The Grapes of Change

By Glen L. Creasy, Sabrosia Winegrowing Services, France

Grapevines are an amazingly versatile plant. They survive in many and varied climates, they can be cut back and trained in many different ways (on a yearly basis if need be), and they produce a fruit that is made into a wide range of products that make up part of our daily diets.

You can find evidence of their adaptability by looking to the past: in their natural state, vines use sturdier plants like trees for support, growing rapidly up through the shady understory to the tops of the trees where there is plentiful light for making fruit. During the dormant season you can see how the canes of the wild grape (Vitis riparia in this case) over-run the tree it’s using for support.

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Photo taken in the Finger Lakes region of New York

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Sentimentality stifling youths’ agricultural future

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Photo: Steve Mbogo

I know from personal experience it’s difficult for parents to let go of things they’ve cherished for years – for my dad, it’s broken antique chairs that he insists he’ll fix when he ‘has a spare moment’… i.e. never. ‘What’s the link between clutching on to family objects and youth engagement in agriculture,’ I hear you ask?

Projecting such forms of sentimentality towards traditional crops is stifling youths’ economic prospects in agriculture.

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Invasive species: the threat to human health

The damage that invasive species can cause to the environment and the economy are well known, but impacts on human health have been much less analysed. However, invasive species can cause impacts ranging from psychological effects, phobias, discomfort and nuisance to allergies, poisoning, bites, disease and even death. Invasives experts Giuseppe Mazza and Elena Tricarico of the University of Florence, Italy say that in addition to these direct effects, some work in more indirect ways. Humans are menaced by alien invasive species affecting the services provided by ecosystems. “These services are vital to our well-being: changes may decrease the availability of drinking water and of products from fisheries, agriculture and forestry, alter pollination and impoverish culture and recreation,” say Mazza and Tricarico.

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The invasive red swamp crayfish, linked to disease in fishermen (photo by Miluz).

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Overcoming cotton insect/pests through Natural Enemies Field Reservoir (NEFR) technology in Pakistan

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The CABI team at Mr Ahmad’s farm where he installed NEFR technology

Cotton is one cash crop of Pakistan which is attacked by a number of pests including sucking (aphid, jassid, white fly) piercing (mites), cutting (white ant) and chewing (boll worms). Izhar Nabi Sehto of Kurkuli village, district Sanghar of Sindh province, said the only option that comes readily to the farmer’s mind when looking for a control and management solution is pesticide.

But CABI in Pakistan, under the Better Cotton Initiative project, is providing training to farmers to help bring a change in their traditional approach to pest control and management. CABI recommends the use of more environment-friendly practices such as light traps, sticky traps and pheromone traps but above all is use of the Natural Enemies Field Reservoir NEFR technology.

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CABI warns of rapid spread of crop-devastating fall armyworm across Asia

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Scientists discuss various plant diseases with local farmers as they attend ‘plant clinics’ in India. Photo: CABI

CABI scientists have today warned of the impending rapid spread of the crop-devastating pest, fall armyworm, across Asia following its arrival in India, with major crop losses expected unless urgent action is taken. The warning comes following a pest alert published this week by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) on the website of one of its bureaux, NBAIR, confirming the discovery of fall armyworm in the southern state of Karnataka. CABI scientists warned Asia was at risk from fall armyworm following the pest’s rapid spread across Africa in 2017.

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Why it’s hard to teach old dogs new tricks

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By https://www.flickr.com/photos/pbump/with/5637773582/

Dogs, just like humans, can have problems with learning, memory and attention, particularly as they get older. Several tests of cognitive ability in dogs have been used in research with a particular focus on the effects of ageing. What is less well understood is how diseases affect these cognitive abilities. In an article in CAB Reviews, Lena Provoost, Margret Casal and Carlo Siracusa discuss how changes in behaviour, such as loss of appetite, house soiling or changes in sleeping are often the first indicators to the pet’s owners that there is a problem. The team from the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania say that while those changes could be caused by mental decline, they could be secondary effects of other medical causes, such as pain from infection swellings or kidney disease.

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