In the National News
HOPE FOR AMERICAN CHESTNUT
Chestnut blight has virtually wiped out the American chesnut as a dominant tree in eastern forests. Breeders at University of Georgia have developed a method for inserting a known anti-fungal gene into the host tree’s DNA. The thought is that the new gene will help the tree develop resistance to the pathogen. This breeding process has been a 20-year effort, where they first found a way to grow chestnut trees from a single cell, and then how to insert the anti-fungal gene. Several trees are now growing in greenhouses to be used for resistance studies.
CSREES IS NOW NIFA
The National Institute of Food and Agriculture was launched on October 1, 2009 as mandated by the recent Farm Bill. NIFA is formed from the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, and is now USDA’s extramural research enterprise. The elected leader of NIFA is plant scientist Roger Beachy of the Danforth Plant Science Center and winner of the Wolf Prize in Agriculture. NIFA will serve to keep American agriculture competitive, improve nutrition and food safety, and provide a secure energy future, all while protecting natural resources.
PREDATOR BEETLE RELEASED FOR HEMLOCK WOOLLY ADELGID
Hemlock woolly adelgid was first introduced to North America in the Pacific Northwest, and spread across to the U.S. where it is now a significant pest of hemlocks in the East, killing thousands of acres of trees. A team of entomologists from Cornell, UMass, and the USFS released a predatory beetle of the adelgid on infested land in NY. The beetle (Laricobius nigrinus), is native to the Pacific Northwest where it has helped to keep the adelgid in check, preventing it from becoming the problem it is in the East. Hemlock woolly adelgid is a tricky pest because it continues to develop over the winter months. L. nigrinus beetles have a synchronous life cycle, and can feed on the adelgids in winter as well as summer. In the East, the beetle feeds exclusively on the adelgids. The study site will be monitored for 10 years to determine the effect of the beetle.
SELECTIVE BEES TARGET HEMOLYMPH-FEEDING MITE
Honey bees are naturally hygienic, removing diseased brood from their nests. ARS scientists in Baton Rouge, LA have developed honey bees with a high expression of a genetic trait called varroa-sensitive hygiene (VSH) which heightens their hygienic activity against the varroa mite, a parasite that, at high levels, can kill the bee colony. VSH allows the bee to more easily remove mite-infested pupae from the capped brood. VHS bees are aggressive in their pursuit of the mites, ganging up and chewing through the cap of an infested brood. For bees without this trait, the mites are sometimes hard to located since they attack the bee brood while they are inside the capped cells.
DUPONT STARTS USING BIODEGRADABLE PACKAGING
DuPont says that the new environmental packaging it is launching for the turf industry will reduce waste and exposure to pesticides. The packaging is certified compostable and biodegradable, and was designed in response to the needs of pest management professionals. DuPont found that pre-measured packaging allows for better inventory management and improves usability. The name of the packaging is called “Terrene” and the insecticide Arilon is the first to be sold in the packaging.
NEW USDA WEB SITE TARGETS SMALL FARMERS AND CONSUMERS
USDA has sponsored a new Web site (click here) to create new economic opportunities for small farmers by better connecting consumers with local producers. The idea of the site is to start a national conversation about the importance of understanding where food comes from and where it goes. The site is using resources from across the entire USDA to help create the link between local production and local consumption. The site provides resources for strengthening rural communities, supporting local farmers, promoting healthy eating, protecting natural resources, and grants, loans, and support for small farmers.
MOSQUITOES’ ATTRACTION TO HUMANS DISCOVERED
UC-Davis entomologists have discovered the dominant odor naturally produced in humans that attracts the mosquito species that carries West Nile virus. After testing hundreds of naturally occurring compounds emitted by people and birds, they discovered that the primary chemical mosquitoes are sensing is called nonanol. Mosquitoes can detect it in very low concentrations, directing them to a blood meal. Carbon dioxide is also a known attractant, but the combination of nonanol and carbon dioxide increases attraction by more than 50 percent.
DUPONT STARTS USING BIODEGRADABLE PACKAGING
Penn State Fruit Research and Extension have studied the use of the ladybug, Stethorus punctum, and a predatory mite, Typhlodromus pyri, to control European red mite and two-spotted spider mite. They found that the predatory mite roams around, finding prey by accident, whereas the lady bug is attracted to specific visual and chemical cues. Spider mite feeding causes leaves to turn yellow and emit a volatile chemical, both of which are irresistible to the lady bug. But due to certain pesticides used in the PA test orchards, the lady beetles are killed. As a result, the predatory mites have been found to be the most successful predator.