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June 2000, Volume 21 No. 2

General News

Island-Hopping Mealybugs

There are now two mealybug pests threatening the Caribbean and surrounding regions [see BNI 19(3), 72N (September 1998)]: Maconellicoccus hirsutus (the hibiscus or pink hibiscus mealybug - HMB or PHMB) and the more-recently arrived Paracoccus marginatus (papaya mealybug). Here we give an update on biocontrol programmes against these two pests.

Rapid Response to Mealybug Invader

The ability to identify pest mealybugs and readiness to react are key elements of a proactive biological control programme for containing the spread of Maconellicoccus hirsutus. The efficacy of this approach was shown when M. hirsutus reached the Central and North American mainlands in 1999 for the first time. Biological control agents were deployed within weeks of confirmation of the pest's presence in the USA and Belize.

Maconellicoccus hirsutus is native to Southeast Asia. It was first reported in the Caribbean from Grenada in 1994 and has since spread to most islands of the Caribbean [BNI 18(3), 68N-69N (September 1997)]. The most recent island invasion reported is that of Martinique in March 1999. It reached Guyana on mainland South America in 1997, and it was acknowledged that inevitably it would eventually reach Central and North America too. Plans, based on programmes implemented in Caribbean island countries, were therefore made for its reception. It reached the North American continent first, and was confirmed from southern California in August 1999. Shortly afterwards it was found in northern Mexico and then in Belize, Central America in September 1999. Maconellicoccus hirsutus has been effectively controlled in most countries using two natural enemies, the wasp Anagyrus kamali from China and the ladybird Cryptolaemus montrouzieri. Another parasitoid, Gyranusoidea indica from Egypt, has been released in several countries, and its performance is being evaluated.

In Imperial County in southern California, USDA-APHIS-PPQ (US Department of Agriculture - Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service - Plant Protection and Quarantine) was able to release Anagyrus kamali within three weeks of the pest first being reported, and M. hirsutus within the USA is still confined to an 11 square mile (ca. 28 km) area of this county. In California, field studies are being conducted to determine the impact of the introduced agents, and further releases will be made when evening temperatures rise above a threshold of 45°F (7.2°C) in spring 2000. A local insectary operation is being established, but until it is functional, agents for release will continue to be available from the rearing facility in St Thomas, US Virgin Islands.

In Belize, the Pink Hibiscus Mealybug (PHMB) Control Programme introduced C. montrouzieri from a commercial source in the USA in October. Releases of A. kamali began the same month, through a cooperative effort between the Belize Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, CABI Bioscience and IICA (Inter-American Institute for Cooperation). USDA-APHIS-PPQ also assisted with introduction of parasitoids, supplying strains of A. kamali from China and Hawaii, and G. indica from Egypt. It also provided technical assistance for in-country rearing of A. kamali and field studies, and conducted a number of training courses. By March 2000, nearly 27,000 A. kamali, 5800 G. indica and 20,000 C. montrouzieri had been released. An insectary facility has been established in Belmopan and field insectary sites have also been established to facilitate redistribution of field-collected parasite material.

The results of field studies conducted in Belize City by the Belize PHMB Control Programme and USDA indicated that M. hirsutus field densities at study sites decreased 93.1% in less than four months as a result of the natural enemy introductions. These results mirror findings from elsewhere in the region. In St Kitts & Nevis, where natural enemies were first released in 1996, population densities were reduced by 91.6% over a seven-month period, and a 94% reduction was maintained through to 1998. In St Thomas and St Croix (US Virgin Islands), there were reductions of 86.7% and 95.2%, respectively, in the seven months to February 1998, and a population reduction of 88% in the six months to November 1998 was recorded in Puerto Rico following natural enemy releases. Maconellicoccus hirsutus was first recorded on the northeastern end of Puerto Rico at the end of April 1998, but has not yet spread across half of the island. It is probable that biological control is playing a part in slowing its spread, as 80% of newly reported M. hirsutus infestations are already attacked by the exotic natural enemies. By suppressing populations of the invading mealybug, the natural enemies are preventing an explosive advance towards the western end of the island. Both A. kamali and G. indica have been released by USDA in all the above countries; A. kamali is the dominant species.

