Plant Diseases May Cause Financial Losses

In addition to direct losses in yield and quality, financial losses from plant diseases can arise in many ways.Farmers may have to plant varieties or species of plants that are resistant to disease but are less productive, more costly, or commercially less profitable than other varieties. They may have to spray or otherwise control a disease, thus incurring expenses for chemicals, machinery, storage space, and labor. Shippers may have to provide refrigerated warehouses and transportation vehicles, thereby increasing expenses. Plant diseases may limit the time during which products can be kept fresh and healthy, thus forcing growers to sell during a short period of time when products are abundant and prices are low. Healthy and diseased plant products may need to be separated from one another to avoid spreading of the disease, thus increasing handling costs.Plant Diseases May Cause Financial Losses
The cost of controlling plant diseases, as well as lost productivity, is a loss attributable to diseases. Some plant diseases can be controlled almost entirely by one or another method, thus resulting in financial losses only to the amount of the cost of the control. Sometimes, however, this cost may be almost as high as, or even higher than, the return expected from the crop, as in the case of certain diseases of small grains. For other diseases, no effective control measures are yet known, and only a combination of cultural practices and the use of somewhat resistant varieties makes it possible to raise a crop. For most plant diseases, however, as long as we still have chemical pesticides, practical controls are available, although some losses may be incurred, despite the control measures taken. In these cases, the benefits from the control applied are generally much greater than the combined direct losses from the disease and the indirect losses due to expenses for control.
Despite the variety of types and sizes of financial losses that may be caused by plant diseases, wellinformed farmers who use the best combinations of available resistant varieties and proper cultural, biological, and chemical control practices not only manage to produce a good crop in years of severe disease outbreaks, but may also obtain much greater economic benefits from increased prices after other farmers suffer severe crop losses.

Source: Plant Pathology by GEORGE N. AGRIOS

Understanding Common House and Garden Insecticides

Pesticides include any substances used to kill, control or repel pests. We use pesticides almost every day, from ant and roach sprays for the kitchen, to weed killers for the lawn, mildew cleaners for the bathroom and mosquito repellents outdoors. Pesticides have become a widely accepted way to keep our homes and gardens relatively pest-free. About 85% of all American households keep at least one pesticide in storage. medianet_width=’600′; medianet_height= ‘120’; medianet_crid=’823273624′;

Despite our willingness to use them, most consumers associate pesticides with pollution, health risks and toxic chemicals. Surveys show that about 75% of consumers are wary of using pesticides in the home. Many people today are avoiding certain synthetic (man-made) pesticides in favor of natural or “organic” products. But regardless of whether a substance comes from natural or artificial sources, if it controls pests, it’s a pesticide. And as long as pests are around, chances are that we will use pesticides.

There are many types of pesticides. Insecticides are pesticides designed to control insects. Herbicides are pesticides designed to kill weeds. There are dozens of others. In this f@ctsheet we will learn about the different kinds of insecticides and how to choose the right one for the job.Understanding Common House and Garden Insecticides

Choosing the right formulation

The first decision to make when selecting a pesticide is what formulation to use. A formulation is the way the pesticide active ingredient is mixed with inert ingredients to make it convenient and effective to use. Factors that influence the choice of formulation include cost, convenience in mixing and use, effectiveness against your target pest and safety. The following table describes the most important types of insecticide formulations and how they should be used.

Table 1. Various types and uses of insecticide formulations.

Type

Description

Where and how to use

Relative Safety

Cost

Dust

An insecticide active ingredient is sprayed onto a finely ground dust.

Dusts are best used to deliver an insecticide to difficult-to-reach areas. Common uses include treatment of ants in a wall, or wasps in the ground. Ants and other social insects will track the applied dust deeper into a nest. Dusts are often sold for garden use, but application there is inefficient and much of the insecticide is likely to be blown or washed off the intended target. Best to apply with a crank duster or squeeze bottle designed for applying dusts.

Low to moderate. Easy to inhale, may drift from the intended target site.

Low

Granular

Insecticide is sprayed onto an inert, absorptive granule; usually consisting of clay, ground corn cob, or nut husks.

Granular insecticides are designed to provide control of soil dwelling insects. They are less effective against surface crawling pests, unless these also spend much time underground in the treatment zone. Commonly used for control of ants, grubs, millipedes, etc. Easy to apply with a rotary, drop, or hand-held seed spreader.

High. Because insecticide is impregnated inside an inert carrier, spills are easily contained and little exposure risk to exposed skin.

Low

Aerosol

Insecticide mixed with gas in a metal can. Can be designed to produce a various particle sizes from fine aerosol to liquid stream.

Easy to use and apply, designed for application of residual sprays for crawling insects as well as for aerosol fogs for flying insects, depending on product. Commonly sold for ant and roach control, or flying insect control. Despite the impression given by advertisements, aerosol fogs do not penetrate well into cracks and crevices where pests hide.

Low to moderate. Some formulations are flammable. Solvents may add to toxicity, and exposure risk to skin is higher. Empty cans should be wrapped in newspaper for disposal to prevent accidental punctures.

High

Baits

Consist of an insecticide mixed with a food or attractant to entice the insect to ingest. Come in various forms including pellets, dusts, gels, liquids and granules.

One of the most effective control methods for controlling social insects, like ants and termites. Also very effective on cockroaches and crickets. Various ways to apply.

High safety due to the low percentage active ingredient needed to produce control. Containerized baits are exceptionally safe. Broadcast treatments of low rates is generally the safest application method.

