Pests and Diseases

UK agri-tech company secures funding to research early detection of potato diseases and defects

Research scientist Dr Barbara dos Santos Correia, with support of B-hive Innovations, has been successful in her application for a Future Leaders Fellowship and will receive nearly £675,000 to support her TuberSense project – a four-year research programme that aims to detect diseases and defects in potato crops, using volatile biomarkers and innovative gas sensors to reduce food waste across the supply chain.

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Colorado beetle catcher deals with ‘lazy potato pest’

Potato growers and agricultural machine builders in Biddinghuizen in the Netherlands have come up with a way to deal with colorado potato beetles without using pesticides. Infestations by colorado beetles, a North American import, have been increasing in Europe because of rising temperatures. To remove the colorado beetle and its ravenous larvae, all the farmer has to do is to attach a custom built machine with rotating plastic flaps to a tractor and swat them off the plants.

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EPA: Three popular insecticides may harm endangered species

Recently released EPA draft Biological Evaluations find three widely used insecticides are “likely to adversely affect” (LAA) plants and animals that are considered endangered. Each of the three insecticides are a neonicotinoid used on a variety of crops, turf, and ornamentals, among other residential and commercial indoor and outdoor uses. Imidacloprid is commonly applied as a seed treatment and is a widely used insecticide in North America. The EPA estimates imidacloprid is applied to 65% of Michigan’s potato acres.

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Fascinating: Watch the dog that can sniff out a potato crop disease

Maine potato farmers might have a quicker way to protect their crops from dangerous diseases, thanks to a passionate dog trainer and her charges. When she first heard that no one had ever taught dogs to detect potato diseases through careful, odor-based training, Sanford native Andrea Parish decided to become the first to do it. Her dogs can stiff and detect all three strains of potato virus Y as well as bacterial ring rot.

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New weapons for tracking late blight

A North Carolina State University team has developed quick diagnostic tests to detect plant diseases before they show symptoms in the field. In particular, they have worked on technology for identifying Phytophthora infestans, which causes late blight in tomatoes and potatoes. This article highlights how that technology works and describes the benefits for producers.

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New University of Maine research hub to focus on Potato Virus Y

Greater understanding of the biology of one of the most destructive plant viruses to potato crops will be the focus of a research hub at the University of Maine that is part of a new $6.1 million institute focused on virology and host-virus dynamics, the University says in a news release. Data from studies of all virus systems will be compared and integrated to generate Rules of Life that drive variables such as species jump, virus harbor state, and more.

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New project to focus on PCN in Scottish potato fields

A major new project will tackle pests in potatoes through the protection of clean land and the management of land already infested with pests. The project will focus specifically on tackling potato cyst nematode (PCN), which is becoming an increasing challenge with its presence in some fields across Scotland.

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Canada’s ‘Spornado’ named one of top 101 Predictive Analytical Companies

The Spornado, a simple and passive spore catcher, was recently showcased as one of Canada’s top 101 Most Innovative Predictive Analytical Companies by The Spornado Sampler is described as “an effective, low-cost tool for growers to better predict crop disease, and take preventative action.” The sampler identifies crop disease in the air – long before it’s seen on the crops.

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New podcast launched: ‘Perfecting Potatoes Together’

Cedric Porter, editor of World Potato Markets, now hosts a new podcast on behalf of BASF in the UK – ‘Perfecting Potatoes Together’. In the first episode of the new podcast, Porter talks to Dr David Cooke, research leader at The James Hutton Institute, and Paul Goddard, BASF’s value chain and stewardship manager as they discuss late blight’s evolving population.

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Early blight monitoring in Britain fine tunes application timing

Results of last season’s alternaria (early blight) monitoring in British potato crops has further reinforced the pattern of earliest infection from A alternata, with A solani typically coming into crops later in the season. “This season’s weather conditions have also seen a very high risk of late blight developing,” says Syngenta’s technical manager, Michael Tait. “It’s essential for growers and agronomists to maintain a high level of protection against infection.”

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A blight-resistant gmo potato variety help farmers in Uganda to defeat late blight and change their fortunes

Successful innovation for agriculture will depend on thorough and careful understanding of the aspirations of beneficiaries and the challenges farmers face. It entails putting them at the center of these innovations, according to this blog post by the International Potato Center (CIP). As part of its work to research solutions addressing hunger and poverty, CIP and partners worked in Uganda to develop and test a new type of blight-resistant potato, which may not need any fungicides.

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Researchers unveil innovative technology to treat plant pathogens and pests, including zebra chip disease

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) announced recently that they have found an innovative way to treat pathogens and pests in potato, citrus trees, and tomato plants without the use of antibiotics, zebra-chip disease in potato. They found that plants showed significant reduction of each pathogen or symptom development in response to FANA treatments.

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Expert: ‘Will potato late blight ever go away?’

Andrivon Didier, Research Director at INRAE, France’s National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and Environment, discusses the existential threat of potato late blight in a recently published ebook article. What can be done to stop it though? According to Didier, the answer to controlling blights is Integrated Pest Management (IPM). He further explains: “A more complex strategy relying on a combination of control methods, such as prophylaxis (sanitation), resistant cultivars, biocontrol, decision support systems and precision agriculture.”