Training, technology transfer and clear planning procedures are crucial to the success of M. hirsutus control programmes, and early identification of the infestation is important, before it spreads. The rapid deployment of natural enemies in affected countries has been made possible through the high degree of cooperation between stakeholder organizations and governments. For example, Belize is the only country in Central America to have found M. hirsutus so far, and this was through an active annual surveillance programme. The Belize government has invested since 1996 in training its personnel in the identification, field recognition and management of M. hirsutus. It also ensured that a task force (emergency group) was formed specific to M. hirsutus. Due to the formation of this group, implementation of an emergency action plan was immediate and comprehensive. The pest was detected on Friday 24 September 1999, and was identified the same day. By the following Monday, just 3 days later, an emergency action plan was presented to the Ministry. This included public awareness, internal quarantine, surveillance, eradication (cut and burn) and biological control (insectary provision and field releases of exotic agents). The first natural enemies (C. montrouzieri) were released on 13 October, and releases of A. kamali began 5 days later. In-country expertise was enhanced by a one-day workshop on technology transfer, which was held in Belize in November 1999 by USDA-APHIS-PPQ. A 6-day mealybug identification workshop in March 2000 was run with funding/collaboration from OIRSA (Organismo Internacional Regional de Sanidad Agropecuaria), the Belize Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, USDA-APHIS-PPQ and CABI Bioscience. A second 3-day technology transfer workshop for the biological control of M. hirsutus will be held in June 2000 in Belize.

Parasitoids Island-Hop Too

Gyranusoidea indica, the Egyptian parasitoid first introduced into the Caribbean in St Kitts with assistance from USDA-APHIS (US Department of Agriculture - Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service), was recently discovered in Trinidad, identified by Dr John Noyes of the Natural History Museum, London (UK). Gyranusoidea indica has been deliberately released in St Kitts & Nevis, the US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Grenada and perhaps in some islands of the Netherlands Antilles for control of Maconellicoccus hirsutus (the hibiscus or pink hibiscus mealybug - HMB or PHMB), but has not been deliberately introduced into Trinidad. In view of this, one can only speculate about how it came into the country. However, it seems feasible that it may have been accidentally introduced on M. hirsutus-infested plant material. Such fortuitous introductions are not unknown. For instance in Curaçao, Anagyrus kamali appears to have been introduced together with the pest. Gyranusoidea indica has been recovered from material collected in central and northeast Trinidad, but it appears likely that it may be more widespread. The distribution of the parasitoid will be assessed in forthcoming surveys by the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Marine Resources, Trinidad & Tobago.

Second Mealybug Invader

Paracoccus marginatus, the papaya mealybug, is a polyphagous species native to Mexico and some countries in Central America. It was first reported from the West Indies from St Martin (French West Antilles) in May 1996 and has since then been reported from other Caribbean countries (Antigua, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Monserrat, Puerto Rico, St Kitts & Nevis, British Virgin Islands, US Virgin Islands and St Barthélémy) and the USA (Florida). Paracoccus marginatus will attack Hibiscus and a wide range of other plants, but prefers papaya; Maconellicoccus hirsutus (hibiscus or pink hibiscus mealybug - HMB or PHMB) will attack a wide variety of hosts but prefers Hibiscus. The damage P. marginatus causes is similar to that of M. hirsutus, but although the species are superficially similar, in the field they differ in body colour when squashed on paper - P. marginatus is yellow whereas M. hirsutus is pink. The species can be distinguished relatively easily once examined as microscope slide mounts (M. hirsutus has nine antennal segments, while P. marginatus has only eight) [BNI 19(3), 72N-73N (September 1998)].