Low to moderate

Spray – Ready to Use (RTU)

Premixed liquid, usually in a pump spray bottle or as a hose-end attachment.

Designed for convenience, RTU sprays require the user to just point and pump or attach to a garden hose. No mixing required. Usually designed for tree, lawn and garden sprays, flea sprays.

Moderate. Because there is no mixing, risk of your exposure to the concentrate is eliminated. User should avoid exposure to spray drift by using gloves and long-sleeves.

Moderate to high

Spray – Concentrate

Concentrated active ingredient in an emulsion or solution. Designed to be mixed with water before application.

Wide range of uses include both indoor and outdoor sprays, lawn and garden sprays and soil drenches.

Higher risk because of need to mix concentrated product and potential for exposure to spillage, drift or splashing.

Low

Source:http://citybugs.tamu.edu medianet_width=’600′; medianet_height= ‘250’; medianet_crid=’810779177′;

Listen to Your Weeds!

Put your ear to the ground and hear what your weeds are saying about your soil.

What do you do when you see a weed in the garden? Jump in and frantically hack away with a hoe? Throw up your hands in despair? Learn something? medianet_width=’600′; medianet_height= ‘120’; medianet_crid=’823273624′;

Yes, learn something! Those weeds are excellent indicators of soil conditions. In fact, experts known as geochemical botanists often look for specific weeds to help them locate minerals in the soil and to pinpoint geological features. You can apply this science in your own backyard in two ways: to plant garden crops that will thrive in the same conditions as those weeds or to amend your soil so that the conditions are less inviting to the weeds you find there.

Here are the most reliable weedy indicators and what they reveal about your soil.

Weeds That Say Your Soil Is SoggyListen to Your Weeds!

If you see dock, foxtails, horsetail, and willows, you can expect your site to suffer swampy conditions some time during the year. Other weeds that thrive in wet soil include goldenrod, Joe-Pye weed, oxeye daisy, poison hemlock, rushes, and sedges.

What could you possibly grow in such conditions? How about a fabulous garden filled with plants that like wet feet? Ornamental willows, including pussy willow and curly willow, will flourish here and provide plenty of material for flower arrangements. You can also grow dogwoods, Japanese iris, Siberian iris, yellow flag, ligularia, cardinal flower, and turtlehead. Don’t grow invasive wet-loving plants like purple loosestrife or meadowsweet, however. They can overwhelm the area and destroy the natural balance of the wetlands.

Also, don’t try to change these conditions. Wetlands are priceless natural habitats that are rapidly being lost to development. Besides, trying to “correct” such a site usually is a lost cause—in Nature, water almost always wins.

Weeds That Cry Out “Compaction and Crust” medianet_width=’600′; medianet_height= ‘120’; medianet_crid=’823273624′;

Chicory and bindweed are telltale signs of compacted soil. That’s why you often see the blue flowers of chicory along highways. Chicory also is common in gardens where beds have been left empty or, worse still, where soil has been worked when it’s wet.

If your weeds indicate compacted soil, plant a cover crop of white lupines and sweet clover. They have roots as strong as those of pesky chicory, and they help to break up the soil. At the same time, these cover crops replenish the nitrogen levels in the soil.

Although a hard crust on your soil’s surface can prevent many vegetables and flowers from breaking through, it doesn’t deter quackgrass or mustard family weeds at all.

If weedy mustard is flourishing in your garden, pull it up and plant closely related brassica crops such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and choy instead. They can push through crusty soil with ease. Replace quackgrass with a fast-growing grassy cover crop (such as rye) in fall, then till it under the following spring. The cover crop will loosen the soil and choke out the weeds.

To aerate and lighten crusty and compacted soil, add compost. Prevent future problems by working your soil only when it’s dry.

Weeds That Signal Your Soil Is Sour

Dandelions, mullein, sorrel, stinging nettle, and wild pansy all thrive in “sour” acidic soil (pH below 7.0).

If you find these pests in your garden, grow plants that also like their soil on the tart side: hydrangeas (whose flowers achieve their most beautiful shades of blue in acidic soil), blueberries, rhododendrons, and azaleas. In the vegetable garden, endive, rhubarb, shallots, potatoes, and watermelon all tolerate soil with a pH as low as 5.0.

Or, if you’d rather grow plants that thrive in neutral soils, you could raise your soil’s pH by applying dolomitic limestone. To determine how much lime to use, send a soil sample to a lab for testing, then follow the lab’s recommendations. Wood ashes also will raise soil pH, but don’t use any more than 25 pounds per 1,000 square feet, and avoid applying them more often than every 2 or 3 years. Compost is a better buffer: Just add enough to raise your soil’s pH to 6.5 or 6.8.

Weeds That Say Your Soil Is Sweet medianet_width=’600′; medianet_height= ‘120’; medianet_crid=’823273624′;

Campion, field peppergrass, nodding thistle, salad burnet, scarlet pimpernel, and stinkweed all indicate a “sweet” alkaline soil (pH higher than 7.0).

Ornamentals that do well in alkaline soil include lilacs, Persian candytuft, dianthus, baby’s breath, helianthemum, dame’s rocket, lavender, and mountain pinks. Some edibles also tolerate soil that’s a little on the sweet side, including asparagus, broccoli, beets, muskmelons, lettuce, onions, and spinach.

If you want to lower the pH of your alkaline soil, add peat moss or elemental sulfur at a rate suggested by soil test results. Or, again, simply add compost regularly to bring the pH closer to neutral.

