EU ban on mango imports highlights importance of phytosanitary certification

A ban on imports of mangoes from India to the EU is likely to cause dramatic losses to Indian growers and has produced an outcry amongst growers in India and retailers in the UK. Fruits
The ban on importing mangoes from India came into effect today 1 May and will continue until 31 December 2015 – possibly subject to revision before then. The ban is a consequence of significant shortcomings in phytosanitary certification systems and is considered essential to protect the European produce industry. The decision was taken due to the high number of consignments of mangoes and other produce from India being intercepted at arrival in the EU with quarantine pests, mainly insects, and of findings made during audits in India. According to Fera (The Food and Environment Research Agency, UK), pests were found in 207 consignments of fruits and vegetables from India imported into the EU in 2013.
The numbers are high enough to raise concerns over the potential introduction of new pests which could pose a threat to EU horticulture. Some of the intercepted pests attack salad crops such as tomatoes and cucumbers, and some carry viruses which can devastate these crops.
India is the largest single producer of mangoes, with over 70% of exports destined for the Middle East and about 12% for the UK. The most common methods for protecting consignments of mangoes from quarantine pests involve hot water treatment, irradiation (permitted by some countries) and vapour heat treatment. One of the problems, however, is the lack of facilities in India, with only a handful of approved irradiation and vapour heat treatment facilities in the country.
The ban also applies to aubergines, taro leaves and two types of gourd (bitter gourd – Momordica sp., and snake gourd – Trichosanthes sp.) imported from India.
A free text search of CAB Abstracts using the terms ‘mangoes quarantine pests’ results in over 200 records, which include studies on the effects of hot water treatment, irradiation and vapour heat treatment on fruit quality as well as effects on the quarantine pests.

Food Waste in the Supply Chain

FruitsA one-day conference held at the Dutch Embassy in London last week focussed on a topic which is emerging in response to the need to increase food production by at least 50% to feed a population of 9 billion in 2050.

The topic is food waste reduction and encompasses food waste across the whole of the supply chain, from the grower and farmer to the distributor, the retailer and the consumer. Food waste not just in terms of food which is thrown away the end of a meal, but food which is lost during production, storage, distribution and sale. For fresh produce for instance, losses occur during production and during storage, transport and distribution if conditions are unfavourable and the infrastructure and knowledge needed to maintain the cold chain are missing, resulting in food contamination and deterioration. Retailers and consumers increase these losses by rejecting produce on the basis of perceived quality defects and discarding produce which is still suitable for consumption. Apart from environmental considerations, like wasting water on growing food which is never eaten, and disposing of waste, the more food we waste the more we need to produce.

At the distributor and retail level, speakers at the Food Waste Conference ‘No opportunity wasted’ talked about food waste initiatives being undertaken by various companies which have in fact saved them money, and emphasized that food waste can be turned from a problem into an opportunity. One company, a distributor of fresh fruits and vegetables, is trying to reduce waste in the supply chain by selling misshapen fruits and vegetables as ingredients to restaurants, extending the natural life of products by sourcing them at the right stage, sometimes using packaging to reduce waste, and suggesting new solutions to stringent quality requirements to avoid waste. Another company has tackled waste by implementing changes such as altering the size of orders and aligning production with demand – these measures have also resulted in considerable cost savings.

Through its Plantwise programme, CABI is helping to decrease food losses by reducing crop losses caused by pests and diseases. Plantwise clinics are now operating in over 20 countries with locally trained ‘plant doctors’ providing diagnosis and appropriate pest management advice to smallholder growers and farmers.

And on 5 March 2013, CABI is participating in Waste Not Want Not: Agri-Food Waste Solutions for a Hungry World – a one-day conference in London organized by the Agri-Food Hub of SCI (Society of Chemical Industry) where speakers will discuss the current situation and initiatives to address the problem, and where projects illustrating some practical examples of the opportunities available will be highlighted.

Forests on the move

Studies on ‘natural’ and ‘forced’ migration of forests threatened by climate change.