A joint cooperative programme has been developed between the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation (IICA) and USDA-APHIS-PPQ (US Department of Agriculture - Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service - Plant Protection and Quarantine) in order to implement a biological control programme against P. marginatus in the Caribbean. A technical meeting and workshop is tentatively scheduled for September 2000 in St Kitts & Nevis sponsored by IICA and USDA-APHIS-PPQ. The status of this pest in the Caribbean will be discussed and strategies developed to survey for its presence in other Caribbean countries. In addition, strategies will be developed to survey for existing natural enemies attacking P. marginatus in known infested countries and for the release of exotic parasites from Mexico. Up to now, four genera of parasites of P. marginatus have been collected from Mexico that have potential for releasing in the Caribbean: Anagyrus spp., Apoanagyrus spp., Acerophagus spp. and Pseudaphycus spp. The first three genera have representative species already in culture in St Thomas, US Virgin Islands and await release and field evaluation. Presently, targeted releases are being planned for the US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and St Kitts & Nevis.

Contact for above mealybug biocontrol programmes:
Moses Kairo, CABI Caribbean and Latin American Centre, Gordon Street,
Curepe, Trinidad & Tobago, W. I.
Fax: +1 868 663 2859
Dale Meyerdirk, USDA, APHIS, PPQ, 4700 River Road, Unit 135,
Riverdale, MD 20737, USA
Fax:+1 301 734 8192
Orlando Sosa, National Plant Protection Service (BNPPS), Belize Agricultural Health Authority, Central Farm,
Cayo District, Belize
Fax: +501 92 3773
Everton Ambrose, IICA CA in St Lucia, PO Box 1223, Castries, St Lucia, W. I.
Fax: +1 758 451 6774

Paracoccus marginatus in Cuba

Paracoccus marginatus was described as a new species from specimens collected on cassava in Mexico and papaya in Belize, but it has since become evident it is highly polyphagous. It is common in Central America where it causes significant damage to cassava. In Cuba, it was found for the first time in cassava and papaya in January 1999 in Oriente Province in the east of the island during a survey conducted under the National Program for the detection of Maconellicoccus hirsutus (hibiscus or pink hibiscus mealybug - HMB or PHMB).

The mealybug was also found on a wide variety of other plants: mango, pomegranate, cherry (Eugenia uniflora), orange, pineapple, tomato, aubergine/eggplant, sweet pepper (Capsicum annuum), beans (Vigna sp., Dolichos lablab, Hebestigma cubense, Cajanus cajan and Phaseolus sp.); cotton, Acalypha sp., Annona muricata, Manilkara zapotilla, Solanum torvum, Solanum nigrum, Erythrina sp., Bidens sp., Ligustrum sp., Pluchea odorata, Hibiscus spp., Cordia sp., Jatropa sp., Guasima tormentosa, Cordia alba, Dahlia pinnata and cocoa.

Abundant populations were observed attacking the above-ground parts of the plants, and these produced symptoms of deformation and early fall of fruit, yellowing, and leaf curl. The symptoms were particularly evident in plants in the genus Hibiscus and were similar to those produced by M. hirsutus.

Although no economic damage has been observed on major crops so far, strict surveillance of this pest will continue in Cuba because of its recent introduction and highly polyphagous nature.

By: Maria de los Angeles Martinez*, Moraima Suris* and Isabel Perez**
*Centro Nacional de Sanidad Agropecuaria, CENSA
**Centro Nacional de Sanidad Vegetal, CNSV

Citrus Blackfly Biocontrol for Trinidad

The citrus blackfly, Aleurocanthus woglumi, (CBF) is an important pest of citrus in many parts of the world. A native of Asia, it was first reported in the Caribbean from Jamaica in 1913 and subsequently spread to many other countries in the Caribbean as well as mainland North, Central and South America. In recent years, damaging populations of CBF have been reported from Dominica and the pest has extended its geographical range, with new country records being reported for St Kitts & Nevis and St Lucia. In Trinidad, CBF was first collected in 1997 in the Port of Spain area. Over the past two years, it has spread rapidly, initially on citrus and other plants in backyard gardens, but more recently into areas of commercial citrus production. This rapid spread is attributable to a lack of effective, host-specific natural enemies.

