Bees for biocontrol to combat the Botrytis cinerea pathogen

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Bees for biocontrol to combat the Botrytis cinerea pathogen

In an innovative approach to agriculture, Agrobío SL is trialing a natural precision agriculture system that uses bees for biocontrol to combat the Botrytis cinerea pathogen. This method promises a leap towards sustainable farming by reducing chemical pesticides, increasing crop yield, and protecting the environment.

Safak Costu

 15 Feb 2024 08:52 EST

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Bees and Biocontrol: A Leap Towards Sustainable Agriculture
Bees and Biocontrol: A Leap Towards Sustainable Agriculture

In a groundbreaking approach to agriculture and pest control, Agrobío SL, a pioneering entity in the field of sustainable agriculture, has embarked on a trial that could mark a significant shift in how crops are protected and nurtured. This initiative, launched in December, leverages the innovative Natural Precision Agriculture System developed by Bee Vectoring Technologies International Inc. (BVT), aiming to tackle the pervasive threat of Botrytis cinerea, commonly known as gray mold. This pathogen, notorious for affecting over 1000 plant species, poses a substantial challenge to crop productivity and sustainability worldwide.

The Dawn of a New Era in Crop Protection

The collaboration is part of Agrobío’s contribution to the ADOPT-IPM project, an undertaking funded by the European Union, designed to refine and enhance Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategies. By integrating BVT’s natural precision agriculture system into their greenhouse tomato crops in Spain, Agrobío is not just combating a prevalent plant disease but is also pioneering a shift towards more sustainable, efficient, and environmentally friendly farming practices. The eight to ten-month trial will critically assess the system’s effectiveness in managing Botrytis compared to traditional chemical-based spray programs, promising a potential paradigm shift in agricultural pest management.

A Symbiotic Solution Harnessing Nature’s Ingenuity

At the heart of BVT’s system is a remarkably innovative method of delivering biological pesticide alternatives directly to crops, utilizing commercially grown bees. This eco-friendly approach not only aims to reduce the reliance on chemical pesticides but also seeks to enhance crop yield and protect the ecosystem. By exploiting the natural behavior of bees, the system ensures precise and targeted delivery of natural pest control agents, minimizing waste and maximizing effectiveness. This method presents a win-win scenario, safeguarding both plant health and the surrounding environment, thereby supporting the broader goals of sustainability and ecological balance.

Implications for the Future of Agriculture

The trial by Agrobío not only signifies a critical step forward in the fight against plant pathogens like Botrytis cinerea but also embodies the broader movement towards natural precision agriculture. As the results of this trial are eagerly awaited, the implications for agricultural practices are profound. Success could herald a new age of farming where efficiency, sustainability, and environmental stewardship are not mutually exclusive but are instead seamlessly integrated into a holistic approach to crop management and protection. Moreover, the adoption of such innovative solutions underscores the potential for technology and nature to work in harmony, offering promising avenues for addressing some of the most pressing challenges in contemporary agriculture.

As Agrobío SL and Bee Vectoring Technologies International Inc. navigate through this trailblazing trial, the eyes of the world are on them, anticipating the outcomes that might not just revolutionize the way we protect our crops but also how we envisage the future of farming. With a focus on harmony with nature, efficiency, and sustainability, this venture into using bees for biocontrol represents not just a step but a leap towards a future where agriculture works hand in hand with nature, for a healthier planet and a more sustainable tomorrow.



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Brazil: The Rise of Biopesticides in Agriculture

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Brazil: The Rise of Biopesticides in Agriculture

Brazil’s agriculture is witnessing a quiet revolution with the rise of biopesticides. Farmers like Adriano Cruvinel have increased soybean yields by 13% and reduced chemical pesticide use by 76%. As Brazil faces challenges in balancing agricultural advancement and environmental stewardship, the adoption of biopesticides offers a promising path towards sustainable farming.

