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Inside Science

A solution that clings to plant leaves could make pesticide application more efficient and minimize soil contamination.

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Image credits:  (Source image/Public Domain)

Wednesday, March 1, 2017 – 14:15

Yuen Yiu, Staff Writer

(Inside Science) — Chinese scientists have proposed a way to reduce the splashing of pesticides during spraying, which could cut pollution and save money. Their experiments suggest that adding a commercially available type of salt to water-based pesticides could nearly eliminate splashing. Their findings appear online today in the journal Science Advances.

The pros and cons of pesticides

Modern advancements in agriculture have vastly reshaped our world over the last few hundred years. During the 1800s, the average U.S. farmer produced enough food to feed three to five people. Today, the number is over one hundred. This drastic change occurred as the size of the average farm also grew. The combination freed up a huge portion of the population to pursue other occupations, advancing society in many different areas.

One of the most significant agricultural advancements is the use of modern pesticides, which include chemicals designed to kill invasive weeds, foraging insects or any other pests. While the use of pesticides can be dated back thousands of years, synthetic pesticides for large scale farms weren’t widespread until the 20th century. Today, these pesticides enable farmers to produce large yields of crops, but also bring with them many downsides, among them food safety and environmental pollution problems.

According to Burkhard Schulz, a plant scientist from the University of Maryland in College Park, the agriculture industry does not anticipate that better pesticide chemicals will be invented in the foreseeable future. “We simply have to work with what we have,” he said.

Therefore, solutions to minimize the downsides of pesticides must come from elsewhere.

“We will have to develop new [pesticide] application or crop management methods,” Schulz said.

According to the Chinese researchers, up to 50 percent of sprayed pesticides are wasted due to splashing alone. This is bad for the environment, because the chemicals can contaminate the soil and water. It is bad for the farmers, because extra pesticides cost money. And it is bad for the crops, because the overuse of pesticides can promote resistance in bugs and weeds, similar to how antibiotics can create superbugs. For these reasons, Meirong Song, a materials scientist from the Chinese Academy of Science in Beijing, and her team have been searching for solutions to reduce the splashing of liquid pesticides.

No splash zones for pesticides

Song and her colleagues examined the performances of several candidate solutions by dropping them onto a piece of cabbage leaf under a microscope. They discovered that a specific type of salt called dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate, commercially known as Aerosol OT, is very efficient in eliminating splashing. Originally developed as a laxative in the early 20th century, Aerosol OT is now widely used as an additive in many things from printer inks to pharmaceutical products. Song’s team found that the chemical is effective in reducing splashing with a concentration of only one part in a hundred in the aqueous solution.

When a droplet of pure water hits a leaf, it spreads out and then shoots upward. In contrast, the Aerosol OT mixture clings onto the surface of the leaf after spreading. The different behavior is because the chemical additive changes the wetting ability of the liquid droplet. Wetting, as its name suggests, represents the ability of a liquid to maintain contact with a solid surface. A higher wetting ability can be achieved by changing certain physical properties of the liquid, such as the surface tension. The addition of Aerosol OT would be effective at reducing splashing in water-based pesticides.

“Aerosol OT can be easily washed away with water,” said Zhichao Dong, a chemist from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing and one of the paper’s authors. “However, in the long term, we still need to test this on different kinds of plants during different stages of their growth.”

“Today a lot of the agricultural industry is working on precision agriculture, which basically means more precise application of pesticides, for example spot treating specific weeds with a specific kind of herbicide,” said Schulz.

According to Schulz, the discovery by the Chinese team can help further the effort in precision agriculture and can promote more efficient and environmentally friendly farming practices.

Editor’s note: Quotes from Zhichao Dong are translated from an original interview conducted in Mandarin.

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Zoutnet
https://www.zoutnet.co.za/articles/news/40825/2017-02-13/dreaded-fall-armyworm-is-here

Dreaded fall armyworm is here

News Date: 13 February 2017

Written by: Prudence Bopape / Viewed: 260

A dreaded pest, the fall armyworm, has arrived in Limpopo, much to the dismay of crop farmers and the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Industries (DAFF). The armyworm can destroy massive quatities of crops in a matter of days and the normal pesticides are not very effective in combatting it.