CBF has the potential to cause severe losses in fruit production. Even infestations of short duration can reduce production by as much as 50%, and losses in citrus have been estimated to range from 25% to almost complete crop failure. Citrus is an important commercial crop in Trinidad & Tobago. Total area under cultivation is estimated at 5000 ha, with 1200 ha under Caroni (1975) Ltd and the remaining 3800 ha held by small farmers. Citrus contributes nearly 4% of the total GDP from agricultural produce, valued at TT$23.4 million [approx. US$3.74 million]. The advent of the CBF is therefore a source for serious concern.

In all countries where CBF has been accidentally introduced, biological control using parasitic wasps has proven to be the most economical, long-term and sustainable method for its control. Two natural enemies that have been responsible for the control of CBF at most locations are Amitus hesperidum and Encarsia perplexa (= E. opulenta). The prospects for successfully controlling CBF in Trinidad using these natural enemies are therefore very promising. Towards this end, the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Marine Resources (MALMR), Trinidad & Tobago, is funding a project aimed at the implementation of biological control. On behalf of the MALMR, CABI Bioscience is undertaking the introduction of A. hesperidum and E. perplexa. Natural enemies are being procured from Florida with the assistance of Dr Ru Nguyen, Division of Plant Industry, Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs.

By: Moses Kairo, CABI Caribbean and Latin American Centre, Gordon Street, Curepe, Trinidad & Tobago, W. I.
Fax: +1 868 663 2859

Locust Control: Europe Learns from Africa

Everyone knows that Africa suffers periodically from plagues of locusts, but it is not common knowledge that Europe has locust problems too. Now experience gained during the nine-year LUBILOSA programme (LUtte BIologique contre les LOcustes et les SAuteriaux) to develop Green Muscle™ in Africa is to be used to develop a mycoinsecticide for Europe, and this will be the key element in reducing the environmental impact of the locust control operations in Europe and beyond.

Locusts and grasshoppers are key pests in several parts of Europe and the neighbouring regions. The Moroccan locust, Dociostaurus maroccanus, has been recorded as an important pest of pasture and crops in Spain for several centuries. Total area affected in the provinces of Extremadura, Ciudad Real and Zaragoza exceeds 500,000 ha. Outbreaks of D. maroccanus also occur in other Mediterranean areas such as southern Italy, Crete, Sardinia, Morocco, Algeria and Turkey, as well as parts of eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Indeed, states such as Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan are currently suffering major invasions of locusts covering literally millions of hectares. The Italian grasshopper, Calliptamus italicus, assumes pest status in France, Spain and Italy, and many hundreds of thousands of hectares are sprayed each year in Russia for control of both this species and the white-striped grasshopper, Chorthippus albomarginatus. Future changes in rainfall patterns due to global climate change together with changes in land use may well exacerbate the problem further.

Chemical insecticides have to-date provided the only means for ensuring wide-scale control of locust and grasshopper outbreaks. This is exemplified by the situation in Spain where, in an average year, many thousands of hectares are treated with the broad-spectrum organophosphates malathion and fenitrothion, and this often in areas of major conservation value. The widespread use of such chemicals and their associated detrimental effects on the environment, combined with the hazard they represent to users and livestock, remains a major drawback to continued reliance on their use. Particular concerns arise since many of the outbreak areas occur in unique steppe ecosystems of substantial importance for biodiversity (e.g. the Cabaneros National Park in Spain and Gargano National Park in Italy). Interestingly, the locust problem in the Gargano National Park is a result of EU set-aside policies, which have led to substantial areas of cultivated land being returned to uncultivated pasture. This has created greater opportunities for locust populations to breed. Both traditional and new chemicals currently in widespread use for locust and grasshopper control are classified as harmful to key non-target invertebrates, highly toxic to key crustaceans, or harmful to indicator vertebrate fauna such as lizards and birds. There is clearly a need for alternative forms of control to chemical insecticides.