BNN Correspondents

 18 Feb 2024 20:50 EST

 Updated On 18 Feb 2024 20:51 EST

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Brazil's Quiet Revolution: The Rise of Biopesticides in Agriculture
Brazil’s Quiet Revolution: The Rise of Biopesticides in Agriculture

In the verdant expanses of Brazil, a quiet revolution brews amidst the rows of soy, corn, and cotton that stretch as far as the eye can see. Here, in the world’s largest exporter of these crops, a significant shift toward sustainability is underway. Leading the charge is Adriano Cruvinel, a farmer whose soybean yields have surged by 13% thanks to a bold decision: slashing chemical pesticide use by an astonishing 76% in favor of biopesticides. This move toward natural pest management solutions is not just a personal win for Cruvinel but signals a potential turning point for Brazilian – and possibly global – agriculture. As of February 2024, the adoption of biopesticides is gaining momentum, promising a future where farming works in harmony with nature rather than against it.

The Rise of Biologicals in Brazil’s Agri-Frontiers

The transformation witnessed on Cruvinel’s farm is part of a broader trend sweeping across Brazil. Farmers across the nation are increasingly turning to biopesticides – natural alternatives to chemical pesticides – to bolster crop health and yields. This pivot is driven by the unveiling of innovative biopesticide products, such as FMC’s Onsuva, a fungicide designed to combat major soybean and cotton diseases, and Premio Star, an insecticide effective against a wide array of pests. The introduction of these products, showcased at the Show Rural 2024, marks a significant milestone in Brazil’s journey towards sustainable agriculture. Furthermore, the release of Presence Full, a biological nematocide, and Provilar, a biocide harboring bacillus endospores, underscores the agricultural sector’s commitment to reducing chemical use and enhancing crop safety.

Challenges and Opportunities Ahead

Despite the promising strides made by pioneers like Cruvinel, biopesticides remain in their infancy in Brazil, accounting for just 9% of total pesticide sales. This nascent stage is partly due to the country’s heavy reliance on chemical pesticides, fueled by its status as the world’s top consumer. The recent softening of regulations on agricultural chemicals by Brazilian legislation, met with criticism from environmentalists, further complicates the landscape. Additionally, the controversy surrounding Brazil’s pesticide use has international ramifications, with opponents of the EU-Mercosur trade deal citing concerns over the nation’s pesticide consumption. These challenges highlight the delicate balance Brazil must navigate between agricultural advancement and environmental stewardship.

Experts Weigh In: The Path to Global Adoption

The journey of biopesticides from niche to mainstream is fraught with hurdles, yet experts remain optimistic about their global potential. AgriBusiness Global’s recent interviews with industry players shed light on the critical factors for widespread adoption. Key among these is the demonstration of biopesticides’ efficacy in boosting yields and reducing reliance on chemical alternatives, as evidenced by Cruvinel’s success. Furthermore, the development and marketing of innovative products like Onsuva and Premio Star play a pivotal role in persuading farmers to make the switch. For biopesticides to take root globally, the agricultural sector must embrace these natural solutions, proving that sustainability and productivity can coexist.

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The narrative unfolding in Brazil’s vast fields is more than a tale of agricultural innovation; it is a testament to the power of sustainable practices in shaping the future of farming. As biopesticides begin to find their footing, bolstered by the success stories of farmers like Cruvinel and the pioneering spirit of companies like FMC, the vision of a greener, more productive agriculture becomes increasingly tangible. Yet, the path forward is not without its obstacles, requiring a concerted effort from all stakeholders to overcome regulatory, environmental, and market challenges. Brazil’s journey with biopesticides not only illuminates the potential for a seismic shift in global agriculture but also serves as a call to action for nations worldwide to consider the legacy they wish to leave on the planet’s agricultural landscape.



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Australia and New Zealand: GMO bananas for Panama disease control

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Australia and New Zealand: GMO bananas for Panama disease control

Gerhard Uys

February 22, 2024

First genetically modified banana approved for growth in Australia and possible sale in NZ.

The GM banana plants contain an introduced gene from wild banana Musa acuminata subspecies malaccensis

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Food Standards Australia New Zealand has approved a genetically modified banana for sale as food in Australia and New Zealand. 

The announcement comes as the Australian Department of Health and Aged Care said a licence was granted to allow the Australian Queensland University of Technology (QUT) to commercially cultivate GM banana plants modified for resistance to the fungal disease Fusarium wilt, also known as Panama disease.

In Australia, Panama disease affects a number of banana plantations in the Northern Territory and Queensland.

The Panama disease fungus persists in soil for decades and there are no effective control measures, the department said. 

“The licence allows GM banana plants [to be] grown in all banana growing areas in Australia, subject to restrictions in some states and territories for marketing reasons,” the department said.

