In the news...

Insect threats to food security

September 3rd, 2018 / Science, US

Globally, one out of nine people suffers from chronic hunger, and undernourishment is growing. Global average surface temperatures are also rising and are projected to increase by 2° to 5°C this century, with negative impacts on agricultural production. Even today, despite substantial plant protection efforts, about one-third of crops are …

A tobacco-derived insect repellent – for crops

June 13th, 2018 / New Atlas

Although it’s associated with nasty cigarettes, the tobacco plant is also a potential source of vaccines, biofuel and antibiotics. Now, a chemical from the plant is also being used as a bug repellent for crops, which could replace eco-unfriendly insecticides.
One of the problems with insecticides is the fact that they …

‘Sexy plants’ on track to replace harmful pesticides to protect crops

June 8th, 2018 / The Guardian, UK

“Sexy plants” are on the way to replacing many harmful pesticides, scientists say, by producing the sex pheromones of insects which then frustrate pests’ attempts to mate.
Scientists have already genetically engineered a plant to produce the sex pheromones of moths and are now optimising that, as well as working on …

Scientists hail European ban on bee-harming pesticides

May 1st, 2018 / Nature, UK

In a long-awaited decision, the European Union today voted to ban the use of three controversial neonicotinoid insecticides on all crops grown outdoors.
The vote ends years of bitter wrangling between those in favour of a ban, including environmental groups and many scientists, and opponents of further restrictions, including neonicotinoid manufacturers. …

Bt Corn associated with higher yields, less insecticide use in neighboring fields

March 16th, 2018 / The Scientist, Canada

In 1996, scientists introduced a type of transgenic maize with built-in protection against pests, such as the European corn borer, using genes derived from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis that code for proteins toxic to some insects but harmless to humans. Since then, a host of studies have quantified the benefits—in …

Can Oxitec’s genetically engineered insects combat fall armyworm crop damage and famine in Africa?

March 14th, 2018 / Genetic Literacy Project, US

Fall armyworm is a moth larvae that is incredibly destructive. It causes widespread crop losses in the Americas and now has been found in Africa. This pest consumes everything in its path, and can travel many miles on the wind. It is believed that this organism could cause widespread famine …

Distant cousins of domesticated crops harbor traits to feed a hungry planet

March 13th, 2018 / ICRISAT

Recently, scientists found that more frequent flooding caused by storm and rainfall along with erratic temperature are responsible for the resurgence of phytophthora blight, a devastating disease that weakens pigeonpea stems irrespective of soil types and cropping patterns. With climate change, new invasive pests and changes in the farming landscape, …

Researchers learn from plant viruses to protect crops

February 6th, 2018 / The Scientist, Canada

In recent years, however, scientists have turned to inventive new ways to protect crops. Genetic modification techniques developed over the last 30 years, for example, can arm plants with defenses against viral invasion, while leaving crop yields and food quality unaffected. Some of these modified plants are now in the …

Scientists see role for insects and ‘orphan crops’ in human diet

December 8th, 2017 / Financial Times, UK

Remarkably few plant and animal species dominate global agriculture and food production. Cattle, sheep, pigs and poultry make up most of the livestock sector, while wheat, maize, rice and soya account for 60 per cent of the world’s total crop output. Fewer than 30 species account for more than 95 …

Gov’t imports predators to kill fall armyworm

July 28th, 2017 / Daily Monitor, Uganda

In a bid to completely contain the killer fall armyworm, government has imported prowling insects which will eat the heavily destructive worm.
On Thursday at the ongoing National Agricultural Trade Show in Jinja, Dr Imelda Kashaija, the deputy director general for technology at Naro, revealed the predators are being tested by …