Protecting Biodiversity through the Development of Environmentally Sustainable Locust and Grasshopper Control' (ESLOCO) is a new project funded by the European Union through EU Framework V - Quality of Life and Management of Living Resources. Its aim is to reduce the environmental impact of locust and grasshopper control operations through the development of a new environmentally sustainable strategy, based on the use of a mycoinsecticide. The mycoinsecticide, Green Muscle?, which is based on a natural entomopathogenic fungus, Metarhizium anisopliae var. acridum, has been developed and tested in Africa through the LUBILOSA programme where its safety and efficacy are proven. However, the capacity to produce and use this new technology effectively in Europe does not exist. The ESLOCO project will create this capacity, so providing immediate benefits for biodiversity and, additionally, creating new opportunities for exploiting microbial agents for control of other pests. The project is led by CABI Bioscience in partnership with Imperial College (London), the University of Cordoba (Spain), the University of Bari (Italy) and two commercial companies, NPP (France) and Aragonesas Agro (Spain).

By: Matt Thomas, Leverhulme Unit for Population Biology and Biological Control, NERC Centre for Population Biology and CABI Bioscience, Silwood Park, Ascot, Berks., SL5 7PY, UK
Fax: +44 1491 829123

Metarhizium Biopesticides Registered in Australia

BioCane™, Australia's second Metarhizium-based biopesticide was launched on 2 May 2000 in Bundaberg during the Australian Association of Sugarcane Technologists conference. The active ingredient is viable conidia of M. anisopliae var. anisopliae isolate FI-1045 (from Richard Milner's CSIRO Insect Pathogen Culture Collection; see review article, this issue) effective against the greyback canegrub, Dermolepida albohirtum, Australia's most serious insect pest of sugarcane. It was fully registered by the Australian National Registration Authority on 24 March 2000 and is expected to go on sale for the forthcoming sugarcane planting season starting in July 2000.

The product consists of rice granules, 1-2 mm in diameter, on which the Metarhizium fungus has been grown. It is applied to the plant crop using existing granule applicators developed for applying granules of chlorpyrifos. The material contains at least 2 × 109 viable conidia/g and the recommended rate is 33 kg/ha. At this rate, it is expected to cost less than the standard chemical. Extensive testing over the last few years by the Bureau of Sugar Experimental Stations, in collaboration with CSIRO and the manufacturer, BioCare Pty Ltd, funded by the Sugar Research and Development Corporation [see BNI 19(1), 5N (March 1998)] has shown that at the recommended rate the fungus provides over 50% grub control in the season of application. The conidia have been shown to persist for at least three years following application to sugarcane and the original application is augmented by natural sporulation in infected grubs, thus providing medium- to long-term control.

BioCane™ is expected to gain rapid acceptance in the rich Burdekin sugar-growing region of Queensland where recent field trials have given consistently good results and there are serious problems with alternative methods of control. A total of about 16 tonnes of product have been applied, mainly in commercial field trials, over the past three seasons. The main target pest is the greyback canegrub, a univoltine scarab, the larvae of which feed on the roots of sugarcane severely reducing the yield of sugar. Further research is currently looking into other strains of Metarhizium effective against related genera of canegrubs.

Meanwhile, another strain of Metarhizium, FI-985 (CSIRO Insect Pathogen Culture Collection), is being commercialized by SGB Australia Pty Ltd, under the name Green Guard™ and has recently been granted a `minor use permit' by the National Registration Authority to enable it to be used operationally on organic properties by the Australian Plague Locust Commission (APLC). It is currently being used in this way for the first time to assist the control of a major locust outbreak in South Australia. At the time of writing (14 April) it has been applied to 15 km2 and the final area treated is expected to be considerably greater. It is being applied at the rate of 1 × 1012 conidia in 500 ml oil per hectare.

Richard Milner, the CSIRO project leader, says that mycoinsecticides offer substantial advantages over chemical pesticides in terms of reduced hazard to users and the environment. He points out that they have known for some time that Metarhizium is highly effective against locusts and wingless grasshoppers, but their recent focus has been to develop consistency in the product and to lower the production costs, in turn making Green Guard™ not only more effective, but affordable.