Weeds That Warn of Worn-Out Soil

Biennial wormwood, common mullein, daisies, mugwort, wild carrot, wild parsnip, and wild radish are sure signs that your soil has poor fertility.

Luckily, many perennials actually flower better when the amount of food in the soil is on the lean side. This list includes achillea, antennaria, artemisia, asclepias, centranthus, cerastium, coreopsis, echinops, eryngium, gaillardia, salvia, santolina, solidago, and stachys. In the edible department, beans (and other legumes), beets, carrots, parsnips, peas, radishes, sage, and thyme tolerate soil that’s low in fertility. medianet_width=’600′; medianet_height= ‘250’; medianet_crid=’810779177′;

Of course, you could and should improve the fertility of at least some of that soil. First, have your soil tested. If the test reveals major deficiencies, correct them with organic fertilizers such as fish meal (for nitrogen), bonemeal (for phosphorus), and greensand (for potassium). From then on, use compost and cover crops to maintain your soil’s fertility.

Weeds That Reveal Your Soil Is Rich

Fertile soil will often make its richness known by supporting happy and vigorous colonies of chickweed, henbit, and lamb’s-quarter. In addition, a flush of redroot pigweed indicates an abundance of nitrogen in the soil, while knapweed and red clover reveal an excess of potassium. Spot lots of purslane and mustard? They could be telling you that your soil is rich in phosphorus.

To take full advantage of your soil’s fertility, plant heavy feeders, such as corn, broccoli, lettuce, melons, squash, tomatoes, and peppers.

Source: http://www.organicgardening.com

Top Ten Garden Insect Pests

The following list of pest descriptions and control measures provides a good starting point for tackling pest control in gardens throughout the United States and Canada. Control solutions are listed in order of environmental friendliness. Botanical sprays, which can have detrimental effects on beneficial insects and other animals, should be used only as a last resort. medianet_width=’600′; medianet_height= ‘120’; medianet_crid=’823273624′;

learn how to control aphids in the<br />
garden1. Aphids (many species).
Tiny, pear-shaped; long antennae; two tubes projecting rearward from abdomen.

Host/Range: Most fruits and vegetables, flowers, ornamentals, shade trees. Found throughout North America.

Damage: Aphids suck plant sap, causing foliage to distort and leaves to drop; honeydew excreted on leaves supports sooty mold growth; feeding spreads viral diseases.

Control: Wash plants with strong spray of water; encourage native predators and parasites such as aphid midges, lacewings, and lady beetles; when feasible, cover plants with floating row cover; apply hot-pepper or garlic repellent sprays; for severe problems, apply horticultural oil, insecticidal soap, or neem.

2. Cabbage maggot (Delia radicum)
Adults: 1⁄4-inch gray flies. Larvae: white, tapering maggots.

Host/Range: Cabbage-family crops. Found throughout North America.

Damage: Maggots tunnel in roots, killing plants directly or by creating entryways for disease organisms.

Control: Apply floating row covers; set out transplants through slits in tar-paper squares; avoid first generation by delaying planting; apply parasitic nematodes around roots; burn roots from harvested plants; mound wood ashes or red pepper dust around stems.

3. Caterpillars (many species)
Soft, segmented larvae with distinct, harder head capsule; six legs in front, fleshy false legs on rear segments.

Host/Range: Many fruits and vegetables, ornamentals, shade trees. Range varies with species.

Damage: Caterpillars chew on leaves or along margins; droppings soil the produce; some tunnel into fruits.

Control: Encourage native predators, parasites; hand pick; apply floating row covers; spray with Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) or spinosad.

4. Cutworms (several species)
Fat, 1-inch-long, gray or black segmented larvae; active at night.

Host/Range: Most early vegetable and flower seedlings, transplants. Found throughout North America.

Damage: Cutworms chew through stems at ground level; they may completely devour small plants; most damaging in May and June.

Control: Use cutworm collars on transplants; delay planting; hand pick cutworms curled below soil surface; scatter bran baits mixed with Btk (B.t. var. kurstaki) and molasses before planting.

5. Colorado potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata)
Adults: yellow-orange beetles with 10 black stripes on wing covers. Larvae: orange, hump-backed grubs with black spots along sides. Eggs: yellow ovals, laid in upright clusters.

Host/Range: Potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, petunias. Found throughout North America.

Damage: Beetles defoliate plants, reducing yields or killing young plants.

Control: Apply floating row covers; use deep straw mulches; hand pick; attract native parasites and predators; spray with Beauveria bassiana or spinosad; spray with neem.

6. Mexican bean beetle (Epilachna varivestris)
Adults: oval, yellow-brown, 1⁄4-inch beetles with 16 black spots on wing covers. Larvae: fat, dark yellow grubs with long, branched spines.

Host/Range: Cowpeas, lima beans, snap beans, soybeans. Found in most states east of the Mississippi River; also parts of Arizona, Colorado, Nebraska, Texas, Utah.

Damage: Adults and larvae chew on leaves from beneath, leaving characteristic lacy appearance; plants defoliated and killed. medianet_width=’600′; medianet_height= ‘120’; medianet_crid=’823273624′;

Control: Apply floating row covers; plant bush beans early; hand pick; plant soybean trap crop; put out lures to draw spined soldier bugs (predators) to your yard. Spray Beauveria bassiana, insecticidal soap, or neem.

7. Flea beetles (several species)
Small, dark beetles that jump like fleas when disturbed.

Host/Range: Most vegetable crops. Found throughout North America.

