The biggest breakthrough in agriculture to help feed the planet may come from outer space »

A four-year-old start-up called Indigo Ag is the No. 1 company on the 2019 CNBC Disruptor 50 list.

Indigo Ag is out to feed the world and help farmers make a good living without harming the planet. And one secret to its recent growth is hidden in the stars. Using satellite imaging and geospatial intelligence, it’s created a living map of the world’s food supply.

The quest to increase food production remains critical as the global population grows from around 7.5 billion today to a projected 9.8 billion by 2050, according to data from the United Nations. Intensification of food production in the last decade has contributed to deforestation, declines in soil health and freshwater resources, plus an increase in greenhouse gas emissions. Farmers and other food businesses are now struggling to rein in their negative environmental impacts.

With 920 employees, Indigo Ag is best known for making non-GMO seed treatments that help farmers maximize their yield on row crops, including soybeans, rice, wheat, corn and cotton. The treatments consist of naturally occurring microbes, like plant-friendly bacteria and fungi. Farmers apply them to their seeds as a spray or powder coating before planting.

Here are the top five companies on CNBC’s 2019 Disruptor 50 list

Eventually, the start-up plans to develop microbes to aid the growth of other crops, including coffee and high value nuts, fruits and vegetables. But for the time being, the company is focused on grains.

Indigo Ag’s newer seed coatings aim for more than yield improvements — they encourage desirable traits in plants, like soybeans that yield more oil, or grains that are more palatable to certain livestock, for example. They also reduce farmers’ needs for synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, says Indigo Ag CEO David Perry.

Traditional chemical “inputs,” as they’re called in the industry, can cause water pollution, harm wildlife, have damaging side effects on soil and hurt the health of people who work with or ingest them.

In one famous case, a team of scientists led by Louisiana State University and the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium found a New Jersey-size “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico, caused largely by the runoff of fertilizers and other waste from farms around the Mississippi River.

According to Ben Riensche, a sixth-generation farmer in Iowa who grows corn and soybeans on 18,000 acres, Indigo Ag’s seed coatings improve crop yields, typically by more than 10%. He has been working with the company for three years as a customer and a research partner. Indigo Ag tests and runs control groups in four of his fields when they’re developing new seed treatments.
Riensche says Indigo Ag’s approach is appealing to farmers who want help growing through rough conditions like drought or when a disease or pest infestation is threatening to encroach. But farmers also want to improve their bottom line.

“Let’s face it, crops face stress every year. No two years are alike. Hot, cold, wet, dry, early or late — I’ll tell you what has to be the fertilizer strategy. But if you can help my plants overcome stress in the field, and help me produce the same yield with less inputs, or produce higher-value crops using something from the biome? It’s better for my business and better from an environmental standpoint.”

In 2017 Indigo Ag had notched a few hundred customers. By 2018 that number had ballooned to 5,000 food producers growing food on 1 million acres. The company expects to see 25,000 growers using its technology to produce food on 4 million acres by the end of this year.

The company is on target to surpass annual revenue of $1 billion in 2019, Perry says, partly owing to its international expansion. It now operates outside the U.S., in Argentina, Brazil and Australia, along with a joint venture with Mahyco Grow in India.
Agricultural Revolution 2.0
Indigo Ag’s chief of operations for North America, Rachel Raymond, says it’s been hard for the agriculture industry to attract a next generation of farmers, including in the U.S.

That’s because most farmers here are figuring out how to cope with increasingly unpredictable and extreme weather. At the same time, they have been hit by new tariffs and uncertainty around trade negotiations between the U.S. and China, previously a major buyer of soybeans and other row crops.

The USDA expects net farm income in 2019 — a measure of farms’ profitability — to clock in 49% below its highest level of $136.1 billion in 2013 and below farms’ historical average of $90 billion from 2000 to 2017.

Perry and Raymond say that by bringing better forecasting, transparency and products to the market, they’re out to make farming less of a commodity business and more reliably profitable.

Since farmers want to grow profits as well as crops, Perry has pushed Indigo Ag to expand its offerings beyond microbiology into software and services for farmers.

Geoffrey von Maltzahn, co-founder of Indigo Ag, with company CEO David Perry: on a quest to help feed the world
Source: Indigo Agriculture
Indigo Ag rolled out a farmer’s answer to eBay or Amazon — the Indigo Marketplace — with select customers in June and a public launch in September last year.

The platform connects growers with buyers who want the ingredients they purchase to meet exacting specifications.

For example, to meet local environmental standards or hit corporate sustainability goals, some businesses will want to buy grains that were grown using less water or producing lower amounts of greenhouse gas emissions than average.

For the convenience of getting just what they want, with no phone calls or travel required, buyers are willing to say how much they’ll pay ahead of a harvest. That’s a good thing for farmers trying to anticipate prices or demand.

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Perry says the Indigo Marketplace has already seen $30 billion worth of bids. One major buyer on it is Anheuser-Busch InBev, the holding company behind beers including Budweiser, Stella Artois and Hapi (from China’s Harbin Brewery).

After the marketplace gained traction, Indigo Ag began hearing more from farmers about their other needs — like transporting their grains to customers or storing their grains safely and quickly when floods were threatening to destroy their crops.

In the same way that Google maps can tell you anytime a new Starbucks appears on the corner, we want to have that same level of information about our food supply.
David Perry
So Indigo Ag rolled out another service, Indigo Transport, which links carriers to growers and other bulk commodity shippers across the U.S.

Indigo Ag has also been gathering genomic information on plant microbes, which it uses to predict whether a certain bacteria or fungi will help a plant survive and thrive in shifting environmental conditions.

In December 2018, Indigo Ag acquired Tellus Labs, a company that parses complicated images from satellites to figure out what’s growing, where on Earth and in what conditions, each day.

Incorporating this technology allows Indigo Ag and its customers to monitor the world’s food supply and figure out where to focus their efforts next.