Jim Cullen, the CSIRO Entomology chief, says that the adoption of GreenGuard™ is excellent news for beef and veal producers, particularly organic certified growers exporting to the highly sensitive Japanese market, which is worth around Au$1.3 billion or 45% of the total value of Australia's beef and veal exports. Three species of locust (plague, migratory and spur-throated) inflict widespread and severe damage to pastures, cereal crops and forage crops. Preventative control undertaken by the APLC is effective in preventing large-scale crop damage, which can amount to many millions of dollars without effective control. In the last serious outbreak of the Australian plague locust in 1984, crop losses prevented by locust control were estimated by the APLC to exceed $100 million. Cullen points out that until now only chemical pesticides were available for plague locust control, and that these pesticides can make their way through the food chain into beef products. He reminds us that previously Japan has rejected containers of Australian beef with even very low levels of residual pesticides.

Graeme Hamilton, Director of the APLC is particularly pleased that the results from the field trials have shown successful control of the insects and have enabled the team to fine-tune the effective field doses. This has resulted in a lower dose and reduced the volume of spray per hectare, substantially reducing the overall cost. He notes that CSIRO's commercial collaborator SGB Pty Ltd (part of the IAMA group of companies) has completed a new production facility, and that material produced by them has been shown to be very effective in the field.

A recently signed exclusive deal between SGB Pty Ltd and CSIRO Entomology will fund further R&D on Green Guard™ and other research on products for use against termites and in horticulture. Insect-specific fungal diseases are important in natural control of insects. Metarhizium is a naturally occurring fungus which is common all over the world and affects only insects. Tests in Australia and overseas have shown it to be is harmless to humans, plants and animals.


Contact: Richard Milner,
CSIRO Entomology,
GPO Box 1700, Canberra,
ACT 2601, Australia
Fax: +61 2 6246 4042

Rubber Stamp for IT Pioneer

When CABI's Crop Protection Compendium was awarded the Pirelli INTERNETional Environment Award in Rome this April, the CD-ROM product was commended for "its extraordinary value in supplying science-based information for the protection of worldwide food resources, with a special emphasis on sustainable development in Third World countries". This accolade signals the successful pioneering of an idea that began more than ten years ago with the recognition of the significance of information provision for agricultural development.

Back in 1989, an international workshop on information needs for crop protection, run by CAB International (CABI), FAO (the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN) and CTA (the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Co-operation) recognised that scarcity of information was a serious constraint to progress throughout the developing world, and particularly in agriculture. They foresaw that information technology would allow more efficient delivery, and came up with an imaginative idea of how this could be achieved so that the benefits would be felt particularly in developing countries, where the dearth of information was greatest. Over the next ten years CABI, first in collaboration with ACIAR (the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research), and subsequently with the backing of a Development Consortium of some 40 private and public organizations worldwide, and in consultation with potential users, developed the relational database system in a multimedia application that became the Crop Protection Compendium.

The Compendium is a unique, authoritative, comprehensive resource that brings together a wide range of information on pests, diseases and weeds and their natural enemies of worldwide or regional importance, together with information on their crop hosts and the countries where they occur. This factual core of information is complemented by utilities that allow users to interpret data. While the sheer quantity and quality of information gave the Compendium excellence, it was the linkages between different kinds of information that made it a pioneer and, ultimately, so successful. Long before `hyperlinks' had become a slick way to navigate through cyberspace, the development team for the Compendium had invented the `soft link', which allowed users to flip between different parts of the database in just the same way but `on the fly', and so created a powerful knowledge base. This has a multitude of uses: for analysing patterns and trends, aiding research and decision-making, and preparing briefs, proposals, presentations and training material.

The Global Module of the Crop Protection Compendium was launched in mid 1999, and the 2000 edition will cover 1550 pests, diseases, weeds and natural enemies in detail (and include outline data for 10,000 more). There is also data for more than 170 crops and 150 countries. It provides text, pictures, maps, databases, economic data, statistics, bibliographic data, diagnostic keys, taxonomic information and other components of a portable library and decision-support system, presented so as to facilitate retrieval and interaction.

Currently available on CD-ROM, work is underway to migrate it to the Internet in the latter part of 2000. The CD version is already in use in more than 60 countries. The Compendium is updated regularly and development of new ideas continues. Currently the team is enhancing the product in two other priority areas: plant quarantine and economic impact of pests. The annual subscription costs US$300 in a developing country, and $1200 in an academic or research institution in the developed world.