The QUT does not intend the GM banana plants to replace the current Cavendish banana cultivars growing in Australia, but wanted to create a safety net to the Australian banana industry should it be heavily impacted by Panama disease.

“The Regulator has not imposed any specific measures to manage risk, as the risk assessment concluded that this release of GM banana plants poses negligible risk to the health and safety of people or the environment,” the department said.

The GM banana plants and their products may enter general commerce, including use in human food and animal feed, the department said.

The GM banana plants contain an introduced gene from wild banana Musa acuminata subspecies  malaccensis.  

In NZ, the Ministry for Primary Industries reported that over the past five years NZ imported 99.8 tonnes of bananas from Australia, with an import value of  $550,422, the majority dried bananas.

A spokesperson for Woolworths NZ said it does not import bananas from Australia, and that the several thousand tonnes of bananas it does import are under certifications that prohibited GMOs.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) did not respond to specific questions but pointed to its website that had information on the approval.

“Australian and New Zealand food ministers [were notified] of the decision on 16 February 2024. Food ministers have 60 days to consider the approval. If they do not request a review, the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code will be amended to permit the sale and use of food derived from the banana,” the website says.

“QUT has indicated there are no immediate plans to commercialise the GM banana in Australia as Panama disease is currently contained and effectively managed in the domestic industry.

“FSANZ safety assessment found food derived from banana line QCAV-4 is as safe and nutritious as comparable conventional banana already in the Australian and New Zealand food supply.” 

The GM bananas and any derived food products will be subject to mandatory GM labelling. 

However, “food intended for immediate consumption that is prepared and sold from food premises and vending vehicles (for example restaurants, takeaway food outlets and caterers) is exempt from GM food labelling requirements. In these cases the consumer can seek information about the food from the food business,” the FSANZ  website says.

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FAO: Releases 15 Case Studies on the Use of Biotechnologies

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FAO: Releases 15 Case Studies on the Use of Biotechnologies

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has released a compilation of case studies showcasing the impactful use of agricultural biotechnologies to meet the needs of smallholders in developing countries, marking a significant step forward in the global efforts to achieve a sustainable agriculture and food systems.

Agricultural biotechnologies, ranging from low-tech tools like artificial insemination and tissue culture to high-tech methods such as whole genome sequencing, have emerged as a crucial part of the toolbox for transforming food systems. Recognizing their potential, FAO has been actively promoting knowledge sharing and innovation in agriculture through the application of biotechnologies.

The report covers 15 case studies that highlight successful applications of biotechnologies in diverse sectors, including crops, livestock, fisheries, forestry, and agro-industry, and a wide range of species, world regions and production systems, emphasizing that biotechnology extends beyond genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and is applicable to smallholders in developing countries. Collecting experiences worldwide, the case studies demonstrate how biotechnologies contribute to increased productivity, improved livelihoods, disease management, and the conservation of genetic resources essential for sustainable smallholder production systems.

One of the key messages emerging overall from the report, is the need for farmers to increase their yields while equally facing the current and future challenges of climate change. Which are the ingredients for success?

The report identifies four:

  • Partnerships
  • Long-term commitment
  • Government support
  • Good communication

FAO also anticipated that these case studies, presented in the context of a rapidly evolving field, will serve as a source of inspiration and guidance for those seeking to harness biotechnologies for the benefit of smallholder farmers.

Click here to read the publication.

Source: Euroseeds

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Canada

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Canada: Fighting the pepper weevil with sterile insect techniques

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Canada: Fighting the pepper weevil with sterile insect techniques

Canadian breakthrough

For the first time, researchers in Canada have investigated the use of the sterile insect technique for controlling populations of the pepper weevil, Anthonomus eugenii, an economically significant crop pest in North America.

Lead author, Jacob Basso, University of Guelph, at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Harrow Research and Development Centre, Harrow, Ontario (IMAGE)

Gamma irradiation
The paper, published in the SCI journal Pest Management Science, revealed compelling findings on the use of gamma irradiation as a sterilization technique to improve the sustainability and effectiveness of pepper weevil management worldwide. The study was a collaboration between Bruce Power, Nordion Inc., the University of Guelph, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and the Fruit and Vegetable Growers of Canada.