As Perry explained: “In the same way that Google maps can tell you anytime a new Starbucks appears on the corner, we want to have that same level of information about our food supply. As an example, we now know every field that corn and soy is growing on in North or South America. We can estimate the yields on those and update that on a daily basis. ”

Farmers look at this information and make decisions about what to plant, when to harvest and when to take certain protective measures, he added.

The company has also introduced new seed treatments for smaller grains, including oats, barley and rye, says Raymond.

She’s looking forward to the day that whisky and beer made with her customers’ crops show up at her favorite watering holes.

Indigo Ag directly challenges the business interests of some of the largest companies in the agricultural sector — where M&A and venture investing have accelerated in recent years — including Nutrien, Mosaic, BASF, Sygenta (now part of Chinese giant ChemChina), Corteva (DowDuPont’s agricultural sciences division) and Bayer (which acquired Monsanto).

Bayer has lost nearly 50% of its value since the Monsanto merger and a series of billion-dollar court settlements related to its Roundup weedkiller.

Geoffrey von Maltzahn, co-founder of Indigo Ag, with company CEO David Perry: on a quest to help feed the world
Source: Indigo Agriculture

The competition is not just over chemical inputs and fertilizer but the future of agricultural science. Most of the major ag players are building or buying digital agricultural platforms, such as fertilizer company Nutrien’s $63 million acquisition of Agrible, DuPont’s $300 million acquisition of Granular and Monsanto’s $1 billion acquisition of The Climate Corporation in 2013. Monsanto also formed the BioAg Alliance with Novozyme to use microbes to improve crop harvests.

Indigo Ag has raised approximately $650 million in venture funding and is valued at $3.5 billion. Its backers include Ballie Gifford, the Investment Corp. of Dubai, the Alaska Permanent Fund and Flagship Pioneering.

Producing food whilst preserving biodiversity »

Agricultural ecologists call for joined-up thinking for nature conservation

In nature conservation and agriculture, there are two opposing views of how to combine high biodiversity and sustainable food production: nature conservation should either be integrated into agricultural land, or segregated into protected areas in order to enable maximum yields in the food production areas. Researchers now advocate coordinated approaches that combine nature conservation and agricultural production in sustainably managed landscapes.

In nature conservation and agriculture, there are two opposing views of how to combine high biodiversity and sustainable food production: nature conservation should either be integrated into agricultural land, or segregated into protected areas in order to enable maximum yields in the food production areas. Researchers at the University of Göttingen advocate coordinated approaches that combine nature conservation and agricultural production in sustainably managed landscapes. The results have been published in the journal People and Nature.

“Many researchers argue that agricultural production on existing land should be intensified to increase yields while reducing agricultural pressure on the last areas of wilderness. This approach is being pursued primarily in tropical countries,” explains Dr Ingo Grass from the Division of Agroecology at the University of Göttingen, first author of the study. “However, biodiversity and agriculture are often closely intertwined and many species are also beneficial to the farmer. In the agricultural landscapes of Europe, many species worth protecting have adapted to extensively cultivated habitats. These species are threatened by increasing agricultural intensification,” adds Professor Teja Tscharntke, Head of Division.

In their interdisciplinary study, the researchers argue for a stronger integration of these two contrasting viewpoints. “Modern and sustainable agricultural landscapes require protected areas and high-yield food-production areas, untouched habitats as well as extensively farmed areas. This combination not only enables the highest species diversity, but also promotes ecosystem services such as pollination and biological pest control by insects and farmland birds. These are essential for sustainable agricultural production,” says Grass. According to the authors, the various landscape elements and habitats should be connected by hedges or strips of land in order to create maximum biodiversity and benefits to people.

Story Source:

Materials provided by University of Göttingen.

Pakistan ranked 3rd in world for newly installed hydropower capacity »

Pakistan managed to add 2487 MW of environment-friendly hydel electricity in 2018, just behind China and Brazil which are ranked 1st and 2nd respectively in list Country has potential of generating 60000mw of low-cost hydel electricity.

ISLAMABAD  –   Pakistan has been ranked 3rd in the world for newly installed hydropower capacity, much ahead of the US and India.

Out of the top 20 countries which installed new hydro capacity during 2018, Pakistan, with the new installed capacity of 2487MW, has been ranked 3rd, just behind China and Brazil which are ranked 1st and 2nd respectively in the list, declared by the International Hydropower Association (IHA) in its recently issued report titled 2019: Hydropower Status Report – Sector Trends and Insights.

Formed under the auspices of UNESCO in 1995 as a forum to promote and disseminate good practice about hydropower, IHA champions continuous improvement and sustainable practices across the sector.

India with 535 MW new installed capacity is ranked 8th while US with 141MW is ranked 15th of the list. Listing down top 20 countries by newly installed capacity, the IHA states in its report that Pakistan managed to add 2487MW of environment-friendly hydel electricity in 2018 following China and Brazil at the first and second rung that added 8540MW and 3866 MW to their systems respectively.

Turkey with an addition of 1085 MW and Angola with an addition of 668 MW remained at 4th and 5th positions respectively as far as newly installed hydro capacity is concerned. The neighbouring India stood at the 8th position that could succeeded in adding 535 MW hydel electricity to its system recently.

It is pertinent to mention here that all the new hydro projects were initiated and completed during the tenure of previous government of PML(N). As per the IHA report, electricity generation from hydropower projects achieved a record 4,200 terawatt hours (TWh) in 2018, the highest ever contribution from a renewable energy source, as worldwide installed hydropower capacity climbed to 1,292 GW, according to the report .

China added the most capacity with the installation of 8,540 megawatts (MW), followed by Brazil (3,866 MW), Pakistan (2,487 MW), Turkey (1,085 MW), Angola (668 MW), Tajikistan (605 MW), Ecuador (556 MW), India (535 MW), Norway (419 MW) and Canada (401 MW).Brazil has now overtaken the United States as the second largest producer of hydroelectricity by installed capacity, after 3,055 MW was put into operation last year at the 11,000 MW Belo Monte complex in the country’s northeast.