Damage: Adults chew numerous small, round holes in leaves; most damaging to young plants; larvae feed on plant roots.

Control: Apply floating row covers; repel the pests by spraying plants with garlic spray or kaolin clay; for a serious infestation, try repeated sprays of Beauveria bassiana or spinosad.

8. Tarnished plant bug (Lygus lineolaris)
Fast-moving, mottled, green or brown bugs, forewings with black-tipped yellow triangles. Nymphs: similar to adults, but wingless.

Host/Range: Many flowers, fruits, vegetables. Found throughout North America.

Control: Adults and nymphs suck plant juices, causing leaf and fruit distortion, wilting, stunting, and tip dieback.

Damage: Keep garden weed free in spring. Apply floating row covers; encourage native predatory insects; spray young nymphs with Beauveria bassiana or neem.

9. Japanese beetles (Popillia japonica)
Adults: metallic blue-green, 1⁄2-inch beetles with bronze wing covers. Larvae: fat, white grubs with brown heads.

Host/Range: Many vegetables and flowers, small fruit. Found in all states east of the Mississippi River.

Damage: Adults skeletonize leaves, chew flowers, may completely defoliate plants; larvae feed on lawn and garden plant roots.

Control: Shake beetles from plants in early morning; apply floating row covers; set out baited traps upwind of your garden on two sides and at least 30 feet away; apply milky disease spores or Herterorhabditis nematodes to soil; spray beetles with insecticidal soap. medianet_width=’600′; medianet_height= ‘120’; medianet_crid=’823273624′;

10. Scales (more than 200 species)
Adults: females look like hard or soft bumps on stems, leaves, fruit; males are minute flying insects. Larvae: tiny, soft, crawling larvae with threadlike mouthparts.

Host/Range: Many fruits, indoor plants, ornamental shrubs, and trees. Found throughout North America.

Damage: All stages suck plant sap, weakening plants. Plants become yellow, drop leaves, and may die. Honeydew is excreted onto foliage and fruit.

Control: Prune out infested plant parts; encourage native predators; scrub scales gently from twigs with soft brush and soapy water, rinse well; apply dormant or summer oil sprays; spray with neem oil.

Source: http://www.organicgardening.com

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Pakistan and US agree to enhance agricultural research’s scope

Pakistan and the United States Wednesday agreed to enhance scope of scientific research in agricultural sector in order to get maximum benefit from modern technology. Agricultural Counsellor of US Embassy in Pakistan Clay Hamilton called on Federal Minister for National Food Security and Research Sikandar Hayat Khan Bosan and discussed possibilities to launch different programmes for increasing farmers income in the country, said a press release. Pakistan and US agree to enhance agricultural research's scopeThe minister said the government was fully committed to modernise agricultural infrastructure of the country in order to achieve self-sufficiency in food production. He said rapid climate change was greatly affecting the agricultural system in the country and there was a need to further enhance collaborative research between the two countries in the field of agriculture to ensure future food security. Sikandar Bosan appreciated the work of US Department of Agriculture (USDA) in Pakistan to improve agriculture infrastructure by launching various programmes and projects of agri-development. He also discussed the matter of export of Pakistani mangoes to the US markets and possibilities for facilitating its exporters.

Source: http://www.brecorder.com

12 of the Most Common Weeds

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While one gardener’s weed is another’s salad, most everyone will agree that uninvited plants simply get in the way of what we want to grow. Here are profiles of 12 of the most common culprits to help you identify these unannounced guests.


Dandelions are one of the most common weedsDandelion
Taraxacum officinale
Perennial; spreads by seeds; height to 1 foot; found in U.S. (not southernmost TX, CA, AZ, and FL) and southern Canada; can flower at any time when temperatures permit.

Dig out the entire taproot, hoe plants before they flower, and spread corn gluten in early spring to suppress seedlings.

Harvest young leaves for tender green salad.

Photo: (cc) Anders Sandberg/Flickr


Annual sowthistle is one of the 12 most common weeds

Annual Sowthistle
Sonchus oleraceus
Perennial; spreads by seeds; height to 18 inches; found across U.S. and southern Canada, mostly in lawns; flowers July through October.

Dig out entire root, or cut at soil line until root stops sprouting. Aerate and add organic matter to lawn. This weed tolerates compacted soil and shade.

Photo: (cc) Phil Sellens/Flickr

Carpetweed is one of the 12 most common weeds Carpetweed
Mollugo verticillata
Annual; spreads by seeds; stems grow to 1 foot; found across U.S., except for ND and parts of MT and MN; flowers June through November.

Hoe or pull plants when they appear. Mulch deeply to smother any seedlings.

Photo: (cc) Robert H. Mohlenbrock/USDA


Large crabgrass is one of the 12 most common weeds Large Crabgrass
Digitaria sanguinalis
Annual; spreads by seeds/roots at leaf joints; height to 3 feet; found across U.S., except ND and parts of SD, MT, and MN; flowers June through October.

Pull out entire plant, including roots. Mulch or let grass grow to 3 to 4 inches high to prevent seed germination. Mowing will not kill this plant. Spread corn gluten in early spring to suppress seedlings.

Photo: Rodale

Poison ivy is one of the 12 most common weeds Poison Ivy
Rhus radicans
Perennial; spreads by creeping rootstock; found across U.S. (not AK or CA) and southern Canada, as vine or shrub; flowers in May and June.

Entire plant is toxic. Wear protective gloves and clothing. Cut plant at base, let it dry out, and bury or put vines in trash. Do not compost or burn (inhaling smoke can be fatal). Mulch with cardboard.

