In the National News

In the National News

New Bean Varieties Withstand Extreme Heat

Plant breeders at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) have been working to develop a bean–once feared to be a casualty of climate change–that can withstand extreme temperatures.  They announced the discovery of 30 new types of "heat-beater" beans.  They were developed by crossing common beans—pinto, white, black, and kidney—and the tepary bean.  The new heat-tolerant beans may be able to handle an increase in average world-temperatures of 7.2°F.  

Leaf Odor Attracts Spotted Wing Drosophila

The spotted-wing drosophila (SWD) has become a major pest of fruits in some areas of North America and Europe.  It lays its eggs in fresh and ripening fruits, rendering them unsuitable for sale or processing.  As reported in the Journal of Chemical Ecology, scientists in Germany have identified a leaf odor called beta-cyclocitral that attracts SWD, but no other related drosophilids.  They also found that SWD responded more strongly to odors that were emitted by plants during the early stages of fruit ripening and less strongly to plants with fermenting fruits.  The authors speculate that SWD may act as an evolutionary bridge between fruit-centered and herbivorous species within the Drosophila genus.  Their research results may help to develop more efficient traps in order to simplify SWD monitoring.

Improving the Codling Moth Virus

Cydia pomonella granulovirus (CpGV) is a natural insect pathogen that is available as a bioinsectide to kill codling moth larvae, the major pest of apples and pears.  USDA entomologists found that adding brewer’s yeast and brown sugar made the product more attractive to ingestion by the larvae.  In 2 years of field trials, the new CpGV mixture killed more larvae (83%) than the virus-only (55%) and water-only controls (17%).   CpGV is primarily used in organic production, but its downside is that it breaks down quickly in UV light and there is only a short window for the larvae to ingest it before tunnelling into the fruit.

Organic Production Increases

Since 2002, the number of U.S. certified organic operations has increased by more than 250%.  USDA recently announced that the current number–almost 20,000 operations–is 5% over 2014.

New Virus Reported on Switchgrass

In recent years, University of Illinois plant pathologists noticed virus-like symptoms in switchgrass, a bioenergy crop.  But repeatedly, all affected plants tested negative for known viruses.  The scientists then “dove” into deep sequencing, a new molecular technique, and found that the plants were infected with a new virus in the Mastrevirus group, the first of its kind found in North America.  The results are reported in Archives of Virology where the new virus is named switchgrass mosaic-associated virus 1 (SgMaV-1).  Elsewhere in the world, Mastreviruses are responsible for decimating yields in corn, wheat, and sugarcane.  Researchers are not sure what vector transmits SgMaV-1 and the impacts of the virus on switchgrass biomass yield, nor do they know what other crops this new virus affects.

New Class of Insecticide for Mosquito Control

Purdue entomologists have identified a new class of chemical insecticide that could provide a safer, more selective means of controlling mosquitoes.  Known as dopamine receptor antagonists, the chemical disrupts cell signaling, movement, development, and behaviors, eventually leading to the insect's death.  The researchers used the mosquito genome to pinpoint chemicals that will be more selective than current insecticides.  Diseases spread by mosquitoes kill thousands worldwide every year.

Box Stores Continue to Phase Out Neonicotinoids

Lowe’s joins BJ’s Wholesale Club, Home Depot, and several plant nurseries in phasing out the sale of products containing neonicotinoid pesticides.  Lowe’s announcement includes a promise to include more organic products, encourage customers to use biocontrol options, and provide more consumer and employee education. 

Useful Websites

  • University of California created an Urban Ag website that offers information and resources including soil, planting, irrigation, pest management, and harvesting, as well as information on the business of farming, such as how to market urban farm products.
  • Herbicide Symptoms is a website from University of California that helps to identify damage from 81 herbicides on crops and ornamental plantings.  The site includes nearly a thousand images from more than 14 modes of action.