Deciduous forestA multi-European project trying to anticipate the effects of climate change on forests is taking shape. In parts of Europe, established forest trees are showing signs of vulnerability – such as drought stress – as their ‘climate niche’ changes. An ambitious long-term project hopes to work out which species will provide the best natural environments and commercial forestry prospects for the future.

Thousands of trees are being planted at 37 locations on the west Atlantic, covering a length of 1600 miles from the Azores to Scotland. Forest Research (part of the Forestry Commission), the UK partner in the ‘Reinforce’ project, is planting 30 species at various sites in England, Scotland and Wales. The species include familiar trees like English oak, Scots pine, silver birch and sweet chestnut as well as less usual species such as Atlas cedar and Macedonian, maritime and Monterey pines from the Mediterranean, Eastern Europe and California.

As to the time-scale of the project, growth data and responses to climatic variables like temperature and soil water will be collected and analysed regularly, but it could be 50 years before any meaningful data can be gathered for mature trees. With climate change now evident, there’s no time for delay…

Watch a video of the research on the BBC website.

The trial coincides with the findings of a 4-year survey of 15 coniferous species in 34 different ecoregions in western Canada and the USA(1,2). Remote sensing of large areas showed that a huge natural migration of trees has already started across much of the west due to global warming, insect attack, diseases and fire, and many tree species are projected to decline or die out in regions where they have been present for centuries, while others move in and replace them. Forests are reshaping in a visible display of ‘survival of the fittest’.

Existing species are losing their competitive edge and opportunistic species are taking over. More than half of the evergreen species were found to be experiencing a significant decrease in their competitiveness in 6 ecoregions. The study projected that in some cases, once-common species such as lodgepole pine will be replaced by other trees, with perhaps a range expansion of ponderosa pine or Douglas-fir. Other areas may shift completely out of forest into grass savannah or sagebrush desert. In central California, more than half of the species now present would not be expected to persist in the climate conditions of the future (approx. 2-4°C warmer by 2080, drier summers, and wetter spring and autumn seasons).

Some of these changes are already happening quite fast and over huge areas – at a rate fast enough to detect at the landscape level – remarkable for forests.


1. Waring, R. H.; Coops, N. C.; Running, S. W. Predicting satellite-derived patterns of large-scale disturbances in forests of the Pacific Northwest Region in response to recent climatic variation. Remote Sensing of Environment (2011) Vol. 115 No. 12 pp. 3554-3566.

2. Coops, N. C.; Waring, R. H. Estimating the vulnerability of fifteen tree species under changing climate in Northwest North America. Ecological Modelling (2011) Vol. 222 No. 13 pp. 2119-2129 [10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2011.03.033]

See also:
Oregon State University news

And now for the world’s most important plant viruses

Other than possibly the newly discovered leaping beetles of New Caledonia with a mysterious plant diet, few if any plant pests or diseases make it onto any one of the Time Top of Everything of 2011 lists.

But pests and diseases are busy making their way into their own ‘Top 10’. CABI scientists put together a list in 2011 of some of the world’s worst plant pests, and plant viruses and fungal pathogens are also getting together.

Molecular Plant Pathology has published the results of a survey amongst plant virologists, ranking plant viruses based on scientific/economic importance. The historical perspective, the science, the economics and the latest research are discussed for each of the viruses making it into the ‘Top 10’.

First place is given to Tobacco mosaic virus for its scientific importance based on its role which has extended beyond practical plant pathology (as a virus causing serious losses in a profitable crop) to its use as a model system and in molecular pathology. TMV (just to corroborate its importance) is also the highest ranking plant virus on CAB Abstracts. The database has more than 8000 records specifically on TMV since 1909 (just over 10% of all the records on plant viruses on the database), and is still going strong with about 100 records added each year.