Photo: (cc) H. Spauldi/Flickr


Prickly lettuce is one of the 12 most common weeds Prickly Lettuce
Lactuca serriola
Annual/biennial; spreads by seeds; height to 5 feet; found across U.S. except southernmost Florida; flowers July through September.

Hoe or pull plants as you see them, or cut taproot below soil line. Wear gloves. Attracts beneficial insects and so may be fine for outlying areas, but can play host to lettuce diseases.

Photo: US Geological Survey USGS/Ft. Collins, CO

Common cocklebur is one of the 12 most common weeds Common Cocklebur
Xanthium strumarium
Annual; spreads by seeds; height to 4 feet; found across U.S. and most of southern Canada, except Quebec and northern New England; flowers August through October.

Pull or hoe plants beneath soil line. Can be composted if haven’t gone to seed. Use dense mulch to smother seedlings. Thrives in wet soil. Poisonous to livestock; often confused with common burdock.

Photo: (cc) Joshua Mayer/Flickr


Canada thistle is one of the 12 most common weeds Canada Thistle
Cirsium arvense
Perennial; spreads by seeds/rhizomes; height to 5 feet; found coast to coast across northern U.S. into Canada; flowers July through October.

Wearing gloves, dig out plants, removing as much root as possible. Cut down new shoots monthly. Mulch with cardboard. Spread corn gluten in early spring to suppress seedlings.

Photo: (cc) Matt Lavin/Flickr

Lamb's Quarters is one of the 12 most common weeds Lamb’s-quarters
Chenopodium album
Annual; spreads by seeds; height to 3 feet; found across U.S.; flowers June through October.

Hoe or pull plants as you see them. Mulch seedlings heavily. Leaves are edible.

Photo: (cc) Franken Stoen/Flickr

Read More: Weeds You Can Eat!


Common ragweed is one of the 12 most common weeds Common Ragweed
Ambrosia artemisiifolia
Annual; spreads by seeds; height to 3 feet; found across U.S. (not northern ME, WI, or MN) and central and eastern Canada; flowers July through October.

Hoe seedlings and mow larger plants. Mulch or plant cover crops on fallow areas. Plants can be composted if haven’t gone to seed. The pollen is a common cause of hay fever and allergies.

Photo: (cc) Frank Mayfield/Flickr

Common purslane is one of the 12 most common weeds Common Purslane
Portulaca oleracea
Annual; spreads by seeds and rerooting; stems grow to 10 to 14 inches; found across U.S. and southern Canada; flowers August through October.

Hoe and remove plants. Pulled plants will reroot if left on top of soil. Seeds can mature after plant has been pulled. Smother seedlings with a deep mulch. Plant is edible.

Photo: (cc) Jason Hollinger/Flickr

Learn More: 8 Weeds You Can Eat.


Redroot pigweed is one of the 12 most common weeds Redroot Pigweed
Amaranthus retroflexus
Annual; spreads by seeds; height to 6 feet; found across U.S. and southern Canada; flowers July through November.

Till beds a week before planting to allow seedlings to sprout, then hoe them under, and mulch deeply. Pulled plants can reroot. Late summer and early fall seedlings can set seed when only a few inches tall.

Photo: (cc) Matt Lavin/Flickr

Biodiversity: All creatures great and small

Biodiversity, once the preoccupation of scientists and greens, has become a mainstream concern. Liberal helpings of growth and technology are the best way of preserving it, says Emma Duncan

All creatures great and smallSqueezed by Homo sapiens

IF THE EVENTS of a single night can be said to have shaped the fate of life on Earth, it could be those that took place in Paragominas on November 23rd 2008. Paragominas is a municipality in the Brazilian Amazon two-thirds the size of Belgium. Its population of 100,000 is made up largely of migrants from the south of the country who were encouraged by the government to colonise the area and chop down the forest. The small town that is its capital has an air of the wild west about it. Men wear cowboy hats in the streets. Five years ago it was a rough place, its air full of sawdust and rumours that slave labour was used in the charcoal business fuelled by Amazonian timber.

Earlier that day, at the request of the mayor, Adnan Demachki, the federal environmental police had confiscated some lorries piled high with illegally cut logs (pictured below). The loggers were not happy. That night a few hundred of them entered the town, repossessed some of the trucks, set them and the office of the environmental police on fire and then tried to burn down the mayor’s office too. Paragominas was known to be the front line of the fight against deforestation, so the burning trucks were all over the nation’s television screens.

Mr Demachki, elected for his efficiency, not his political views, had come to believe that Paragominas was on the wrong side of history. He called a town meeting and held up two letters he had written. One apologised to the nation for the previous day’s events and committed Paragominas to stopping deforestation. The other announced his resignation. The townsfolk chose the first. The mayor stayed in his job, and Paragominas changed its ways. medianet_width=’600′; medianet_height= ‘120’; medianet_crid=’823273624′;

The events in Paragominas have been repeated, in less dramatic ways, across much of the Brazilian Amazon. Deforestation has fallen steadily, from 28,000 sq km in 2004 to 5,000 in 2012. Whether this is a permanent victory or a temporary respite is not yet clear, but the fact that Brazil has succeeded in greatly reducing a seemingly unstoppable process of destruction raises hopes for the future of the rest of life on Earth.

