Potential Slug Invasions and their Impact on UK Biosecurity (Part 2)

By Dr Jenna Ross

Guest writer, Dr Jenna Ross, from Crop Health and Protection (CHAP), joins us for the second of her two-part special series (read part 1) on the outputs of her prestigious Nuffield Farming Scholarship. Jenna spent 26 weeks travelling the world studying all aspects of slug invasions and slug control, and in this article discuss the impact of slug invasions on UK biosecurity.

Molluscs (slugs and snails) are a significant risk to biosecurity worldwide due to their:

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Figure 1: Dr Jenna Ross
  • Varied diet, thus can be herbivores, predators, scavengers or omnivores;
  • Ability to carry parasites and pathogens, including some that impact on human and animal health;
  • Survival in disturbed environments, especially when they are in close association with human activity;
  • Rapid reproduction, laying hundreds of eggs over a short period of time;
  • Reproduction strategy, in that they can self-fertilise, thus having the ability to survive without a mate, and establish a population with a single invader; and
  • Ability to aestivate and emerge when weather conditions are more favourable.

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Continuing the biological fight against a hardy foe – the maize-devastating western corn rootworm

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Stefan Toepfer, Szabolcs Toth and Matija Milkovic collecting western corn rootworms from highly invested maize fields in southern Hungary (Photo: Matija Mikovic)

CABI is continuing the fight against the maize-devastating western corn rootworm (Diabrotica virgifera virgifera) by collecting more than 22,000 live specimens of this chrysomelid beetle for further research into its biological control.

Dr Stefan Toepfer has been busy in the maize fields of southern Hungary gathering the insects, which, of Mexican origin, have invaded many maize production areas of North America and Europe – adapting to nearly all management options regardless of insecticides, transgenic maize, or crop rotation.

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Deploying biopesticides to combat fall armyworm in South Sudan

Ivan was in South Sudan to assist farmers to manage FAW

A new project in South Sudan is combatting the fall armyworm, an insect that can cause significant damage to crops, particularly maize. With more than half of South Sudan’s current population—nearly 6.2 million people—in need of life-saving food assistance, safeguarding food security where possible is essential. Launched in January 2019 as a partnership between CABI, a private sector partner – AgBiTech, CIMMYT, FAO, USAID, and the South Sudan Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (MAFS), the project is piloting the use of a baculovirus biopesticide called Fawligen.

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Collaborative effort in Kenya to manage the impact of scale insect in coastal region

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Coffee is a value cash-crop for many in Africa but successful yields can be affected by scale insects including the coffee mealybug (Copyright Charles Agwanda/CABI)

By Fernadis Makale, CABI

Scale insects – such as the coffee mealybug and cassava mealybug – are some of the least studied group of invertebrates in East Africa. However, a collaborative effort has been made to address the threat they pose to smallholder farmers: despite their cross-cutting status as pests in all plant groups, crops, ornamentals, trees and weeds.

Several organisations* in Kenya including CABI, and in conjunction with the UK’s Natural History Museum, have joined forces to train up to 30 new extension officers whose role will include identifying scale insects and communicating theirs risks and how they can be managed with smallholder farmers.

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Reaching more farmers with fall armyworm knowledge and information through ICT-enabled extension

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A community video screening on fall armyworm

Since 2017, CABI and partners have launched a series of extension campaigns in Kenya and Uganda in the fight against the invasive pest fall armyworm. These campaigns used integrated ICT-enabled approaches combining radio, SMS, and community video screenings with the aim of improving awareness, knowledge and management practices for fall armyworm.

Although smallholder agriculture is the main contributor to agricultural production in Africa and vital to food and nutritional security, agricultural productivity generally remains low.

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CABI joins international team of scientists calling for a Global Surveillance System to fight crop diseases

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Blue-green sharpshooters are a disease vector of Xylella fastidiosa (Photo: Katja Schulz / Flickr)

CABI has joined an international team of scientists calling for a Global Surveillance System (GSS) to fight a range of diseases which threaten priority crops including maize, potato, cassava, rice, beans and wheat.

The team, which includes the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) – lead authors of a new report published in Science (28 June 2019), say a GSS is needed to ‘improve and interconnect crop biosecurity systems which could go a long way to improving global food security.’

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Collaborative writeshop produces pest management decision guides for invasive species in Pakistan

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Invasive alien species (IAS) have devastating impacts on native biota, causing the decline or even extinction of native species, negatively affecting ecosystems. Invasive plants, animals, insects and microorganisms enter and establish in environments outside of their natural habitat. They reproduce rapidly, out-compete native species for food, water and space, and are one of the main causes of global biodiversity loss. Species can be introduced deliberately, through for example, fish farming, pet trade, horticulture, bio-control or unintentionally, through such means as land and water transportation, travel, and scientific research.

CABI, under its Action on Invasives programme, is working to manage the already existing and potential invasive species in Pakistan. Pest Management Decision Guides (PMDGs), through the Plantwise Knowledge Bank are practical, step-by-step tools for plant doctors and extension agents to give advice following the principles of integrated pest management (IPM).

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