During the year 2018, Pakistan has successfully completed and commissioned three long-delayed mega hydropower projects with cumulative generation capacity of 2487 MW. The new projects include the commissioning of the 108 MW-Golen Gol hydropower project, 1410 MW-Tarbela 4th Extension and the 969 MW-Neelum Jhelum hydropower projects.

The total installed generation capacity of hydroelectric power in Pakistan surged to 9389 MW from 6902 MW, registering an increase of 36 percent in just one year. It is also worth to mention here that from 1958 to 2017 in 59 years of its inception WAPDA could manage to take its hydel generation to 6902 MW.

According the official estimates Pakistan has an indentified potential of generating 60000 MW of low-cost hydel electricity.

CABI’s new quarantine facility creates greater capacity for Parthenium research in Pakistan »

CABI has increased its capacity to fight the highly invasive and destructive Parthenium weed by opening a new quarantine facility at its Central and Western Asia (CWA) offices and laboratories in Rawalpindi, Pakistan.

Parthenium is an aggressive invasive weed which can have a devastating impact on pasturing fields, crops, and forests. In Ethiopia for example, sorghum yields were reduced by as much as 97 percent, while in India Parthenium infestations have resulted in yield losses of up to 40 percent in several crops.

The new quarantine facility, working under the auspice of the Action on Invasives programme, will allow scientists to investigate a range of biological control options including the stem boring weevil Listronotus setosipennis. This is in addition to the agent Zygogramma bicolorata which is currently being mass reared by CABI CWA to evaluate the impact on Parthenium weed.

The quarantine facility compliments the comprehensive national action plan, launched in October with a focus on research, development and communication, by adding greater capacity for scientists to investigate the potential for existing and new biological controls prior to release in the field.


Photo: racks for insect culture at the new quarantine facility

Dr Babar Bajwa, Regional Director – CABI CWA, said, “Since Parthenium was accidentally released into several countries, including Pakistan, is has become a serious threat to food security, biodiversity and human health.

“The new quarantine facility is a great stride towards helping prevent the growth and spread of this destructive pest. It is vital that we investigate and implement effective biological controls to manage Parthenium now and other invasive species in future.”

Invasive species are estimated to cost the global economy over US $1.4 trillion annually. They disregard national borders and, when unmanaged, undermine investments in development. Invasive pests and diseases also significantly affect the livelihoods of vulnerable rural communities who depend on natural resources and ecosystem health for their survival.

The Action on Invasives programme, funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the Directorate-General for International Cooperation (DGIS), Netherlands, will help improve the livelihoods of 50 million poor rural households who are affected by invasive species in Africa and Asia.

Additional information

Find out more about Parthenium weed in Pakistan from dedicated webpage.

Read more in the news story ‘CABI unveils action plan to fight highly invasive and destructive weed’

Discover how CABI is working to help fight invasive species as part of the Action on Invasives programme.


Young aphids called soldiers sacrifice themselves doing home repairs

However badly that home renovation goes, be glad you’re not a young aphid.

Colonies of tiny Nipponaphis monzeni aphids in eastern Asia use their own young as part repair crew, part repair goo. The tiny fluffs of juvenile insects end up dying after gushing white glop from their bodies to repair a hole in the wall protecting their colony in Asian winter hazel trees. New details of this patching chemistry suggest that these doomed young aphids are a colony’s version of immune system cells, researchers report April 15 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The need for repair can arise while hundreds or thousands of these aphids live inside a hard-shelled, closed lump called a gall, which forms on the trees and balloons around the insects over several years. When a caterpillar manages to chew through the wall, white wingless aphid youngsters called soldiers, swollen almost to bursting with fluids, rush to the breach.

Some soldiers mob and sting the intruder. Others get on with patching the hole. They “erupt,” says evolutionary biologist and entomologist Takema Fukatsu of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Tsukuba, Japan. From paired openings, or cornicles, near the rear, each soldier pops out huge (in aphid terms) white gobs of fatty substances and other compounds that plaster the hole.

DROP BY DROP The underside of a young aphid soldier, magnified under a scanning electron microscope, shows two droplets (arrows) of squirted wall-repair fluid.

M. Kutsukake et al/PNAS 2019


Some aphids get fatally stuck in the hardening patch, and some perish marooned outside the gall. As for the rest, releasing so much fluid shrivels the half-millimeter-long youngsters down to about a third of their body size. That means “the soldiers must die sooner or later,” Fukatsu says.

These fatty substances normally stay inside the aphids’ bodies in large cells along with the enzyme phenoloxidase. That combo does basically nothing when confined. Eruption, however, frees the fats and enzyme to react with compounds from the insects’ equivalent of blood.

The doomed youngsters work the goo as if treading grapes. The fatty substances clot, and melanin created as compounds mix will cause the patch to darken and harden. Like immune system cells flooding a skinned knee, the aphid soldiers form a scab.

THE KIDS FIX IT Young aphids called soldiers sacrifice themselves doing home repairs when a caterpillar (or scientist) breaks through the wall of the hollow tree lump where Nipponaphis monzeni aphid colonies spend a few years. Magnified views show tiny youngsters blasting out a white fatty glob, and churning it with their feet to create an emergency scab. The colony recovers its wall, but those insects that fixed it don’t survive long after spurting out so much fluid.

They do it fast, too. A soldier releases about 0.01 to 0.03 microliters of goo in a one-time-only discharge. Yet drop by drop, the emergency crew can scab over a pinhead-sized hole in about 30 minutes.