All creatures great and small

The change has been a long time coming. Ever since man first picked up a spear, other species have suffered. Man wiped out most of the megafauna—the mammoths, the sabre-toothed tigers, the mastodons, the aurochs—that roamed the planet before he did. When he sailed the Pacific, he killed off half the bird species on its islands. As his technology improved, so his destructive power increased. When he learned how to exploit the Earth’s minerals and hydrocarbons, he started to multiply ever faster, leaving ever less room for the planet’s other species. He chopped down forests, poisoned rivers and killed large numbers of the biggest sea fish and marine mammals. Many believe that, as a result, a mass extinction comparable to those of prehistoric times may be under way.

In a sense, this orgy of destruction was natural. In the wild, different species compete for resources, and man proved a highly successful competitor. Religion sanctioned his ascendancy. The Bible granted mankind “dominion…over every creeping thing that creepeth over the earth”. If he stamped on a few of them, so be it.

But in recent times attitudes have changed. People have, by and large, come round to the view that wiping out other species is wrong. Part of the reason is pragmatic: as man has come to understand ecology better, he has realised that environmental destruction in pursuit of growth may be self-defeating. Rivers need to be healthy to provide people with clean water and fish; natural beauty fosters tourism; genes from other species provide the raw material for many drugs. But man also finds it troubling to think that as the only species able to marvel at the diversity of creation, he should be responsible for killing it off.

Putting Humpty back together again

The change in attitudes has had political consequences. In recent decades, first in the rich world and then increasingly elsewhere, laws to ban the killing of and trade in endangered creatures and to protect areas rich in biodiversity have been enacted. Governments are buying up important natural sites, restoring damaged ecosystems, setting up captive breeding programmes for critically endangered species and so on. Green NGOs and concerned individuals have also been helpful.

Endangered species have benefited from some of the concomitants of growth, too. Improved sanitation has made the planet healthier, as has regulation of pesticides. Cleaner air is better for biodiversity. As countries get richer, they tend to become more peaceful and better governed and their population growth slows down. Technological progress has improved life for other species, making conservation efforts more effective.

Although these successes can in part be credited to the environmentalist movement, greens tend not to boast of them for fear of damaging their cause. By walking the planet with a sandwich-board predicting impending doom, they have helped reduce the chances of an ecological calamity. If people believe catastrophe has receded, they may stop making an effort to avert it.

And they are right that the future for many species is by no means assured. Although things are improving in most of the rich world, in most of the emerging world—which is where the greatest number of species live—they are still deteriorating. Mass extinction remains a real danger.

Whether or not it actually comes about depends in part on what happens to the climate, which remains the subject of much guesswork. This newspaper has written about climate at length and this special report will not go over that ground again, except to say that if warming turns out to be at the upper end of the scale envisaged by the International Panel on Climate Change, the consequences for biodiversity—as well as for people—will be calamitous. If it remains at the lower end of the scale—as slower temperature increases over the past decade suggest it may—then most species will not be adversely affected.

Instead, this special report will focus on the relationship between humanity and the rest of the planet’s species in recent years. It will argue that thanks to a combination of environmental activism and economic growth the outlook for other species has improved, and that if growth continues, governments do more to regulate it and greens embrace technological progress, there is a decent chance of man undoing the damage he has done during his short and bloody stay on the planet.

Source: http://www.economist.com

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Biomin: EU gives positive votes for mycotoxin products

Biomin announces the positive votes of the EU Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCFCAH) on the authorisation of two Biomin products as “substances for reduction of the contamination of feed by mycotoxins”.

Biomin: EU gives positive votes for mycotoxin products

Two products from the well-established Mycofix product line of Biomin, Mycofix Secure (bentonite/dioctahedral montmorillonite) and Biomin BBSH 797 (Gen. nov. sp. nov., formerly Eubacterium), are slated to become the first-ever products authorised by the EU as substances with proven mycotoxin counteracting properties.
Following the positive SCFCAH votes, the publication of the respective EU regulations would be the next and final stage towards confirming the scientific efficacy of Mycofix Secure and Biomin BBSH 797 as mycotoxin-deactivating products.
Biomin BBSH 797 is the first-ever product to receive this positive vote, thereby affirming its capability in the biodegradation of trichothecenes. The patented active bacterium in Biomin BBSH 797 modifies the structure of these mycotoxins, a biotransformation process that renders trichothecenes such as deoxynivalenol (DON) harmless. Making it a valuable feed additive for pigs, considered the species most susceptible to in-feed DON contamination.
Mycofix Secure is a bentonite (dioctahedral montmorillonite) that fulfills the strict requirements on aflatoxin-binding capability according to the European Union Reference Laboratory (EURL). In cooperation with the EURL, Biomin developed an analytical method to characterize the AfB1-binding capacity of bentonites which has now become a crucial part of the authorisation process for aflatoxin binders. These efforts spearheaded by Biomin have paved the way for legalising “aflatoxin-binding” as an official claim.
The process towards the authorisation of Mycofix Secure and Biomin BBSH 797 in the EU began when, on the initiative of Biomin, the EU Association of Specialty Feed Ingredients and their Mixtures, or FEFANA, established the Task Force “Mycotoxins” in 2005. In 2009, the Task Force succeeded in opening a new functional group for mycotoxin counteracting products, signifying a landmark development in the official approval of mycotoxin deactivating products within the EU. This led subsequently to the publication of stringent European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) guidance for anti-mycotoxin product registration—including proofs for mycotoxin and species specificity, efficacy and safety—which have generally deterred the industry from submitting dossiers for EU authorization of anti-mycotoxin feed additives.
In 2010, Biomin, however, became the first feed additive company to submit a dossier to legalise the claim of “aflatoxin-binding” properties (Mycofix Secure). This was followed in 2012 with a dossier for the “biodegradation of trichothecenes” (Biomin BBSH 797) for EU approval. After a thorough scientific evaluation process, Biomin became the first feed additive company to obtain positive opinions from EFSA on these technological feed additives capable of reducing the negative impacts of mycotoxins in animals.