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Scientists’ view on how to tackle worrying emerging potato blight strains

Breeders in Britain believe they have the tools to stay one step ahead of late blight in potatoes, despite concern about new and more aggressive strains emerging across Europe. Since 2000, researchers have had technology that allows rapid identification of any genetic changes – or new “clones” – in populations of Phytophthora infestans. In the Netherlands, Wageningen-based Solynta’s research team lead Michiel de Vries says it is now up to the breeding companies to develop resistant varieties.

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Organic potato crops in the Netherlands hit hard by late blight

Organic potato crops have been hit by a blight which means this year’s harvest may be only a quarter of the normal yield, organic farmers trade organisation Bionext has said. Farmer Annewillem Maris from Dinteloord in Noord Brabant, who stands to lose some 30,000 kilos of potatoes, said the disease would be eradicated in a few years’ time when new, resistant varieties come in. ‘But for now I will lose a huge amount of money,’ he told broadcaster NOS.

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Indian scientists developed smartphone app to help potato farmers detect late blight disease

Scientists from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) have developed a smartphone app for automated disease detection in potato crops using photographs of its leaves. “Automated disease detection can help in this regard and given the extensive proliferation of the mobile phones across the country, the smartphone could be a useful tool for potato farmers in this regard,” said Mr. Joe Johnson, Research Scholar, IIT Mandi.

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The pathogen with a ‘sharp knife’: Researchers discover how late blight enters plants

It has long been a mystery how this microscopically small organism and other members of the Phytophthora genus mechanically gain entry through the protective layer on the leaves of crops. In a unique collaboration, Wageningen University & Research experts in plant pathology, cell biology and physics have now found an answer to this question. Their discovery also provides new leads to making the control of Phytophthora more effective, more efficient and more sustainable on the long term.

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Sampling methods and data analysis key to effective assessment, says Canadian crop insect expert

Crop insect guru Dan Johnson spoke about the importance of good sampling techniques at the Farming Smarter summer Field School in Alberta recently. Johnson, who is a pioneer in the field of crop insect forecasting and a world respected specialist in grasshoppers and potato psyllids in particular, said the key to good assessment within a farmer’s field is understanding the difference between “accuracy” and “precision.”

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Countrywide potato blight warning issued for Ireland

A potato-blight warning is in place for the entire country on Saturday, starting in the south and west before moving countrywide, according to Met Éireann. Bernie Commins reports for Agriland that the national weather service has issued an advisory stating that Munster, Connacht, and south Leinster are to be impacted by weather conditions that are conducive to the spread of potato blight on Saturday, July 3.

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Old foe, new information: Alternaria monitoring indicates application timing

Results of last season’s Syngenta alternaria monitoring in British potato crops has further reinforced the pattern of earliest infection from A. alternata, with A. solani typically coming into crops later in the season. The monitoring is undertaken by independent and industry potato agronomists sampling suspected cases throughout the season, with laboratory analysis by NIAB specialists to determine the species of alternaria (early blight) present.

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‘Time to rethink virus control in seed crops’

Trials are underway in Aberdeenshire aimed at rethinking the approaches growers take to controlling virus in seed potato crops, writes Dr Philip Burgess in this article published by The Scottish Farmer. He writes that the seed potato sector in Scotland underpins the whole of the GB potato industry, as well as exporting high-quality seed around the world. The natural advantages of the climate, which reduce the numbers of aphids which can carry virus, are well known.

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Researchers say Irish potato famine pathogen stoked outbreaks on six continents

North Carolina State University researchers continue to track the evolution of different strains of the plant pathogen that caused the Irish potato famine in the 1840s, which set down roots in the United States before attacking Europe. NC State plant pathologists studied the genomes of about 140 pathogen samples – historic and modern – from 37 countries on six continents to track the evolution of differing strains of Phytophthora infestans, a major cause of late-blight disease on potato and tomato plants.

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UK: ‘Blight control for today and tomorrow’

Blight is the bane of potato growing and experts warn that, long-term, pressure in the UK is only set to rise. Agronomist and Arable Farmer asked a specialist agronomist, a grower and a crop protection manufacturer about best-practice now and in the future. Together with his business partner at Spud Agronomy, John Sarup, is responsible for over 11,000 acres of potatoes across Northern England up to the Scottish Borders.

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The Spornado: An alert system for late blight, other crop diseases

Spornado is an early alert system for late blight and other crop diseases, for growers that want to optimize their fungicide use. Currently, most potato growers don’t know when late blight is in their field until they see it and it is often too late, says 20/20 Seed Labs. Inc in a press release. The company says there is often a lot of guesswork involved for growers in anticipating when disease may strike and when to spray.

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Europatat, other EU ag associations on pesticide use, Farm to Fork strategy

Following the first anniversary of the publication of the Farm to Fork Strategy by the European Commission, Europatat and twelve other association members of the Agri-Food Chain Roundtable on Plant Protection have co-signed an open letter on the importance of carrying out a comprehensive assessment before making any decisions about the reduction of pesticide use, including the target for 50% reduction of the use of chemicals.

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