‘Top 10 plant viruses in molecular plant pathology’ is free to download here. Now watch out for the ‘Top 10 fungal pathogens in molecular plant pathology’…coming soon…

From abstract to full text

CAB Abstracts banner icon Global health banner iconMost people searching an abstracts database want to be able to click straight through to the full text of a relevant or interesting abstract.

Full text availability is one of the real added value features of CAB Abstracts and the Global Health database, but where and how to find the full text can still be confusing.

Here at CABI we do try hard to make the full text of any paper we abstract for the database(s) available to users by providing links (including DOIs where possible) and holding full text in our own permanent repository. Over the years we have been building a repository of full text material, mainly journals and conferences, which we host on our servers so that users can click through directly from the abstract straight to the full text pdf. The CABI repository currently contains over 85,000 full text papers from scientific journals and over 54,000 full text papers from conferences, plus the full text of a number of reports and single documents. If you search CAB Abstracts or Global Health on our own platform (CAB Direct), all papers held in the CABI Full Text repository have a clearly visible “View Full Text” button. The CABI Full Text repository is also available to searchers using other platforms (e.g. OvidSP).

We created the CABI repository so that we could offer permanent, unbroken links to full text papers from journals and conferences which for some reason or other are not available online or are difficult to find –  some papers, for instance, are available in print only, and some are available online but the links change or websites disappear over time. The initial concept was to provide a win-win situation for authors and users – authors knew that their papers would be more widely disseminated and read if they were accessible through our widely used database, and users would be able to click straight through to the full text. Our aim was to improve access to papers which were ‘difficult-to-find’ i.e. those which were not easily accessible through open access systems or from mainstream sources with a strong web presence.

Once you’ve done your search, here are some suggestions for subscribers on how to access the full text paper or document from an abstract or bibliographic record on the CAB Direct platform (this is generally applicable to CAB Abstracts/Global Health on any platform):

(1) If the abstract has a “View Full Text” button, this is a link to the paper in the CABI Full Text repository (for advanced users, sc:ft in the search box will pick up all records with a full text document in the CABI repository).

(2) If a url is provided on the database record, click on this to go to the publisher or society website. If your institution has a subscription to the journal, you should have access to the full text. If not, you’ll still find that some of these documents may be open access. Some publishers make all their papers open access, others make special issues open access, sometimes within the same issue of a journal some of the papers will be open access and some not. Others apply an embargo, so that papers published before a certain date become open access. All these models change frequently and the only certain way of knowing whether the full text is available (either open access or paid for) is to try the website.

(3) If the abstract record has a DOI this is even better. The DOI (Digital Object Identifier) is a unique identifier for that paper. Clicking on the DOI will take you straight to the exact document. Try copying the DOI into your Google search box to see if the paper has been deposited in an institutional or other repository.

(4) Or you can contact the author directly – most recent records have email contacts.

Finally, if you are a conference organizer, editor or society and wish to see your papers held in our repository so they are easily accessible to a worldwide audience of subscribers, please contact our Full Text Coordinator.

Music enhances plant growth and keeps pests at bay

A recent AoB blog caught my eye (ear?). Do plants respond to music? The blog refers to an experiment in which plants were assembled in Cadogan Hall, London for a 3-hour recital performed by the UK’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra to investigate the effects of music on plant growth.

Knowing that CAB Abstracts is a good source of unusual and interesting research, I had a quick look for any relevant studies. I can’t say the database is brimming with information in this area but what I found was definitely positive. One study looked at the effect of different acoustic frequencies on the growth of cowpea seedlings and concluded that sound waves with different frequency characteristics significantly increased plant height – good treatments included a 400 Hz frequency sound wave, cuckoo acoustic song, and an insect-music mixed sound(1). In the next paper by the same authors, a mixed combination of classical music and cricket voice (I think they mean the insect…) increased the growth, yield and nutritive value of edible fungi (including several Pleurotus spp.)(2). Other research papers report similar effects. Some include the use of ‘green music’ to enhance the metabolism and growth of plants, ‘green music’ consisting of a classical music base along with some natural sounds such as those of birds, insects, water and wind, i.e. like music in a field.