Source: http://www.allaboutfeed.net

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The algae opportunity: Feed Livestock

The field of algae is growing rapidly. Through heterotrophic algae, we are finding a more natural, pure sustainable source of DHA and high quality fatty acids, that not only provide needed nutrients, but are revolutionising the way we feed our livestock.

The algae opportunity

By Alex Tsappis, Applications Nutrition Specialist at Alltech
The biodiversity of algae is tremendous: there are an estimated 800,000 species of algae ranging from single-celled to multi-celled organisms such as the 200-foot long giant kelp. Algae produce carbohydrates, oils, protein, vitamins, pigments and organic material. Algae’s genetic potential is also large, with a genome that is more than twice the size of yeast. Such characteristics enable algae serving many industries such as food, animal feed, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and biofuels.
Since algae are aquatic, they grow much faster than land plants as they do not have to expend energy growing roots and support structures like trunks, leaves and stems. Without the need for support, algae can triple or quadruple their biomass every day. While land plants only grow in one direction, algae can grow in all directions. This rapid growth means that one acre of algae can produce the same amount of protein in a year as 
21 acres of soybeans or 49 acres of corn making algal alternatives; a more sustainable option in the future.
While macroalgae (seaweed) dominates the global aquatic plant production, the microalgae industry is growing rapidly as scientists continue to find new applications for both freshwater and marine species. Today, the freshwater Chlorella and Arthrospira are 
primarily used for animal feed as well as for human dietary supplements and ingredients. Other species are used for the extraction of high-valued components such as vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, natural pigments and antioxidants.
The most commercial production of microalgae is done autotrophically in open outdoor circulating raceways or ponds. Under autotrophic growing conditions, microalgae use light energy to fix carbon dioxide, their carbon source, into hydrocarbons with oxygen discharged as a waste product. However open systems are subject to several disadvantages such as airborne contamination, variability, chemical and physical contamination; downstream processing and the growth of zooplankton and other species are also drawbacks of an open system.
The other commercial production method in growing algae is the heterotrophic system. Heterotrophic species get their energy from organic carbon compounds in much the same way as yeast, bacteria and animals. By eliminating light from the production process, any fermenter (such as those used for production of medicines, beverages and food additives) can be used for heterotrophic algal growth. These fermenters can generate large volumes of highly productive cultures making them less expensive than the autotrophic system.
The heterotrophic method maintains a closed, controlled system that provides a more consistent, traceable and pure algal product. For example, by manipulating the physical and chemical properties of the cultural medium, several species of microalgae can overproduce and accumulate higher levels of specific fatty acids.
Xu and others demonstrated that C. protothecoides had a lipid content as high as 55%, approximately four times greater than algae grown autotrophically.
In another study, Barclay and others showed that omega-3 fatty acid productivity was two to three times higher when produced in heterotrophic rather than autotrophic conditions.
Microalgae contain large quantities of high quality eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The lipid content of microalgae can reach up to 70%, with high concentrations of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Specific strains have been found to contain a staggering 14% DHA.
Microalgae and aquaculture
Algal oils are now being commercialised as sustainable alternative sources to fish oils. They have been shown to be nutritionally equivalent and can successfully enrich larval feed and to replace fish oil in fish diets.
Fish oil, derived from fisheries, is the most common and major source of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. However, due to limited availability, sustainability issues, contamination risks, inconsistency and the increasing price of fish oil, some fish farmers are opting to use cheaper alternatives high in omega-6, for example vegetable oil, cotton seed oil, sunflower oil. These alternatives are however poor in omega-3 EPA and DHA.
About 30% of the world’s algae produced is used for animal feed production, with its largest applications in aquaculture. Microalgae are required in larval nutrition, either fed directly in the case of mollusks and panaeid shrimp, or indirectly as live prey in small fish larvae.
Algae and Alltech
Alltech has been working with algae for the past five years. During this time Alltech screened many different types of algae and investigated the vast array of potential uses. Alltech scientists conducted two trials to determine heterotrophically grown microalgae’s affect in Nile tilapia and Rainbow trout.
The great potential for microalgae resulted in Alltech purchasing the 100,000 ft2 algae facility in Winchester, Kentucky in 2010. Alltech Algae uses proprietary algal technology to process heterotrophic algae because of its nutritional benefits.
Alltech’s Aquaculture Center examined the impact of algae into the diets of Nile tilapia. The microalgae Schizochytrium limacinum can be fermented to produce a finished product that contains 50% fat and 14% DHA. This product increased the DHA content in the tilapia fillet while improving weight gain, while no negative growth was observed.
Another study was carried out to evaluate if algae could improve the growth performance and DHA levels in Rainbow trout. Algae was added to 90 Rainbow trout diets from Trout Lodge Sumner, WA, as an energy source replacing fish oil and soybean oil. It resulted in an increased weight gain, indicating that this alga is a suitable replacement of fish oil and fishmeal. The addition of the 14% DHA algae also led to a higher DHA content in Rainbow trout fillets. By providing a clean and consistent source of DHA omega-3 fatty acids and high quality protein, heterotrophic microalgae offers more nutrition to a diet than the 
autotrophic method.
Problems with the western diet
The fish market isn’t the only industry where omegas-3s (specifically DHA) are quickly disappearing. A nutritional disaster is literally knocking on our front door. Humans require an omega-6: omega-3 ratio of 4:1. The typical western diet provides a staggeringly high 16:1 ratio. Lowering this ratio reduces the risk of many chronic diseases including Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease and some cancers. In addition to the benefits gained from a healthy omega-6: omega-3 ratio, increased levels of DHA provide much needed nutrients essential to human functions.
Omega-3 enriched foods and beverages have had an enormous growth over the last six years. But, not all omega-3 are created equal. DHA, a long chain omega-3 fatty acid, is the most abundant omega-3 in the brain and retina. It is also an important structural component of heart tissue and naturally found in fish and marine algae. EPA, a long chain omega-3 fatty acid, is important for human health. However, it is not stored in significant levels and is not efficiently converted to DHA in the human body. The shorter-chain omega-3 fatty acid, ALA, serves mostly as a source of energy in the human body and cannot be converted efficiently into DHA.
DHA play important roles in human diets during pregnancy and early infant development. In adults, high levels of dietary DHA and EPA have been associated with lower rates of coronary heart disease, arrhythmias, atherosclerosis and inflammation, diabetes, and cancers. The typical US dietary intake of DHA + EPA is 100 mg/day, falling far short of the recommendations that range from 400 to 1000 mg/day.
Food products are now being enriched or fortified with DHA omega-3 in order to meet consumers’ nutritional requirements. Some bread and milk are now being fortified with DHA omega-3. Alltech has set out, together with retailers, feed manufactures and farmers, to create eggs and meat that are high in omega-3 DHA.
Microalgae and functional foods
Alltech tested the effects of oil from Schizochytrium, the microalgae strain added to layer diets on egg fatty acid profiles. Alltech tested Hy-Line W36, 46-week-old, 288, 12 replicate units of six hens per unit, egg samples taken after feeding four weeks treatment diets, the control diet was a corn-soy and the dose titration: 0, 0.5, 1.0 and 2.0% algae were compared.
Microalgae supplementation of chicken diet is potentially safe, sustainable way to create functional, DHA-enriched eggs to help human dietary deficiencies.
In order to utilise microalgae on a wider level, greater understanding of their nutritional value is required. Alltech investigated the effects of adding different levels of microalgae to broiler diets on growth performance, immunity of broiler chicks and the fatty acid profile of chicken meat and liver.
Around 180, one day old male broiler chicks were tested, ten replicate cages of six chicks per cage. The trial was conducted over 21 days with treatments at 0, 2, and 4% of algae supplementation. The results concluded that dietary supplementation of algae can enrich omega-3 fatty acids in meat and promote growth performance and immunity of broilers.
The future of algae
Algae are a diverse group of single organisms, with over 800,000 different species thought to exist with an estimated ability to produce over 15,000 novel compounds. 
While macroalgae dominates the global aquatic plant production, microalgae algae are currently being utilised in various nutritional products used in feed and foods due to the rich DHA omega-3 attributes.
What is the algae opportunity? Are algae the future? Absolutely. A microalgae-based feed supplement can be used to create a safe and sustainable alternative to fish oil. The question is no longer ‘if’. The question is ‘when’, and the answer is ‘now’.