A. eugenii poses a significant challenge to pepper growers across much of North America, causing millions of dollars worth of crop damage annually. The beetle larvae damage the flowers and immature fruit of capsicum plants, with infestations causing yield losses of up to 90%. Managing A. eugenii populations is particularly challenging as the development of beetle larvae takes place in the protective confines of pepper fruits.

Rows of bell peppers at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Harrow Research and Development Centre, Harrow, Ontario – Jacob Basso, University of Guelph

Effective strategies
Roselyne Labbe, Greenhouse Entomologist at Agriculture and Agri-Food, Canada, and corresponding author of the study, explained the challenges in identifying effective strategies to manage populations of A. eugenii. ‘In prior research, we found that few conventional, reduced-risk or microbial pesticides could effectively knock down adult populations of the pepper weevil on greenhouse pepper crops. Even assessments of parasitoids (insects which can be used to biologically control pest populations) that attack larval stages of the pepper weevil had limitations, as they sometimes had trouble accessing hosts deep within the pepper fruit cavity,’ she said.

The team, led by Jacob Basso, a researcher at the University of Guelph, turned their attention to the sterile insect technique (SIT), a genetic control method where large numbers of sterile insects are released into the wild to reduce the reproductive success of the pest.

Labbe noted, ‘The sterile insect technique seemed promising as prior research was conducted with this technique for control of the cotton boll weevil (Anthonomus grandis), a congeneric of pepper weevil.’

Key to a successful SIT program is the selection of an appropriate radiation dose for sterilisation of the target species. The authors note, ‘It is critical to determine the minimum radiation dose at which insects are effectively sterilised but maintain their ability to successfully find and mate with wild individuals.’

Pepper Weevil (Anthonomus eugenii), captured by Jacob Basso, University of Guelph
Gamma radiation doses
An analysis of the effects of different gamma radiation doses on A. eugenii pupae revealed that irradiation of both males and females at 110 Gy resulted in completely sterile individuals that could not contribute to offspring production if released in field sites.

The researchers noted that the lifespan of the irradiated beetles at this dosage was reduced to under two weeks and therefore recommended that A. eugenii SIT programmes should schedule repeated releases of sterile insects no more than two weeks apart, to compensate for their mortality.

For the sterile insect technique to become a viable A. eugenii management strategy for growers, numerous practical considerations need to be addressed. Labbe noted, ‘We still need to examine the dispersal capability of irradiated weevils in the field, and, crucially, to evaluate sterile males for their mating competitiveness against non-irradiated male weevils.’

The team now hopes to apply SIT to control other pests of horticultural crops. ‘There is still quite a bit of information lacking with these regards. We are for instance interested in applying this strategy for control of lepidopteran pests that routinely invade greenhouse crops,’ said Labbe.

Find the complete study at eurekalert.org

Jacob V Basso, University of Guelph; Roselyne Labbe, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada; Cynthia Scott-Dupree, University of Guelph

Publication date: Mon 26 Feb 2024

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“Even more ToBRFV-resistant tomato varieties in 2024”

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“Even more ToBRFV-resistant tomato varieties in 2024”

Syngenta:

“The ToBRFV virus is already widespread in several countries bordering France,” explains Céline Labourey, project manager for solanaceous disease resistance. “For the time being, we remain protected, thanks in particular to the prophylactic measures put in place by growers, but pressure is increasing at borders. The sale of potentially contaminated products, such as fruit in transit through France, calls for us to remain extremely vigilant. As a seed company, our strategy is to offer resistant varieties as quickly as possible, while at the same time working on more durable and stable solutions for this pathogen, as well as for other diseases.

Generalizing resistance to ToBRFV
Climundo, the first grape tomato resistant to Tomato Brown Rugose Fruit Virus (ToBRFV), marketed this year in France, has paved the way. Other new products in this segment are expected next season. They are currently being tested in France’s main production regions.

Very soon, Syngenta’s offer will include even greater resistance to ToBRFV, but also other biotic stresses. All analyses show that the ToBRFV virus is not the only pathogen detected in infected crops, which means that we need to secure a broader spectrum of resistance,” explain Céline Labourey and Hervé Bonich, Solanaceae Product Manager. Although this virus is currently a major concern, other diseases and pests remain at the heart of our discovery projects.”

“Resistance without compromising performance”
Syngenta will be offering Duelle and Bamano continuity in 2024, elongated cherries for yield and taste quality, as well as ToBRFV-resistant rootstocks. “We want to deliver a product that corresponds to the market without making concessions on performance in terms of yield, color, and taste quality”, explains Hervé Bonich.