Contact: Patricia Neenan, Compendium Programme Manager, CAB International, Wallingford, Oxon, OX10 8DE, UK
Fax: +44 1491 833508

CABI Bioscience News on the Web

The CABI Bioscience website at:
has undergone a make-over. It now provides up-to-date information on its projects around the world, together with press releases and monthly news items. Recent stories at the time of writing (April) highlighted:

Beetles Hit at Any Age

Parasitoids are fussy beasts usually, and not least over the stage of the host that they will attack. However, a new species of the braconid genus Perilitus has been discovered in Zambia that parasitizes both larval and adult stages of the sesbania leaf beetle, Mesoplatys ochroptera. The leaf beetle has recently become a serious pest of Sesbania sesban, the nitrogen-fixing tree that is being widely adopted by farmers in short-rotation planted fallows for soil fertility improvement in southern Africa. The new Perilitus species and its unusual life history were discovered during a study of the beetle's natural enemies in Zambia by Marc Kenis (CABI Bioscience) and Gudeta Sileshi (ICRAF/ICIPE - International Centre for Research in Agroforestry/International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology) under a DFID (UK Department for International Development) project.

Stuck for a Fungal Name?

No need to be! The database of names of fungi maintained by CABI Bioscience has gone `live' at:
The database, which has been contributed to by many mycologists from around the world, started life as just a list of names, but is now including more and more taxonomy. Information on families and higher ranks will follow in the next few months. For a small but gradually increasing subset, there is real taxonomic information that allows users to ascertain whether the name they are checking is the preferred one or a synonym, and for a smaller subset there are complete taxonomies for genera, families, orders or classes.

New Wave to Hit Water Hyacinth

The Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) has committed US$2 million for the research and development phase of an international programme to develop a mycoherbicide for water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) control. Led by CABI Bioscience with collaborators from the UK, Kenya, Benin, Egypt, Zimbabwe and South Africa, the programme was launched at a workshop in Cairo in March 2000 and will focus initially on Africa. Although insect agents have had an effective impact in some cases, for example in the tropical and eutrophic conditions of Lake Victoria [see BNI 21(1), 1N-8N (March 2000)], water hyacinth remains an intransigent problem in other regions and climates. The programme aims to complement insect agents with a fungal ally, and will work with national programmes to isolate and identify suitable fungal pathogens. The mycoherbicide programme is also contemplating shortening the timescale of biological control of water hyacinth. Even on Lake Victoria, control by the insects took 2.5-3 years to achieve. A mycoherbicide could potentially begin to exert control in a matter of weeks.

Key to the successful development of the mycoherbicide will be rigorous testing of isolates for virulence and potential to control water hyacinth, human and environmental safety, and suitability for mass production and storage. The efficacy of different formulations will be assessed in the field. Opportunities for commercialization and registration procedures in water hyacinth-affected countries will also be addressed.

Developing Capabilities to Develop Biopesticides

Many developing countries face a pressing need to develop safe commercial-scale alternatives to chemical pesticides. Biopesticide development has been identified as one avenue worthy of following, but this requires specialist expertise and facilities. The International Biopesticide Consortium for Development has been established to deliver to developing countries the training and technology that biopesticide development requires. The members of the consortium include CABI Bioscience, IITA (the International Institute for International Agriculture, Cotonou, Benin), NRI (National Resources Institute, Chatham, UK), BBA (Federal Biological Research Centre for Agriculture and Forestry, Darmstadt, Germany) and PACE Consulting (San Diego, CA, USA). It aims to make appropriate training and facilities available to national sustainable agriculture programmes and small-scale enterprises to help them develop, produce, commercialize and use biopesticides effectively. By providing technical support and access to a range of expertise through the whole product development process, the consortium aims to equip countries with the tools they need to tackle food production problems in a cost-effective and environmentally friendly way.

Contact: Jeremy Harris,
CABI Bioscience UK Centre (Ascot),
Silwood Park,
Buckhurst Road,
Ascot Sl5 7TA, UK
Fax: +44 1491 829123

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