This creature isn’t the only aphid species that relies on the self-sacrifice of some for the survival of many. Young cabbage aphids (Brevicoryne brassicae) aren’t closely related to the scab makers, says evolutionary biologist Carol von Dohlen of Utah State University in Logan. But in their independently evolved form of heroism, these aphids build up a defensive chemical, a mustardy toxin. Crushing one of these soldiers releases a nasty mouthful as well as a compound that serves as an alarm signal that can benefit other aphids. Tiny they may be, but “aphids are surprising,” she says.

1 in every 8 animal or plant species on earth nearing extinction

Stories about individual species on the brink of extinction may be all too familiar. But a new tally now reveals the breadth of the conservation crisis: One million of the world’s species are now poised to vanish, some as soon as within the next few decades.

That number, which amounts to 1 in every 8 animal or plant species on Earth, comes from a sweeping new analysis of about 15,000 studies conducted within the last 50 years on topics ranging from biodiversity to climate to the health of ecosystems. During that time, the human population has doubled, increasing from 3.7 billion in 1970 to 7.6 billion today. And people are behind the looming losses, an international group of scientists says.

Thanks to human activities, the rate of global species extinctions is tens to hundreds of times faster than the average extinction rate was over the last 10 million years, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, or IPBES, concludes in a summary of the study published May 6. The intergovernmental group, which has 132 nations as members including the United States, will release its full 1,500-page report in about six months.

The report contains many other sobering numbers: More than 40 percent of amphibian species are threatened, along with 33 percent of marine mammals, 33 percent of sharks and reef-building corals and 10 percent of insects. Right now, the rate of global species extinctions is tens to hundreds of times faster than the average extinction rate was over the last 10 million years. And if human activities continue unabated, the rate of extinctions will continue to accelerate, the report states.

Here are the top five ways that people are speeding up the losses:

1. Leaving species fewer places to live on land

The top threat to species on land due to humans is habitat loss, the report says. About 75 percent of land on Earth has been “severely altered” by human actions. Since 1992, urban areas have grown by more than 100 percent. Elsewhere, agriculture to feed the world’s growing population has taken over many once-diverse habitats such as old-growth forests, wetlands and grasslands.

PALM PLACE Millions of hectares of once-lush, intact forest in Southeast Asia have given way to agriculture. More than 80 percent of the region’s agricultural expansion comes from palm oil plantations (shown).

yusnizam/iStock /Getty Images Plus


The report notes that 85 percent of wetlands that were present in 1700 were lost by 2000, and that forests now cover just 68 percent of the area they covered in preindustrial times. What’s more, the production of food crops is up by 300 percent since 1970, and in the world’s tropical regions, agricultural lands expanded by 100 million hectares from 1980 to 2000. In Southeast Asia, palm oil plantations have edged out once-intact forests, while in Central America, cattle ranches have expanded into forested areas (SN Online: 9/13/18).

2. Overfishing the oceans

Habitat loss is a problem in the oceans, too — about 66 percent of the ocean surface area has been altered by human actions, the report finds. But the top threat to marine creatures from people is overexploitation. Industrial fishing spans more than 55 percent of the ocean’s surface area, and about 33 percent of the ocean’s fish stocks are being harvested at unsustainable levels.

Among the world’s most overfished species are Atlantic halibut, bluefin tuna and all types of sharks. Other species, such as dolphins and loggerhead turtles, suffer as bycatch when they are inadvertently trapped during fishing activities.

3. Not tackling climate change fast enough

The world has already warmed by an average of about 1 degree Celsius since preindustrial times (SN: 12/22/18, p. 18). That warming is linked to the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events such as floods, fires and droughts, as well as to rising seas and to shifts in where species are distributed around the globe (SN: 1/19/19, p. 7). And warmer ocean waters are also placing stress on many fish populations, reducing the amount of fish that can be caught sustainably, without doing long-term damage to populations (SN: 3/30/19, p. 5).

Land-use changes are also tied to climate change: Land clearing, crop production and the use of fertilizers currently account for about 25 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Three-quarters of those emissions come from animal-based foods (SN: 7/7/18, p. 10). And as a result of decreasing diversity, some tropical forests are contributing more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere than they are absorbing (SN: 10/28/17, p. 9).

4. Continuing to pollute the environment

Among the worst recent offenders is marine plastic pollution, which has increased tenfold since 1980 and affects at least 267 species, including 86 percent of marine turtles, 44 percent of seabirds and 43 percent of marine mammals, the report states (SN Online: 3/22/18).

Plastics, particularly microplastics, can find their way into soils, too (SN: 5/12/18, p. 14). And other kinds of pollution are still a problem, including untreated urban and rural waste, mining and agricultural waste and oil spills (SN: 3/17/18, p. 5).

ALIEN INVASION The emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis) is a wood-boring beetle native to forests in Russia, Japan and China. First spotted in Michigan in 2002, these beetles have since killed millions of North American ash trees.

USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab/Flickr

5. Paving the way for invaders

Thanks to global trade and travel, humans have introduced invasive species to vulnerable areas around the world: Across 21 countries with the most detailed records, the number of invasive species per country has increased by about 70 percent since 1970, the report finds. Those invaders not only compete with native species for water and other resources, but also — like the frog-killing chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (SN: 4/27/19, p. 5) or the tree-munching emerald ash borer can wipe out vast numbers of native animals or plants.

But there’s hope …

Humans can still slow the loss of species, the researchers note. Conservation investments from 1996 to 2008 have already reduced the extinction risk for mammals and birds in 109 countries by 29 percent.  But saving more species will require “transformative changes” in behavior, the report states, including how people consume energy, food and water, and how they use land and technology.

STILL HERE The golden lion tamarin (Leontopithecus rosalia) is a success story for conservationists, although the monkeys remain endangered. Their only habitat, Brazil’s Atlantic forest, is a biodiversity hot spot, but has dwindled to only a few percent of its former size due to activities including lumber extraction, cattle ranching and agriculture. By the 1960s, the primates were nearly extinct. But over the last few decades, a captive breeding and reintroduction program has helped their populations in the wild rebound to about 1,500 individuals.