Genetics, biovigilance, and prophylaxis
Genetic resistance is an essential asset in protecting French tomatoes from ToBRFV and other pathogens: it is one of the cornerstones of the strategy for dealing with infections. Agricultural practices, prophylaxis, and phytosanitary crop monitoring complete this approach. “Tobamoviruses, which include ToBRFV and TMV, spread mechanically,” says Céline Labourey. So propagation is very rapid, and the virus is very stable, even on inert substrates.

A new range of varieties resistant to cladosporiosis
Syngenta is also developing cladosporium-resistant varieties to complete its protection offer for varieties such as Bamano, for example. New genes are arriving with a superior resistance spectrum.

Syngenta Vegetable Seeds inaugurates a new breeding center in Spain
On February 15, Syngenta inaugurated a modernized R&D center in El Ejido, Almería, Spain, in the heart of Almeria. Located in El Ejido, this global breeding innovation center plays a key role in Syngenta’s ability to supply top-quality vegetable seeds to growers in Spain and abroad. The main vegetable crops bred at the center are tomatoes, capsicums, cucumbers, zucchinis, and melons.

Syngenta’s El Ejido site was established in 1983 and currently employs 145 people in research and development, production, and sales. The most recent investment of $3 million covers a series of improvements to the site, which centralizes seed activities in Europe, enabling Syngenta to better meet growers’ needs.

In addition to El Ejido, Syngenta has also invested in the expansion of breeding operations in other regions of Spain. These include a new trial site in La Puebla, Murcia, which focuses on leafy crops and brassicas. Syngenta’s commitment to bringing its activities closer to growers is an important step in fostering customer focus throughout the organization.

For more information:
syngentavegetables

Publication date: Mon 26 Feb 2024

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Talking tomatoes: How their communication is influenced by enemies and friends

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Talking tomatoes: How their communication is influenced by enemies and friends

JANUARY 24, 2024

 Editors’ notes

by Ananya Sen, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

Plants produce a range of chemicals known as volatile organic compounds that influence their interactions with the world around them. In a new study, researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign have investigated how the type and amount of these VOCs change based on different features of tomato plants.

The research is published in the Journal of Chemical Ecology.

The smell of cut grass is one of the defining fragrances of summer. Smells like that are one of the ways plants signal their injury. Because they cannot run away from danger, plants have evolved to communicate with each other using chemical signals. They use VOCs for a variety of reasons: to help prepare their own defenses, to warn each other of threats, to recruit beneficial soil microbes that can help plants grow, and to alert insect predators that there is a pest chewing on that plant’s leaves.

“When a caterpillar chews on a leaf, the plant sends out a signal that calls out to the caterpillar’s predators. It’s like a billboard that tells them where lunch is,” said Erinn Dady, a graduate student in the Ngumbi lab.

Studying the factors that influence VOC emissions, therefore, is key to understanding plant health. In the past, other studies have looked at how soil microbes like arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi or caterpillars or the variety of tomato plant can influence VOCs. In the current study, the researchers studied the collective influence of all these factors on plant chemistry using four tomato varieties—two heirlooms and two hybrids.

“Previous studies looked at tomato varieties that are grown conventionally at a massive scale for processing, and are not usually grown by small farmers, so we decided to ask Illinois farmers what they grow. Based on their feedback, we chose tomato varieties that are commonly grown in central Illinois,” Dady said. The hybrids used were Mountain Fresh and Valley Girl, and the organic heirlooms were Amish Paste and Cherokee Purple.

The researchers compared the responses of untreated plants to those that had been exposed to AMF, caterpillars, or both. They studied the VOCs by enclosing the eight-week-old tomato plants with an odor-blocking oven bag for an hour. They drew out the air around the plants and analyzed the different chemicals produced by each plant using gas chromatography-mass spectrophotometry.

The AMF and the caterpillars, separately, decreased the volatile emissions in all four varieties of tomato plants. Their effect when present together was minimal compared to the effects when either one was present.

Although it is unclear why the beneficial fungal associations decreased the VOCs, it is concerning that the plants were not as responsive to the caterpillars. Furthermore, the hybrid tomatoes emitted lower quantities of volatiles compared to the heirloom tomatoes.

