Tag Archives: pest control

New PCN calculator unveiled

Researchers working on a project supported by AHDB Potatoes hope they will be able to improve the accuracy of a calculator on the AHDB website for the Globodera pallida species of potato cyst nematode.

The current PCN pallida calculator replaces an earlier CD-based version, and is designed to be updated with new information as it becomes available. Based on feedback, AHDB claims the web version is more user friendly, allowing for greater flexibility to move around the various input tabs and so demonstrate ‘what if’ scenarios.

Senior Research Assistant Bill Watts at Harper Adams University is hoping that the 20 month project will provide new data sets to help the calculator keep up with the latest findings on PCN biology, shifting varietal trends and new management practices.

“The varieties under investigation include Estima, Lady Rosetta, Marfona, Maris Piper, Markies, Melody, Nectar, Pentland Dell, Royal and Taurus,” he said. “They represent the ten most widely grown varieties in the UK today and are compared to two control varieties; Maris Peer which is intolerant to PCN, and Cara which is tolerant of PCN. Much emphasis has been placed on investigating resistant varieties; however, information on varietal tolerance to PCN is also important to potato growers.”

The next set of tolerance experiments will be carried out this spring, although AHDB stress that the model, “Is not a decision support system as it does not offer advice on what you should do. Instead it is an educational tool, or a decision justifier.”

Photo Caption: PCN cysts on infected potato roots.

Photo Credit: USDA

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PRGO to hold pea and bean crop protection course

PGRO will hold its next course on Pea & Bean Crop Protection at its will be held at its Research Station at Thornhaugh near Peterborough on 6 February 2018.

The one day course provides agronomists, consultants, growers and crop managers with the latest updates in crop protection for both vining and combining peas, as well as winter and spring field beans. Major pests, diseases, disorders and weed control strategies, will be covered with the aim that participants can correctly identify pests, diseases and disorders following the training. They will also appreciate the regional and national significance, be aware of herbicide options (including the strengths and weaknesses of different herbicides), and be able incorporate control measures into integrated pest management programmes.

The course is recognised by BASIS and costs £205.00 per person (including VAT). The fees cover lunch, refreshments and literature. Applications should be made by 30th January latest. Interested parties should contact Sue Bingham (sue@pgro.org) for booking details as numbers are strictly limited.

Photo Caption: The course covers all major pests and diseases of peas and beans.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

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Plaguing insects with bittersweet tastes to protect crops

Scientists are developing a new pest control technique which uses their feeding preferences against them.

“Taste-based feeding traps using natural products could be an eco-friendly, cost-efficient and sustainable alternative to synthetic insecticides in the future,” Dr Stefan Pentzold from the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, Germany, told the EU’s Horizon website.

“Despite their essential role in the insects’ food intake, survival and reproduction, relatively little is known about taste receptors, especially in beetles,” he explained. “This is surprising given their importance as agricultural and forestry pests, their global distribution and huge species numbers as herbivorous insects.” Insects use hairs on their legs, as well as mouthparts and antennae to taste their food before eating, allowing them to sense the chemical signature of their preferred plants. However, some insects have internal taste organs or use smell to find their food.

Israel-based company EdenShield is developing a green alternative to pesticides based on extracts of the native plant lavender cotton (Achillea fragrantissima) which is found in the Judaean Desert. The company hopes that this natural insect repellent will help grower protect crops against greenhouse pests such as whitefly and thrips. They are developing Gatekeeper, a spray product containing natural plant extracts, with help from EU funding.

Photo Caption: Achillea fragrantissima

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Are dogs the future of pest detection?

Large Canadian greenhouse grower NatureFresh™ Farms has adopted a novel approach to pest management: using a Belgian Shepherd dog named Chili to identify the first signs of infestation.

The move came following an outbreak of Pepper Weevil (Anthonomus eugenii) in the autumn of 2016. Due to the nature of the pest, it cannot be spotted by humans and, once an outbreak is established, no available biological control methods are capable of controlling the pest.

Cam Lyons, Research and Development and IPM Technician comments, “Dogs are a very intelligent animal. Many worker dogs are trained to recognize and discover scents associated with drugs or bombs, so it seemed possible to train a dog to recognize pepper weevil.”

After research, the company adopted 15-month old Chili who underwent 8 weeks of training before being certified by The American Working Dog Association. This certification allows Chili to work in the farm without any food safety concerns. When Chili detects the scent of Pepper Weevil she will sit and stare at the location of the pest.

Peter Quiring, NatureFresh™ Farms Owner and CEO, added, “In order to continue to grow it is essential to develop new strategies and look beyond conventional methods. We encourage our team to think outside the box and test any ideas they may have; no idea is considered too crazy.”

Photo Caption: Cam Lyons, IPM scout and dog handler Tina Heide, and Chili.

Photo Credit: NatureFresh Farms

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Digital pest scouting replaces counting of sticky traps

Dutch company Crop Watch has been named in a list of top innovators amongst SMEs in the country after it developed a technology to accurately and quickly measure crop pests.

The Scoutbox, developed by the company in Wageningen identifies and counts harmful insects in fruit and vegetable cultivation. The machine consists of a camera that captures images of sticky traps hanging in the greenhouse or in the field. Special software counts the number of insects and analyzes the pattern on the sticky trap. The specific characteristics of different insects mean that it is possible for the software to distinguish different types. With the data, the grower can easily keep track of the insect population and intervene if necessary.

The company says more information about a possible commercial launch of the product, which has the potential to reduce labour and standardise reporting, will be forthcoming later in the autumn.

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New odour-based pesticide trialled

Scientists from Cardiff University’s School of Chemistry and Rothamsted Research have created tiny molecules which mirror a natural occurring smell known to repel insects.

Experiments showed that in all but one case, the smells repelled insects. The isolated scent actually attracted the pests, leading researchers to believe it could play a role in trapping and monitoring.

“We know that many organisms use smell to interact with members of the same species and to locate hosts of food or to avoid attack from parasites,” said Professor Rudolf Allemann who led the research. “However, the difficulty is that scientifically smell molecules are often extremely volatile, chemically unstable and expensive to re-create. This means that, until now, progress has been extremely slow in recreating smells that are similar to the original.

“Through the power of novel biochemical techniques we have been able to make insect repellent smell molecules which are structurally different but functionally similar to the original.”

Dr Michael Birkett, Head of Chemical Ecology research at Rothamsted Research added, “Odour detection in animals is an essential, sophisticated and highly selective biological process and this phenomenon can be exploited in the behavioural control of insect pests, whereby deployment of pesticides is mitigated or better targeted. I am really excited that this novel rational approach to discovering behaviour-modifying substances (aka. semiochemicals) is already unearthing molecules with unexpected activity, and that we can modify precisely the enzymes to enable clean, efficient production. This has major implications for practical deployment of semiochemicals in crops.”

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