CABI publishes recommendations to fight scourge of parthenium weed in Central West Asia »

CABI has today published a new evidence note highlighting a list of recommendations to fight the highly-invasive parthenium weed which can have significant impacts on human health, the environment, livestock production and health and crop yields.

The report ‘Parthenium: Impacts and coping strategies in Central West Asia’, states that the aggressively-spreading weed, now classified as a ‘superior weed,’ is extremely prolific being capable of producing up to 30,000 seeds per plant – a key factor in its global spread to 48 countries including India and Pakistan.

CABI scientists say parthenium weed can cause severe allergic reactions in humans and livestock, may harbour malaria-carrying mosquitoes, displace native plant species and reduce pasture carrying capacities by as much as 80% to 90% where in India, for example, the cost of restoring grazing land is around USD 6.7 billion per annum.

The evidence note also highlights that parthenium weed can have a significant impact on crop yields – through direct competition as well as by inhibiting germination of seeds – where, for instance, in Ethiopia sorghum grain yield was reduced from 40 to 97 percent.

Abdul Rehman, Deputy Director Programme based at CABI’s office in Pakistan, said, “Parthenium ranks in the top five weeds worldwide, is extremely prolific, and requires a management approach that will have to keep pace with its spread to limit its widespread impact on various facets of the economy and the social fabric of affected communities.”

Parthenium in Vegetable Fields.


 In Pakistan, substantial yield losses in maize have also been reported. A yield loss of 50 percent in maize was recorded at an infestation rate of 20 parthenium plants per square metre. The current spread of parthenium, the scientists say, seems to be facilitated by the road network and water canal systems for irrigation and flooding events.

Mr Rehman added, “Areas with low climatic suitability such as the south of Punjab are affected by the weed, as are other areas such as Sindh & Balochistan Province. Based on the likely expansion of parthenium following the irrigation network, the weed will likely spread towards the southwestern part of Punjab, threatening Pakistan’s cotton industry.”

To try and mitigate the weed, of which the scientists say there is no single measure, CABI has listed in the report a number of recommendations which include – where possible – the use of more environmentally sustainable biological controls.

Steps to prevent parthenium arriving include increasing the inspection of vehicles, livestock, seed and feed to manage parthenium seed movement through its pathway as well as creating awareness at nurseries and floriculturists on weed identification, and to restrict the introduction of floral products from areas where the weed is present.

 If parthenium has just arrived, regulators should facilitate the registration and promotion of biological control agents through classical and augmentative biological control efforts to prevent the weed becoming widespread. Where chemical control has to be used, it should be applied along roadsides, in public parks or on private properties where it is present.

 Invaded countries should also be helped to develop and implement a parthenium management strategy to contain it and slow its further spread.

 When parthenium has already arrived and is firmly established the advice includes declaring parthenium as a noxious plant and ensuring public and political support through sufficient budget allocation to manage it. CABI also suggests that the economic considerations for different control methods, including health and environmental impacts, also need to be accounted for.


Additional information

 Evidence Note

 The evidence note ‘Parthenium: Impacts and coping strategies in Central West Asia’ is freely available to download and read.


 The authors gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the Netherlands’ Directorate-General for International Cooperation (DGIS) for CABI’s Action on Invasives Programme, as part of which this Evidence Note was produced. The views expressed in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of DFID or DGIS.



 Co-ordination: Julien Lamontagne-Godwin

Writing and analysis: Ivan Rwomushana, Julien Lamontagne-Godwin, Kate Constantine, Fernadis Makale, Winnie Nunda, Roger Day, Philip Weyl, Pablo Gonzalez-Moreno

Valuable contributions from: Fredrick Mbugua, Abdul Rehman, Kausar Khan

 Parthenium project page

 Find out more about the work CABI is doing to help manage Parthenium weed in Pakistan from the project page.

 Parthenium Weed Portal

 Find out more about parthenium weed from the Parthenium Weed Portal.

 Relevant book

‘Parthenium Weed: Biology, Ecology and Management’, edited by S Adkins, The University of Queensland, Australia, A Shabbir, University of Sydney, Australia, K Dhileepan, Biosecurity Queensland, Australia, 2018, CABI Publishing.

Pesticide resistance evolution | Global Plant Protection News

CABI is joining an international team of scientists, led by the University of Stirling, to take a ‘revolutionary approach’ in attempting to tackle resistance to pesticides in insects with a specific focus on crops pests in Brazil.

The £620,000 study will see UK-based Dr Belinda Luke working on the mass production of fungal biopesticides and formulation development from CABI’s laboratories in Egham, Surrey, while Dr Yelitza Colmenarez, and Natália Corniani – from CABI’s centre in São Paulo, Brazil, will disseminate a range of associated training activities.

Pesticide resistance is a serious problem for the agriculture industry worldwide, with pests consuming between 10 and 20 percent of all global crops while growing or in storage. In Brazil, the agricultural economy loses approximately $17.7 billion (£13.6 billion) a year to outbreaks of insects and other arthropod pests in crops. The country’s agricultural sector heavily relies on widespread pesticide application, which has led to the evolution of pesticide resistance in several significant pests.

The team – led by Principal Investigators Dr Luc Bussière, of Stirling’s Faculty of Natural Sciences, and Ricardo Polanczyk, of São Paulo State University (UNESP) Jaboticabal – will attempt to tackle the problem by studying interactions between insects and fungal pathogens that are used as biopesticides to control crop pests.

Dr Luke, Principal Scientist, Biopesticides Team, said: “CABI are delighted to be working with Stirling University and São Paulo State University in this exciting project bring together evolutionary biology and applied biopesticide development to help Brazil develop suitable alternatives to chemical pesticides.”

Dr Bussière said: “Widespread pesticide application – and pesticide resistance in pests – can undermine the sustainability of important crop pest control technologies, reduce associated economic returns, and exacerbate the risks to economic productions and food security.