The department has warned Limpopo residents about this alien creature and has stated in a press release that researchers are currently working on a plan to resolve this issue. It has been confirmed that these armyworms have already damaged maize in South Africa’s Limpopo, North West and Free State provinces.

The fall armyworm was positively identified from samples collected in Limpopo. These samples were jointly collected by scientists from ARC Grain Institute and the Northwest University.

The DAFF warned that the worm poses a great danger to the livelihood of the growth and development of crops and other plantations. Armyworms primarily feed on grass, forage grasses, oats, wheat and corn. These pests attack vegetables such as beans, cabbages, onions, peas, peppers and sweet potatoes.

“As the fall armyworm is a new pest to South Africa, no pesticide was previously registered to be used against it. A process of emergency registration of agricultural chemicals is initiated for urgent registration,” said Miss Bomikazi Molapo, spokesperson for the department.

Farmers as well as other individuals need to stay alert as these armyworms come in different colours from greenish-brown to black. These creatures reach a level of maturity at the length of 1½ inches. The eggs resemble globules as they are laid in rows on groups of host plants.

The presence of the pest will be notified on the International Plant Protection Convention’s portal in terms of South Africa’s international pest-reporting obligations. SADC member countries will also be notified and regional control measures will be discussed.

Crop producers are encouraged to report suspected detection of this pest to the department. Please report to Jan Hendrik Venter at: 012 3196384, 0723488431 or janhendrikv@daff.gov.za. “Please contact a chemical representative to advise with control options,” the department said.

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By Nilesh Christopher. Reblogged from The Economic Times of India. Before the start of the next crop planting season, third generation farmer Krishna Balegayi – who has been farming for 25 years – is sure to take the help of an Android app to better his yield. Bangalore-based startup Nubesol technologies has created a WhatsApp-like […]

via A WhatsApp-like app for the tech-savvy farmer — The Plantwise Blog

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EurekAlert
Public Release: 6-Feb-2017

Help for national programs supporting smallholder farmers

International Potato Center / Centro Internacional de la Papa

“African communities are highly dependent on agriculture, which is vulnerable to unpredictable changes in climatic conditions,” said Dr. Jürgen Kroschel, CIP’s Agroecology and Integrated Pest Management science leader. “Any increase in temperature caused by climate change will have drastic effects on pest invasions and outbreaks affecting pest management, crop production and food security.”

Climate change will exacerbate existing vulnerabilities of resource-constrained farmers who depend on agriculture for a living. CIP launched the Pest Risk Atlas for Africa to benefit researchers and extension workers involved in pest risk analysis and pest management. Ultimately, this information will create better awareness of current and future pest risks under climate change and promote the inclusion of pest risk adaptation plans at country level. Consequently, it may lead to the adaptation of sustainable pest control methods that are not overly dependent on pesticides and therefore are best suited for farmers in Africa to improve their food security and daily lives under future climates.

In its global pest management research efforts, CIP’s Agroecology and Integrated Pest Management program developed a scientific framework based on advanced pest phenology modeling and Geographic Information System risk mapping to better understand future pest risks on global, regional, and local scales and to use this information for adaptation planning.

The Pest Risk Atlas for Africa provides detailed information for pest risk analysis including:

  • Detection and identification, morphology, and biology with an emphasis on temperature-dependent development
  • Means of movement and dispersal, economic impact, geographical distribution, and phytosanitary risks
  • Risk mapping under current and future climates: global risk and regional risks for Africa with individual country risk maps
  • Phytosanitary measures and adaptation to risk avoidance at farm level.

On average, 30-50% of the yield losses in agricultural crops are caused by pests, despite the application of pesticides to control them. Climate, especially temperature, has a strong and direct influence on the development and growth of insect pest populations. A rise in temperature due to climate change may both increase or decrease pest development rates. Hence, an increase in temperature can potentially affect range expansion and outbreaks of many insect pests. Therefore, if adequate integrated pest management (IPM) strategies are not developed and made available to farmers, greater losses in crop yield and quality could ultimately result.

Natural enemies play an important role in managing pests and are often used in classical biocontrol programs to manage invasive non-indigenous pests. It is important to better understand how climate change will affect this trophic level and how crop management can build and rely on biocontrol strategies. The Pest Atlas for Africa includes important data and mapping information to better use this powerful pest management option.