Talking tomatoes: How their communication is influenced by enemies and friends
Esther Ngumbi, left, and Erinn Dady studied the effect of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, caterpillars, and the variety of tomato plants on plant chemistry. Credit: Fred Zwicky

“Heirloom tomatoes—the big, juicy tomatoes we all love—are bred for flavor. Meanwhile, hybrids are grown for large scale conventional production, which comes at a cost to the plant,” said Esther Ngumbi (CIS/MMG), an assistant professor of integrative biology. “Our work suggests that we are compromising plant defenses through our breeding processes.”

The plants were also evaluated based on their growth both above the ground and in the soil. The researchers found that plants that had associations with the fungi had higher leaf biomass and more complex root structures.

“AMF form partnerships in over 80% of the land plants, setting up a trade where the fungi extract nutrients from the soil in exchange for carbon from plants,” Dady said. “We found that especially in Cherokee Purple, AMF may confer additional benefits, including enhanced growth and greater emission of VOCs.”

Surprisingly, the plants that were treated with caterpillars had greater plant growth.

“These plants had more biomass in both their roots and above the ground, which seems counterintuitive because they’ve actively been eaten. I would assume they would have less biomass,” Dady said. “It is possible that the caterpillars triggered a growth response, similar to how you prune a tree to make it produce new growth.”

The researchers are interested in further investigating the growth response to caterpillars.

“It’s possible that the plants decided that the number of caterpillars we were using were not sufficient to be considered a threat and that’s why they kept growing. It is also possible that the caterpillars weren’t hungry enough to cause enough damage,” Ngumbi said.

“There’s a lot going on behind the scenes that we don’t yet understand. For example, we are barely scratching the surface in understanding the role of different microbes,” Dady said. “People tend to think that plants are not intelligent, but our studies have shown that they are actively responding to the environment around them using chemistry.”

“We are trying to spread the gospel of plant chemistry, it’s the language plants use to communicate and we are excited to learn more,” Ngumbi said.

More information: Erinn R. Dady et al, Plant Variety, Mycorrhization, and Herbivory Influence Induced Volatile Emissions and Plant Growth Characteristics in Tomato, Journal of Chemical Ecology (2023). DOI: 10.1007/s10886-023-01455-w

Provided by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 


Explore further

Architects of their own destruction: Why do tobacco hornworm caterpillars attract their own predators?

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Kndia: Nanotechnology poised to revolutionize agriculture

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Kndia: Nanotechnology poised to revolutionize agriculture

ACROSS REGIONSALL NEWS BY DATECULTIVATION/PRODUCTIONEQUIPMENT/TECHNOLOGYNEWS FEBRUARY 2024RESEARCHSTUDIES/REPORTSTRENDS

on February 18, 2024

In a landmark review, scientists highlight how nanotechnology is set to transform the global agricultural sector, addressing challenges posed by climate change and rapid population growth. A comprehensive review by a research team at the School of Biological Sciences, Central University of Kerala in India sheds light on how this cutting-edge technology is poised to revolutionize farming practices, ensuring food security for the rapidly growing global population.

The review was published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Research, titled “Nanotechnology – Big impact: How nanotechnology is changing the future of agriculture?

According to the research team, the specter of food insecurity looms large, fueled by a potent cocktail of climate change, population growth, and unsustainable farming practices. Yet, amidst the challenges, a glimmer of hope emerges from the world of the infinitely small: nanotechnology. This powerful science, manipulating matter at the atomic and molecular level, holds the potential to transform agriculture, boosting yields, minimizing environmental impact, and ensuring food security for generations to come.

Imagine a future where farmers wield tools not unlike magic wands. Nano-fertilizers deliver nutrients directly to plant roots, eliminating waste and pollution. Miniscule biosensors embedded in soil whisper vital information about nutrients and moisture levels, guiding irrigation with laser precision. Even the genetic makeup of crops could be subtly tweaked, imbuing them with resilience against pests and diseases.

These aren’t mere futuristic fantasies; they are the tangible promises offered by nanotechnology. Researchers are already exploring a dazzling array of applications. Nano-capsules loaded with pesticides target specific pests, minimizing collateral damage to beneficial insects and the environment. Nano-coated seeds sprout faster and resist disease, while nanoscale materials woven into packaging extend the shelf life of fruits and vegetables.