“Traditional insecticide resistance management tries to prevent insect evolution, but our revolutionary approach promises sustainable control, while accounting for local evolution of insect pests.”

Pesticide application equipment

Insecticide resistance evolution occurs when a single control agent – or pesticide – is applied over a broad area and consistent evolutionary pressures drive rare resistance genes to spread rapidly through the pest population.

The new project – Enhancing Diversity to Overcome Resistance Evolution (ENDORSE) – will investigate the use of multiple fungal biopesticides across agricultural landscapes so that selection for resistance varies in different locations – preventing a uniform evolutionary response.

In natural environments, insect species are genetically variable and few individuals have genes to resist pathogens. The project is inspired by this fact and seeks to make the agricultural landscape more diverse, so that the pressures favouring resistance evolution are temporally and spatially variable. This could allow us to use the next generation of biopesticides for many years without consistent resistance evolution.

The team will also consider the suitability of fungal biopesticides for industrial scale production and field application in Brazil, and provide the industry with innovative solutions for crop protection, including improved delivery systems, higher pest control consistency and enhanced performance under field conditions.

In addition, the study will identify the barriers preventing the uptake of these new pest control technologies and research methods to encourage farmer behavioural change. The research will also provide economic and social science data to underpin policy recommendations regarding incentive schemes, publicity campaigns and marketing strategies.

Dr Bussière and Dr Polanczyk are supported by Matt Tinsley, Rosie Mangan, Brad Duthie and Nils Bunnefeld, all from the University of Stirling; as well as Belinda Luke (Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI) UK), Leonardo Fraceto (UNESP Sorocaba), Renata de Lima (Sorocaba University), Yelitza Colmenarez (CABI Brazil), and Natália Corniani (CABI Brazil).

The study is jointly funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, the São Paulo Research Foundation, and the Newton Fund.

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2019 IPPC, Hyderabad, India: Keynote speakers

Dr Shoki Al-Dobai, PhD
Integration & Support Team Leader
International Plant Protection Convention Secretariat
Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Dr Shoki Al-Dobai holds a PhD degree in Plant Protection – Entomology from the Slovak University of Agriculture in Slovakia with over 18 years’ work experience at national, regional and international levels in pest management, biological control, pesticide management and phytosanitary measures. Currently, he works as the Integration & Support Team Leader of the Secretariat of the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) at Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN). His is in charge of support and coordination of the work of the IPPC governing body “Commission on Phytosanitary Measures (CPM)”, strategic planning, partnership, and communication and advocacy activities of the IPPC Secretariat. In addition to the technical activities related to the emerging pests and plant health issues.

From 2011 to 2017 he served as a Regional Crop Protection Officer at the FAO Regional Office for the Near East & North Africa Region in Cairo, Egypt. He provided guidance and technical support to governmental institutions in the formulation and implementation of FAO plant protection projects and programmes, both at the national and regional levels. In addition to the FAO work history, Dr. Al-Dobai has also academic and research experience as Lecturer and Assistant Professor at different universities, and as visiting Post-Doctoral Research Entomologist at the Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology (CMAVE), Agricultural Research Service (ARS), US Department of Agriculture, Gainesville, Florida, USA. He worked on a research project and examined environmentally friendly methods to conserve and increase population of natural enemies of plant pests by planting specific flowering plants amidst and near crops.
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Dr Geoff Norton
Adjunct Professor, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia

Dr Geoff Norton is currently Adjunct Professor at The University of Queensland (UQ), Brisbane as well as an advisor to the software development company – Identic Pty. Ltd., a spin-off company involving staff initially based at UQ. Previously Geoff was Director of the Centre for Pest Management, Imperial College, University of London (1984 – 1992); Director of the Cooperative Research Centre for Tropical Pest Management, CSIRO, Australia (1992 – 98); and Director of the Centre for Biological Information Technology at UQ (1998 – 2012). The overall theme of Geoff’s research over almost 50 years has been at the interface of socio-economics and ecology. This has led to the development and worldwide application of systems analysis, stakeholder involvement processes, and the development of decision support tools that address specific resource management problems, with a particular focus on decisions involving crop protection issues. He has published over 100 journal articles, books and book chapters in this field.

More recently, Geoff works with the software team at Identic Pty Ltd, the group that developed the Lucid suite of software, used by taxonomists, agronomists and other specialists to author multi-media, interactive identification and diagnostic keys or tools. These tools are deployed via USB, CD/DVDs, online, and as Lucid Mobile smartphone apps to support decisions made by researchers, quarantine officers, crop advisors, farmers, etc.

Geoff is currently President of the International Association for the Plant Protection Sciences (IAPPS).
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Dr Opender Koul FIAE, FNAAS
Insect Biopesticide Research Centre

Dr Opender Koul, Fellow of the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences and the Indian Academy of Entomology, is an insect toxicologist/physiologist/chemical ecologist and currently the Director of the Insect Biopesticide Research Centre, Jalandhar, India, and Adjunct Professor, Faculty of Science, Kasetsart University, Bangkok. After obtaining his PhD in 1975, he joined the Regional Research Laboratory (CSIR), Jammu, and then became Senior Group Leader of Entomology at Malti-Chem Research Centre, Vadodara, India (1980–1988). He has been a visiting scientist at the University of Kanazawa, Japan (1985–1986), University of British Columbia, Canada (1988–1992), Institute of Plant Protection, Poznan, Poland (2001), and Kasetsart University, Bangkok (2009). His extensive research experience concerns insect—plant interactions, spanning toxicological, physiological, and agricultural aspects. Dr Koul has been honoured with an Indian National Science Academy medal (INSA), the Kothari Scientific Research Institute award, KEC Science Society award, Recognition Award of the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences of India for outstanding contribution in the field of insect toxicology/ physiology and plant protection, Dr. R.C. Saxena Memorial Medal of Entomological Research Association, and the late P.P. Singhal Memorial Award in Entomology. Dr Koul is on panels of experts in many committees and leading international and national journals. He is the Editor-in-Chief of the journal Biopesticides International and Industrial Crops and Products. He has also been an informal consultant to the Board on Science and Technology in International Development (BOSTID), and to the National Research Council (NRC) of the United States at the International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE), Nairobi; UNIDO consultant for biopesticides in China; and ICS-UNIDO consultant in Nigeria. He has authored over 240 research papers and articles, and is the author/editor of 20 books on various aspects of biopesticides.
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Prof Frank Ordon
Head of Institute
Julius Kühn-Institute (JKI)

