In the National News
DEVELOPING TOXIN-RESISTANT CORN LINES
Aflatoxin is a human and animal carcinogen that is produced in corn by the fungi Aspergillus flavus and A. parasiticus. Corn infected with Aspergillus is devalued and most times, unmarketable, with annual losses estimated at $192 million. USDA-Agriculture Research Service geneticists in Mississippi are developing corn germplasm lines that are showing resistance to these fungal aflatoxins. Three lines are currently showing great promise, with two of them also resistant to another toxin called fumonisin, caused by a Fusarium species. The same research group has also developed germplasm lines that are tolerant of fall armyworms and corn borers, whose feeding damage can lead to Aspergillus infection. The germplasm lines are being used in plant breeding programs across the country.
NEW BIORATIONAL FUNGICIDE REGISTERED WITH EPA
Tenet (SipcamAdvan) is one of the newest biorational fungicides receiving EPA registration. The active ingredient is a mix of two fungi, Trichoderma asperellum and T. gamsii, which have been found to be active in a variety of temperatures and humidities. The Trichoderma fungi protect plants against root rot by feeding on and competing with soil-dwelling pathogenic fungi, including Phytophthora, Rhizoctonia, Pythium, and Fusarium. It is available for a wide range of crops, including vegetables.
ALDICARB TO BE TERMINATED
EPA’s recent study of toxicity data on aldicarb, a broad-spectrum carbamate, found that the insecticide/nematicide no longer meets the agency’s food safety standards. Aldicarb, a restricted use pesticide, is sold as Temik by Bayer CropScience, and is used on a variety of agricultural crops, including citrus, potatoes, cotton, sugar beets, and soybeans. The most significant risks are on citrus and potatoes, and Bayer will end use on those commodities first. Aldicarb at high levels in food has the potential to cause sweating, nausea, dizziness, blurred vision, abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea. Aldicarb will be phased out of production by late 2014. All remaining aldicarb uses will end by 2018.
GLYPHOSATE-RESISTANT WEEDS ARE A GROWING PROBLEM
David Mortensen, a Penn State weed scientist, has called upon the federal government to restrict use of herbicide-resistant crops (“Roundup-Ready” corn, soybean, and cotton), and to impose a tax on biotech seeds that would fund agricultural research. The reliance on a single chemical, glyphosate, for weed control has increased dramatically due to the Roundup-Ready crops, which has led to at least 19 weed species that are resistant to the herbicide. Resistant weeds now infest close to 11 million acres in the U.S., double the amount in 2009. Mortensen says that the cost of forestalling and controlling herbicide-resistant weeds is estimated to cost farmers an additional $10-20 per acre. One concern is that geneticists are now looking to develop lines that are also resistant to other herbicide chemicals such as dicamba and 2,4-D. If these new crop introductions occur as reported, herbicide use could continue to increase and a significant proportion of those added herbicides will be older and less environmentally benign compounds.
NEW PESTS STOPPED AT ARIZONA PORT OF ENTRY
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agriculture specialists working the Mariposa cargo facility discovered three significant pests, two of which have never before been found in the U.S., and the third of which has only been found once before. During inspections on Aug. 11, CBP agriculture specialists discovered an adult weevil with pineapples and Persian limes from Mexico. The weevil was identified by the USDA National Identification Service as Pantomorus uniformis, a pest that occurs in southern Mexico and northern Central America. On Sept. 6, a specialist discovered two adult shield bugs, Euschistus crenator subsp. orbiculator, on a commercial shipment of fresh corn entering from Mexico. It was the first time either of these pests have been intercepted in the U.S. That same day, specialists discovered an adult hemipteran insect, Calocorisca tenera, with tomatoes from Mexico.
Useful Publications and Web Sites
• A new website on pesticide stewardship has been developed for people that use, store, mix, make recommendations about or sell pesticides. Topics include avoiding drift, preventing runoff and leaching, and pesticide resistance management. The site is located at pesticidestewardship.org.
• A new online international, peer-reviewed journal focused on the practice and applied research interests in agriculture has recently been established (www.agdevjournal.com). The Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development publishes articles by professionals and academics in agriculture and food systems. The Journal features a companion website, AgDevONLINE, with maps and articles that are intended to support the work of a wide range of professionals, academics, and activists who focus on agriculture and food issues.