###

The Pest Risk Atlas for Africa is now available online at http://cipotato.org/riskatlasforafrica/and will be periodically updated and enriched with new pest chapters. All individual pest and biocontrol agent chapters can be downloaded for free. It also contains interactivity that allows users to zoom into maps, and do quick searches for specific information.

The International Potato Center, known by its Spanish acronym CIP, was founded in 1971 as a root and tuber research-for-development institution delivering sustainable solutions to the pressing world problems of hunger, poverty, and the degradation of natural resources. CIP is truly a global center, with headquarters in Lima, Peru and offices in 20 developing countries across Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Working closely with our partners, CIP seeks to achieve food security, increased well-being, and gender equity for poor people in the developing world. CIP furthers its mission through rigorous research, innovation in science and technology, and capacity strengthening regarding root and tuber farming and food systems.

CIP is part of the CGIAR Systems Organization, a global partnership that unites organizations engaged in research for a food secure future. CGIAR research is dedicated to reducing rural poverty, increasing food security, improving human health and nutrition, and ensuring more sustainable management of natural resources. Donors include individual countries, major foundations, and international entities.

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.

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By Lisa Cornish. Reblogged from DEVEX. As climate change impacts the global ability to grow food, both in quality and quantity, researchers in agriculture have become an important asset for establishing long-term food security as the world’s population continues to increase. In December, agriculture and food security researchers visited Canberra for high-level discussions on development […]

via Agriculture and food security — where are we headed in 2017? — The Plantwise Blog

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CropBiotechUpdate
http://www.isaaa.org/kc/cropbiotechupdate/article/default.asp?ID=15083

Researchers Discover Off-Switch to CRISPR-Cas9 Gene Editing System

Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco have found a way to switch off the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing system using newly identified anti-CRISPR proteins that are produced by bacterial viruses. The newly discovered anti-CRISPR proteins could enable more precise control in CRISPR applications, but also provide a fail-safe to quickly block any potentially harmful uses of the technology.

To find an anti-CRISPR protein that would work against the CRISPR-Cas9 system used in most labs which depends on a protein called SpyCas9 as its targeted DNA clippers, the researchers thought that they should be able to identify bacteria with inactivated CRISPR systems. This can be conducted by looking for evidence of so-called “self-targeting” – bacterial strains where some virus had successfully gotten through the Cas9 blockade and inserted its genes into the bacterial genome.

The research team examined nearly 300 strains of Listeria, and found that 3 percent of strains exhibited “self-targeting.” Further investigation isolated four distinct anti-CRISPR proteins that proved capable of blocking the activity of the Listeria Cas9 protein, which is very similar to SpyCas9.

Further research showed that two of the four anti-CRISPR proteins, called AcrIIA2 and AcrIIA4 by the researchers, worked to inhibit the ability of the commonly used SpyCas9 to target specific genes in other bacteria, as well as in engineered human cells. Together, the results suggest that AcrIIA proteins are potent inhibitors of the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing system as it has been adopted in labs around the world.

For more details, read the news release from UC San Francisco.

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tuta-sym-nepal

Symposium organizers and speakers.

The Feed the Future Integrated Pest Management Innovation Lab (IPM IL) conducted a symposium on the South American tomato leafminer, Tuta absoluta at the International conference on Biodiversity, Climate Change Assessment and Impacts on Livelihood held in Kathmandu, Nepal, January 10-12, 2017.

The symposium had presentations of participants from Bangladesh, India, Nepal and the U.S.

Dr. R. Muniappan, Director, IPM Innovation Lab, Virginia Tech presented a brief review of Tuta absoluta and the 16 awareness and management workshops conducted for participants from 50 countries. Dr. Shahadath Hossain, Entomologist, Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute talked about monitoring of the spread of Tuta absoluta in Bangladesh. Mr. Lalit Sah, International Development Enterprises (iDE) described the distribution and management of Tuta absoluta in Nepal. Dr. V. Sridhar, Indian Institute of Horticultural Research discussed the occurrence of Tuta absoluta in India and the use of the CLIMEX model for identifying its spread. The next presentation by Dr. Srinivasan Venkataramanan, Biocomplexity Institute, Virginia Tech, discussed the development of hybrid models including ecology and human movement in the spread of Tuta absoluta. Participants of the symposium discussed on the possibility of developing a regional project including Bangladesh, India and Nepal for the management of Tuta absoluta.

For further information contact: rmuni@vt.edu

 

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