Prof. Dr. Frank Ordon is president of the JKI and honorary professor for “Molecular resistance breeding” at the Martin-Luther-University, Halle-Wittenberg, Germany. He studied agricultural science at the Justus Liebig University in Giessen, Germany, where he also got his PhD and state doctorate (Dr. habil.). He is the editor in chief of “Plant Breeding” and is a member of several editorial boards, e.g. “Theoretical and Applied Genetics”, “Journal of Applied Genetics,” and scientific advisory boards. He is chair of the Research Committee of the Wheat Initiative.

Frank has a basic background in classical and molecular plant breeding with special emphasis on breeding for resistance against viral and fungal pathogens in barley and wheat. His primary contribution includes genetic analyses of resistance and the development of molecular markers for major resistance genes and QTL, especially against virus diseases, up to gene isolation. Besides this, he is working on improving tolerance to abiotic stress in several crop species. Frank has published the results of his studies in more than 130 papers in peer reviewed journals.
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Dr Jörg Romeis
Agroscope, Research Division Agroecology and Environment, Reckenholzstrasse 191, 8046 Zurich, Switzerland

Dr. Jörg Romeis heads the Biosafety Research Group at Agroscope in Zurich, Switzerland. Agroscope is the Swiss center of excellence for agricultural research, and is affiliated with the Federal Office for Agriculture. In addition, he is lecturer at the University of Bern and adjunct professor at the Institute of Plant Protection of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Beijing.

Jörg holds an MSc and PhD in biology and was trained as an applied entomologist with a focus on biological pest control and multi-trophic interactions. He has more than 20 years of experience in studying insect-resistant genetically engineered (GE) plants, such as Bt maize and cotton, and with the environmental risk assessment that these plants have to pass prior to cultivation. His research is focusing on the effects of GE plants on arthropod herbivores and their predators and parasitoids. In addition to primary research, Jörg is actively involved in international expert groups defining operational environmental protection goals, and in developing guidelines for risk assessment and non-target testing to ensure that GE plants released to the environment do not cause environmental harm.

In total, Jörg has published more than 170 papers in peer-review journals. He has also edited a book that addressed the integration of insect-resistant GM plants in IPM programs.
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Prof Noriharu Ken Umetsu
Visiting Professor of the Kibi International University, Adviser of OAT Agrio Co., Ltd.

Prof. Umetsu received his Ph.D., Agricultural Chemistry, in 1974 from the Tohoku University, Japan. Originally an agricultural chemist with expertise in rice blast disease and its associated toxins. During 1974-1981, Dr. Umetsu was a postdoctoral trainee and visiting scientist in the University of California, Riverside, where he conducted research on the adverse effect of impurities existing in technical organophosphorus insecticides. He also worked on the design of new carbamate insecticides and succeeded in commercializing several products.

On returning to Japan, Dr. Umetsu continued his research on the development of commercial agrochemicals with Otsuka Chemical Co. During a 15-year period as research manager and head (Director on Board) of the Otsuka Agricultural Chemicals Division, Dr. Umetsu and his colleagues developed six new agrochemicals.

He is a member of many scientific societies such as the Pesticide Science Society of Japan (PSSJ) and the International Association for the Plant Protection Sciences (IAPPS). Dr. Umetsu was a President or Vice President of PSSJ for a total of six years, Member of the Governing Board of IAPPS (coordinator for Northeast Asia) and conference chair of the 3rd Pan-Pacific Conference of Pesticide Science held in Hawaii.

He served as a visiting professor of the Tokyo University of Agriculture and the Kobe University for many years and is currently a visiting professor of the Kibi International University and the East China University of Science and Technology. He is an Honorary Member of PSSJ. He currently works as an advisor to OAT Agrio CO., Ltd.

Presentation title: Trend in Pesticide Discovery Research -Development of Safer and Environmentally Friendly Pesticides

The development and manufacture of effective, safe to human, and at the same time environmentally friendly pesticides have been a challenge to feed the growing population of our planet. Development of the pesticides possessing lower risk to natural enemies and useful organisms and compatible with IPM is also an important target. The presentation is an attempt to summarize the trends in research, development and commercialization of safer and environmentally friendly pesticides during the past decade.

In insecticide development, the trend is changing from organophosphorus, carbamate, synthetic pyrethroids to nicotinic insecticides (neonicotinoids) and diamides. Recently, compounds having a variety of novel mode of action that are not classified into existing insecticides are under development. Because of the growing social concern in the effect to honeybees, honeybee toxicity has become a new target for selective toxic insecticide.

In fungicide development, succinate dehydrogenase inhibitor (SDHI) fungicides are most common (more than 15 compounds) with sterol demethylation inhibitor (DMI) and quinone outside inhibitor (QoI) fungicides. However, due to resistance development against SDHI fungicides, Qi (quinone inside) inhibitor fungicides and many fungicides possessing novel mode of action are currently under development. Though many different herbicides possessing a mode of action such as acetolactate synthase (ALS), p-hydroxyphenylpyruvate (HPPD), protoporphyrinogen oxidase (PPO) and very long chain fatty acid elongase (VLCFAE) inhibition has been developed, no herbicides possessing novel mode of action have been commercialized for nearly past 30 years. It is of interest that cyclopyrimorate under development has reported in 2018 to possess novel mode of action, homogentisate solanesyl- transferase inhibition.