Source: http://www.allaboutfeed.net/

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Botrytis Blight

Botrytis blight, also know as gray mold, is a fungal disease caused by several species in the genus Botrytis. It affects the buds, flowers, leaves, and bulbs of many plants including: African violet, begonia, chrysanthemum, cyclamen, dahlia, geranium, lily, peony, rose, and tulip. The extent and severity depends on weather conditions and cultural practices. This disease is the primary cause of decay in cut flowers.Blight

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Botrytis blight causes buds and flowers to develop abnormally and turn brown. Flowers may have irregular flecks and brown spots; older flowers tend to rot quickly. Soft, brown spots appear on leaves, stem, and flowers following a cool damp period. Affected parts may be covered with a gray mold following damp, cool weather.

Life Cycle

Botrytis fungi overwinter as sclerotia on dead plant debris in the garden. In the spring, spores form and spread by wind or splashing water to infect dying, wounded, or extremely soft plant tissues. Fungal mycelial strands (web blight) from previously infected plant parts can grow onto healthy plant parts and infect them. The fungus is capable of invading tissue during all periods of the growing season and multiplies rapidly in declining foliage, hence, the need for good sanitation.

Integrated Pest Management Strategies

1. Practice good sanitation. Remove and destroy all infected plant parts as soon as they are observed.

2. Avoid overcrowding. Give adequate space between plants to allow for good air circulation. The fungus thrives in areas that are cool and moist and where plants are overcrowded.

3. Do not overfeed. Avoid fertilizing with excessive amounts of nitrogen. This can cause tender growth that is very susceptible to the fungus. Get a soil test to guide fertilizer practices.

4. Avoid overhead watering. Water on foliage and flowers from overhead irrigation, especially on cool, cloudy days, promotes the disease. Try to keep buds and flowers dry. Water early in the day so the plants have enough time to dry off completely.

5. Use fungicides. Depending upon the susceptibility of the plant to this disease, spray every 10 days with a fungicide. Pesticides registered for use include copper, captan, chlorothalonil (Daconil), mancozeb, maneb, sulfur, and thiophanate methyl (Cleary 3336). Fungicides must be applied in advance of the disease as a protectant.

Source: http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org