The environmental benefits are equally compelling. By delivering nutrients with pinpoint accuracy, nanotechnology promises to drastically reduce agricultural runoff, a major source of water pollution. Additionally, the development of more precise pesticides and the potential for pest-resistant crops could translate to significant reductions in harmful chemicals used in conventional agriculture.

However, with great power comes great responsibility. While the potential of nanotechnology is undeniable, concerns linger. The long-term impact of nanoparticles on the environment and human health remains unclear. Questions hang over potential toxicity, unintended ecological consequences, and the possibility of nanoparticles entering the food chain.

Furthermore, ethical considerations cannot be ignored. The large-scale adoption of nanotechnology in agriculture raises questions about corporate control, access to technology for small farmers, and potential economic disruptions.

Acknowledging these concerns is crucial. Responsible development and rigorous research are paramount. We must ensure public engagement, transparent dialogues, and robust regulatory frameworks to guide the path of nanotechnology in agriculture.

Imagine a scenario where diverse groups of farmers, scientists, policymakers, and consumers collaborate to unlock the potential of nanotechnology while mitigating its risks. This collective effort could pave the way for a future where food security is not a dream but a reality, achieved through sustainable practices that nourish both people and the planet.

The journey towards this future will not be easy. It will require careful navigation, but the potential rewards are too significant to ignore. In the face of mounting food security challenges, nanotechnology offers a beacon of hope, but only if we approach it with wisdom, precaution, and a collective commitment to responsible development. The tiny titans of the farm stand ready, waiting for us to decide whether they will be wielded for abundance or allowed to remain untapped potential.

Source: This article is based on a scientific review published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Research, published online by ScienceDirect. Read the original, full review here
Cover image: Created by Potato News Today with assistance of Gemini
Related:
Nanotechnology for agriculture: an introduction
Applications of nanotechnology in agriculture

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Brazil’s Quiet Revolution: The Rise of Biopesticides in Agriculture

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Brazil’s Quiet Revolution: The Rise of Biopesticides in Agriculture

Brazil’s agriculture is witnessing a quiet revolution with the rise of biopesticides. Farmers like Adriano Cruvinel have increased soybean yields by 13% and reduced chemical pesticide use by 76%. As Brazil faces challenges in balancing agricultural advancement and environmental stewardship, the adoption of biopesticides offers a promising path towards sustainable farming.

BNN Correspondents

 18 Feb 2024 20:50 EST

 Updated On 18 Feb 2024 20:51 EST

 Follow Us

Brazil's Quiet Revolution: The Rise of Biopesticides in Agriculture
Brazil’s Quiet Revolution: The Rise of Biopesticides in Agriculture

In the verdant expanses of Brazil, a quiet revolution brews amidst the rows of soy, corn, and cotton that stretch as far as the eye can see. Here, in the world’s largest exporter of these crops, a significant shift toward sustainability is underway. Leading the charge is Adriano Cruvinel, a farmer whose soybean yields have surged by 13% thanks to a bold decision: slashing chemical pesticide use by an astonishing 76% in favor of biopesticides. This move toward natural pest management solutions is not just a personal win for Cruvinel but signals a potential turning point for Brazilian – and possibly global – agriculture. As of February 2024, the adoption of biopesticides is gaining momentum, promising a future where farming works in harmony with nature rather than against it.

The Rise of Biologicals in Brazil’s Agri-Frontiers

The transformation witnessed on Cruvinel’s farm is part of a broader trend sweeping across Brazil. Farmers across the nation are increasingly turning to biopesticides – natural alternatives to chemical pesticides – to bolster crop health and yields. This pivot is driven by the unveiling of innovative biopesticide products, such as FMC’s Onsuva, a fungicide designed to combat major soybean and cotton diseases, and Premio Star, an insecticide effective against a wide array of pests. The introduction of these products, showcased at the Show Rural 2024, marks a significant milestone in Brazil’s journey towards sustainable agriculture. Furthermore, the release of Presence Full, a biological nematocide, and Provilar, a biocide harboring bacillus endospores, underscores the agricultural sector’s commitment to reducing chemical use and enhancing crop safety.

