Merced County Cooperative Extension
Merced County Cooperative Extension
Merced County Cooperative Extension
University of California
Merced County Cooperative Extension

Posts Tagged: Neil McRoberts

Asian citrus psyllid study: Vigilance urged but ‘no cause for panic’

The Asian citrus psyllid is the insect vector for the bacterium that can cause huanglongbing disease. Photo credit: UC Regents

Preliminary results indicate 3.5% of ACP collected showed signs of bacterium that can cause huanglongbing

An ongoing study in the commercial citrus groves of coastal Southern California is looking at whether Asian citrus psyllids – the insect vector of huanglongbing “citrus greening” disease – are carrying the bacterium that can cause HLB.

Thus far, the project has tested more than 3,000 adult ACP collected from 15 commercial citrus sites across the region, of which 138 – just over 3.5% – had some level of the bacterium present, according to researchers from UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, UC Davis, UC Riverside and the University of Arizona, Tucson.

“While the results are a cause for concern, the situation in California is much better than in Florida and Texas, where ACP carrying the bacterium make up the majority of the population and HLB is widespread in commercial citrus,” said Neil McRoberts, a UC Davis plant pathologist and UC Integrated Pest Management program affiliate advisor. “The results indicate that there is no room for complacency, but also no cause for panic.”

Yellowing leaves can be one sign of huanglongbing, which has devastated the Florida citrus industry. Photo credit: UC Regents

Since the first HLB-infected tree in California was found in 2012, nearly 4,000 infected trees have been detected and removed from residential properties in Southern California, mainly in Orange and Los Angeles counties. According to McRoberts, “to date, no HLB has been found in commercial citrus” in California.

He stressed, however, that the aforementioned ACP study – funded by the HLB Multi Agency Coordination Group and managed by USDA-APHIS – does not involve any testing of trees for HLB and focuses only on looking at the insect which spreads the bacterium.

McRoberts also emphasized that the project's detections of the bacterium cannot be considered “official” because the researchers' lab procedures differ from the official testing protocols of the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

“Follow-up sampling by CDFA staff would allow official samples to be collected for further investigation, but is entirely voluntary for the growers involved,” he said, adding that his research team is currently wrapping up the sampling phase of the project, with data analysis continuing into 2023.

While commending the “huge coordinated effort” by the California citrus industry, California Department of Food and Agriculture, UC ANR and other partners to suppress the ACP vector and slow the spread of HLB, McRoberts also urged continued vigilance.

“Our study results indicate that it is not time to declare the emergency status for ACP/HLB in California over – the situation is still evolving,” he said.

For further information about the research, contact Neil McRoberts at nmcroberts@ucdavis.edu or (530) 752-3248.

Posted on Thursday, November 17, 2022 at 4:38 PM
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture, Food, Pest Management

Pests and pathogens place global burden on major food crops

On a global scale, pests and pathogens are significantly reducing yields of rice (shown), wheat, maize, soybeans and potatoes.

Farmers know they lose crops to pests and plant diseases, but scientists have found that on a global scale they are reducing crop yields for five major food crops by 10 percent to 40 percent, according to a report by a UC Agriculture and Natural Resources scientist and other members of the International Society for Plant Pathology. Wheat, rice, maize, soybean and potato yields are reduced by pathogens and animal pests, including insects, scientists found in a global survey of crop health experts.

At a global scale, pathogens and pests are causing wheat losses of 10 percent to 28 percent, rice losses of 25 percent to 41 percent, maize losses of 20 percent to 41 percent, potato losses of 8 percent to 21 percent, and soybean losses of 11 percent to 32 percent, according to the study, published in the journal Nature, Ecology & Evolution.

Sheath blight on rice
Viruses and viroids, bacteria, fungi and oomycetes, nematodes, arthropods, molluscs, vertebrates and parasitic plants are among the factors working against farmers.

Food loss

“We are losing a significant amount of food on a global scale to pests and diseases at a time when we must increase food production to feed a growing population,” said co-author Neil McRoberts, co-leader of UC ANR's Sustainable Food Systems Strategic Initiative and Agricultural Experiment Station researcher and professor in the Department of Plant Pathology at UC Davis.

While plant diseases and pests are widely considered an important cause of crop losses, and sometimes a threat to the food supply, precise figures on these crop losses are difficult to produce.

“One reason is because pathogens and pests have co-evolved with crops over millennia in the human-made agricultural systems,” write the authors on the study's website globalcrophealth.org.  “As a result, their effects in agriculture are very hard to disentangle from the complex web of interactions within cropping systems. Also, the sheer number and diversity of plant diseases and pests makes quantification of losses on an individual pathogen or pest basis, for each of the many cultivated crops, a daunting task.”

“We conducted a global survey of crop protection experts on the impacts of pests and plant diseases on the yields of five of the world's most important carbohydrate staple crops and are reporting the results,” McRoberts said. “This is a major achievement and a real step forward in being able to accurately assess the impact of pests and plant diseases on crop production.”

The researchers surveyed several thousand crop health experts on five major food crops – wheat, rice, maize, soybean and potato – in 67 countries.

“We chose these five crops since together they provide about 50 percent of the global human calorie intake,” the authors wrote on the website. The 67 countries grow 84 percent of the global production of wheat, rice, maize, soybean and potato.

Top pests and diseases

 

Late blight in a potato field.

The study identified 137 individual pathogens and pests that attack the crops, with very large variation in the amount of crop loss they caused. For wheat, leaf rust, Fusarium head blight/scab, tritici blotch, stripe rust, spot blotch, tan spot, aphids and powdery mildew caused losses higher than 1 percent globally. In rice, sheath blight, stem borers, blast, brown spot, bacterial blight, leaf folder and brown plant hopper did the most damage. In maize, Fusarium and Gibberella stalk rots, fall armyworm, northern leaf blight, Fusarium and Gibberella ear rots, anthracnose stalk rot and southern rust caused the most loss globally. In potatoes, late blight, brown rot, early blight and cyst nematode did the most harm. In soybeans, cyst nematode, white mold, soybean rust, Cercospora leaf blight, brown spot, charcoal rot and root knot nematodes caused global losses higher than 1 percent.

Food-security “hotspots”

Stripe rust in wheat
The study estimates to losses to individual plant diseases and pests for these crops globally, as well as in several global food-security “hotspots.” These hotspots are critical sources in the global food system: Northwest Europe, the plains of the U.S. Midwest and Southern Canada, Southern Brazil and Argentina, the Indo-Gangetic Plains of South Asia, the plains of China, Southeast Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa.

“Our results highlight differences in impacts among crop pathogens and pests and among food security hotspots,” McRoberts said. “But we also show that the highest losses appear associated with food-deficit regions with fast-growing populations, and frequently with emerging or re-emerging pests and diseases.”

“For chronic pathogens and pests, we need to redouble our efforts to deliver more efficient and sustainable management tools, such as resistant varieties,” McRoberts said. For emerging or re-emerging pathogens and pests, urgent action is needed to contain them and generate longer term solutions.”

The website globalcrophealth.org features maps showing how many people responded to the survey across different regions of the world. 

In addition to McRoberts, the research team included lead author Serge Savary, chair of the ISPP Committee on Crop Loss, epidemiologists Paul Esker at Pennsylvania State University and Sarah Pethybridge at Cornell University, Laetitia Willocquet at the French National Institute for Agricultural Research in Toulouse, France, and Andy Nelson at the University of Twente in The Netherlands. 

 

Posted on Friday, February 8, 2019 at 11:11 AM
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture, Food

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