In the National News
Pesticide Reduction in Parks
Pesticide reduction and/or elimination policies have been implemented in hundreds of parks across the nation. Some examples include: New York State Parks; Chicago City Parks; 29 communities and townships in New Jersey; 17 cities in the Northwest covering more than 50 parks; and numerous communities throughout Massachusetts, Maine, and Connecticut. Some parks have gone completely pesticide-free, including Camden and Rockport, ME.
Origins of Phytophthora Ramorum Investigated
The pathogen that causes sudden oak death may be as old as 5 million years. This discovery by ARS and NC State University may help shed light on where it came from, and how it was spread. Three distinct lineages, (EU1, NA1 and NA2) were introduced to Europe and western North America in the last 10 years. Several years of DNA sequencing analysis has shown that each lineage originated in a distinct (as yet unknown) geographic location, and has mutated independently of the other.
A new russet potato germplasm resistant to feeding by the Columbia root-knot nematode has been developed through painstaking breeding work by ARS. This pest is normally controlled by chemical fumigants. Two more years of field trials are in the works before release to the agricultural market.
New Class of Fungicide Discovered
New anti-fungal agents called phytoalexin detoxification inhibitors (paldoxins) have been developed by University of Saskatchewan mycologists. Paldoxins work to block the ability of pathogenic fungi from destroying plants’ natural defense chemicals, called phytoalexins. The most powerful phytoalexins discovered were found in camelina, and many fungi were unable to degrade the chemical. The paldoxins are unique in that they work by disrupting a key chemical signaling pathway that fungi use to break down a plant’s normal defenses, slowing pathogenic fungi without harming other organisms. The paldoxins have been tested on several crucifers, including rapeseed and mustard greens.
New Insect Repellent Available Soon
DuPont recently registered a biological insect repellent ingredient, Refined Oil of Nepeta cataria, made from catmint (catnip), the first biological for mosquitos to be registered in eight years. Research shows its repellency is similar to DEET, and can be safely reapplied as often as necessary. It is not oily and has a pleasant fragrance.
A Second Use for Catmint
Not only does catmint oil repel biting insects (see previous), but USDA ARS entomologists have also found certain catmint compounds to repel the Asian lady beetle. Nepetalactone was one compound that repelled 95 percent of adult beetles in a laboratory study. This technology may prove useful in preventing lady beetles from entering buildings, where the repellent is combined with a trap collects insects for release elsewhere.
First Ever Organic AG Survey
USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will survey U.S. organic farms and farms in transition this June 2009, the first survey of its kind. The survey will help identify production and marketing practices, income, and expenses. Results will be used to guide future farm policies, funding, availability of goods and services, and community development.
Useful Web Sites and Publications
• www.omafra.gov.on.ca/IPM/english: a new interactive IPM training tool, called Ontario crop IPM. The tool targets Ontario growers, but some information is applicable to Utah, including photo galleries, scouting calendars, glossaries, and additional resources.
• www.rodaleinstitute.org/new_farm: the online version of New Farm, which has been around for 29 years as an information source for farmers.
• “Using Organic Nutrient Sources” was prepared by Penn State University to help growers interpret soil test recommendations for incorporating organic nutrient sources. Access it here.
• “A Targeted Conservation Approach for Improving Environmental Quality” prepared by Iowa State University, encourages the strategic use of trees, prairies, and other perennials in a way that will result in multiple environmental benefits while causing only a small change in overall agricultural production. Access it here.