Challenges and Opportunities Ahead

Despite the promising strides made by pioneers like Cruvinel, biopesticides remain in their infancy in Brazil, accounting for just 9% of total pesticide sales. This nascent stage is partly due to the country’s heavy reliance on chemical pesticides, fueled by its status as the world’s top consumer. The recent softening of regulations on agricultural chemicals by Brazilian legislation, met with criticism from environmentalists, further complicates the landscape. Additionally, the controversy surrounding Brazil’s pesticide use has international ramifications, with opponents of the EU-Mercosur trade deal citing concerns over the nation’s pesticide consumption. These challenges highlight the delicate balance Brazil must navigate between agricultural advancement and environmental stewardship.

Experts Weigh In: The Path to Global Adoption

The journey of biopesticides from niche to mainstream is fraught with hurdles, yet experts remain optimistic about their global potential. AgriBusiness Global’s recent interviews with industry players shed light on the critical factors for widespread adoption. Key among these is the demonstration of biopesticides’ efficacy in boosting yields and reducing reliance on chemical alternatives, as evidenced by Cruvinel’s success. Furthermore, the development and marketing of innovative products like Onsuva and Premio Star play a pivotal role in persuading farmers to make the switch. For biopesticides to take root globally, the agricultural sector must embrace these natural solutions, proving that sustainability and productivity can coexist.

The narrative unfolding in Brazil’s vast fields is more than a tale of agricultural innovation; it is a testament to the power of sustainable practices in shaping the future of farming. As biopesticides begin to find their footing, bolstered by the success stories of farmers like Cruvinel and the pioneering spirit of companies like FMC, the vision of a greener, more productive agriculture becomes increasingly tangible. Yet, the path forward is not without its obstacles, requiring a concerted effort from all stakeholders to overcome regulatory, environmental, and market challenges. Brazil’s journey with biopesticides not only illuminates the potential for a seismic shift in global agriculture but also serves as a call to action for nations worldwide to consider the legacy they wish to leave on the planet’s agricultural landscape.



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Spotted lanternfly, an invasive threat to fruit crops and many trees, may have an Achilles heel

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Spotted lanternfly, an invasive threat to fruit crops and many trees, may have an Achilles heel

Scientists have discovered that the spotted lanternfly, an invasive threat to fruit crops and many trees, may have an Achilles heel – an attraction to vibration.

A native of China, the insect was discovered in Pennsylvania in 2014 and has since spread to 13 other states. Though beautiful as an adult, the insect is a voracious eater that feeds on woody and ornamental trees as well as a wide variety of crops and plants.

According to Richard Mankin, an entomologist with the Agricultural Research Service’s Center for Medical, Agricultural, and Veterinary Entomology in Gainesville, FL, spotted lanternfly has the potential to be an agroeconomic nightmare. Left unchecked, he said, Pennsylvania alone could lose hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of jobs.

Fortunately, Mankin and two research colleagues (Barukh Rohde, postdoctoral researcher at the University of New Hampshire, and Miriam Cooperband, entomologist with USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) found a way to potentially corral and control the pests. Their research was published in the Journal of Economic Entomology.

“[Spotted lanternfly] can be controlled with pesticide, but spraying grapevines is problematic, so there is a need for other control methods,” Mankin said. “There were rumors that lanternflies are attracted to vibrations of buzzing electrical power lines, so we did a laboratory study of nymph and adult responses to 60-cycle (60Hz) vibrations. The rumor proved to be correct! Both nymphs and adults walked towards the source of [the] vibrations.”

Using vibration to entice the lanternflies to gather is a major step toward improving control methods, including traps. Mankin said that further research will focus on finding ways to disrupt spotted lanternfly mating behavior.

Vibrations may not disrupt all spotted lanternfly mating in vineyards, but there have been some positive results in studies with other similar pests. Mankin said that scientists have recently achieved mating disruption of grapevine pests (leafhoppers and glassy-winged sharpshooters) in Italy and California, respectively, by sending vibrations along grapevine wires. Grapes are commonly grown with their vines hanging from suspended wires.

Mankin has experience with disrupting the mating behavior of invasive pests. He and Rohde previously co-authored papers that explained how vibrations could mimic the “mating calls” of Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) to trap them and disrupt their mating behavior.

Successful development of an integrated pest management program could result in growers using fewer insecticide applications – saving time, energy, and money. It could also help reduce the risk of pesticide exposure to pollinators and other inadvertent impacts on the environment. – by Scott Elliott, ARS Office of Communications

Source: tellus.ars.usda.gov

Publication date: Wed 21 Feb 2024

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