Development of useful acaricides, nematicides and biopesticides is also progressing. Some natural product origin pesticides have got attention.
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Dr Philip C Stevenson
Head of Chemical Ecology, Agriculture, Health and Environment Department
Natural Resources Institute, University of Greenwich, Chatham, Kent ME4 4TB, UK
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Surrey TW9 3AB, UK.

Phil Stevenson is Professor of Plant Chemistry at the Natural Resources Institute (University of Greenwich) where he is Head of the Chemical Ecology. He holds a dual position as Head of Biological Chemistry at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Phil’s research has focussed on the biological and ecological role of plant chemicals and understanding how these compounds can be used to support sustainable agriculture. This work includes research on pollen and nectar chemistry to determine their role in pollinator behaviour and health and behavioural ecology, natural pest resistance in crops to identify breeding traits and the optimisation of pesticidal plants (botanical insecticides) as environmentally benign and affordable alternatives to synthetic insecticides. Phil leads a variety of major research and development projects funded through UK Research and Innovation (BBSRC, GCRF), McKnight Foundation, European Union and USDA and NSF (USA). Phil’s research has been published in 150 international journal articles, books and books chapters including in Science, Current Biology, Ecological Monographs, Ecology, Journal of Ecology, Scientific Reports and Functional Ecology. Phil’s is Subject Editor at the Bulletin of Entomological Research, Regional Editor of Biopesticides International and Editorial board member of Crop Protection and Plants, People, Planet. He is a Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society and Member of the British Ecological Society.

Presentation title: Pesticidal plants can provide effective and environmentally benign pest management for small holders

Plants provide a diversity of entomotoxic and insect deterrent compounds that have potential in the development of new pest management products for pest insects. Regulation in many countries is stimulating a resurgence in commercial development of new plant biopesticides that are environmentally benign and safer for human use, but expansion of the commercial botanical insecticides sector is still relatively weak. Small holder farming however has always depended on plants as a source of pest control materials and it is these stakeholders who continue to have the most to gain from natural plant-based pesticides. Numerous indigenous and exotic species of plants with pesticidal activity have been reported but few have been validated on-farm and assessed both in terms of the pest control and economic benefit to farmers. Here, recent laboratory-based analysis and evaluation of key pesticidal plants in Africa will be reviewed along with field trials supporting their activity by small holder farmers evaluating their efficacy, economic benefits and scope for widespread uptake and deployment. The reduced impacts on beneficial insects including pollinators and natural enemies of pests through the use of pesticidal plants will also be reported from our work on legume crops in Africa. Current research also shows that some pesticidal plants can be grown in field margins to provide easy access to materials for farmers as well as providing natural enemies and pollinators with nectar, refuge and alternative sources of prey food supporting mixed ecological approaches to pest management in beans. Pesticidal plants can therefore contribute effectively to sustainable agricultural intensification in small holder farming systems.
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Yara and IBM to develop digital farming platform »

Yara International and IBM join forces to develop a digital farming platform, providing holistic digital services and instant agronomic advice.

Yara and IBM Services will jointly innovate and commercialise digital agricultural solutions that are to help increase global food production by drawing on the 2 companies’ complementary capabilities: Yara’s agronomic knowledge, backed by more than 800 agronomists and a century of experience, and IBM’s digital platforms, services and expertise in artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics.

Optimise farming practices

“Our collaboration centers around a common goal to make a real difference in agriculture. To be able to responsibly feed a growing population, it is critical that farmers increase food production on existing farmland to avoid deforestation. Yara and IBM will develop digital solutions that empower professional and smallholder farmers to optimise farming practices to increase yields, crop quality and incomes in a sustainable way,” said Terje Knutsen, EVP Sales and Marketing in Yara.

Worldwide coverage

The joint global digital farming platform will apply artificial intelligence, machine learning and in-field data to unlock new insights for farmers. The digital platform will have worldwide coverage and aspires to reach 100 million hectares of farmland – which is equivalent to twice the size of Spain or close to 7 percent of all arable land worldwide* including millions of smallholder farms.

The digital farming platform will play a key role in increasing global farming yields in a sustainable way

“As demand for food rises along with the world’s population, the digital farming platform will play a key role in increasing global farming yields in a sustainable way. The collaboration is a perfect symbiosis of IBM’s capabilities in AI, big data management and blockchain technology and Yara’s agronomic knowledge, farmer-centric digital innovation, and proven track record in improving farming across the globe,” said Luq Niazi, IBM Global Managing Director Consumer Industries.

First services planned for end 2019

As a first step, Yara and IBM will establish joint innovation teams, collaborating at digital hubs in Europe, Singapore, the US and Brazil. The teams will work closely with IBM researchers to develop new capabilities, such as visual analytics and machine learning techniques for crop insights. The first services are planned for end 2019.

Weather data

The Yara/IBM partnership will focus on all aspects of farm optimisation. One specific area of collaboration will be weather data. By merging analytical insights from IBM’s Watson Studio, IBM PAIRS technology, The Weather Company and other services, with Yara’s crop knowledge and modelling capabilities, the joint platform will not only provide hyperlocal weather forecasts but will in addition give real-time actionable recommendations, tailored to the specific needs of individual fields/crops, according to Yara and IBM.

Traceability and supply chain efficiency

As the joint digital farming platform expands, the teams will explore innovative business solutions to integrate the joint platform into the IBM Food Trust, IBM’s blockchain-enabled network of food chain players. “This will allow for greater traceability and supply chain efficiency as well as ways to tackle food fraud, food waste and sustainability. It will firmly link the farm into the full food chain, creating a holistic approach to food production from farm to plate,” say the 2 companies.

Hugo Claver
Web editor for Future Farming