy sorghum varieties can help growers increase biofuel production, thus helping reduce this nation’s dependence on foreign oil.
Robot ribbon cutting
At a June ribbon-cutting ceremony for the robot field scanner system, DOE Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) Director Joe Cornelius described the project as “agriculture’s version of the Hubble” (telescope), saying the project’s faster breeding results could place improved varieties in growers’ hands sooner.
The DOE’s Ellen Williams said the project would “revolutionize plant breeding.” She believes the sorghum project could accelerate the plant breeding process by two to three fold.
Shane Burgess, UA Dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, noted, “This is history in the making.”
Led by the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, Mo., the field scanner robot project includes specialists from several universities, the federal government, and the private sector.
In the first year of the four-year project, the sorghum trial is largely funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The project budget is about $8 million, not including the field scanner.
The UA receives about $1.6 million to cover the costs to construct the site and for its day-to-day operation.