After analysing the responses of various crop plants to different audio signals, one group of researchers suggests that it may be possible to compose specific music for specific plants(3).

Plants, however, are not alone – ‘green music’ has been shown to enhance the milk yield of cows and increase the fermentation rate of starter cultures in probiotic yoghurt(4).

Insects, it seems, find music stressful, and music could be used to control unwanted pests. In one recent study(5), exposure to classical music decreased the lifespan of male Drosophila. Music appeared to affect the normal aging process rather than show overt toxicity, and the authors suggest it could be used in insect management programmes. Better still, greenhouse experiments on Chinese cabbage and aphid injury suggest a win-win situation – ‘green music’ increased Chinese cabbage yields and decreased aphid damage(6).


(1) Huang Jun; Jiang ShiRen. Effect of six different acoustic frequencies on growth of cowpea (Vigna unguiculata) during its seedling stage. Agricultural Science & Technology – Hunan (2011) 12 (6) pp 847-851.
CAB Abstracts ref. Full text paper (in English) available on CAB Abstracts
Online ref.

(2) Jiang ShiRen; Huang Jun; Han XingHua; Zeng XianLin. Influence of audio frequency mixing of music and cricket voice on growth of edible mushrooms. Transactions of the Chinese Society of Agricultural Engineering (2011) 27 (6) pp 300-305.
CAB Abstracts ref.
Online ref.

(3) Lee KeunYoung; Hur TaeWon; Lee WonChu; Yun SongJoong. Analysis of plants response to music signals. Journal of the Korean Society for Horticultural Science (2002) 43 (1) pp 5-10.
CAB Abstracts ref.
Online ref.

(4) Mohammadi, R.; Rouhi, M.; Mortazavian, A. M. Effects of music waves on fermentation characteristics and viability of starter cultures in probiotic yogurt. Milchwissenschaft (2011) 66 (2) pp 193-196.
CAB Abstracts ref.
Online publisher

(5) Morales, R. F.; Seong KiMoon; Kim ChaSoon; Jin YoungWoo; Min KyungJin. Effects of auditory stimuli on the lifespan of Drosophila melanogaster. Entomological Research (2010) 40 (4) pp 225-228.
CAB Abstracts ref.
Online ref.

(6) Qin YuChuan; Lee WonChu; Choi YoungCheol; Ahn MiYoung. Preliminary study on the relationship among sonic, Chinese cabbage growth and aphids' injury. Journal of China Agricultural University (2001) 6 (3) pp 85-89.
CAB Abstracts ref.
Online ref.

Other references on CAB Abstracts

Effects of insect acoustic and music acoustic frequency on the growth of 6 kinds of vegetables.

The effects of different musical elements on root growth and mitosis in onion (Allium cepa) root apical meristem (musical and biological experimental study).

Measuring effects of music, noise, and healing energy using a seed germination bioassay.

Effect of musical sound of Veena on balsam plants.

Recent developments in the world of biofuels

Water hyacinth mat on river Opinions on the use of crops for biofuel and bioenergy continue to be polarized – are they a ‘good thing’ or not? When are they a ‘good thing’? Who benefits?

How do you measure the impacts and their interactions at a local, national and international level on food security, land resources, water, greenhouse gas emissions, energy security, poverty, social development, sustainability…and try to remain impartial and objective?

The Bioenergy and Food Security (BEFS) Analytical Framework developed by FAO aims to address these issues by providing an analytical framework and set of tools which can be used to measure these impacts. Using a step-by-step methodology, the goal is to help policymakers make informed decisions on whether development of bioenergy is a viable option for their country and identify suitable policies that will maximize benefits and minimize risks.

Three separate reports describe the implementation of the framework in Peru, Tanzania and Thailand, with suggestions for suitable options for each country.

Another source of information is Recent developments in the world of biofuels, a critical analysis by CABI scientists of the latest research on the potential and realities of growing and processing jatropha, algae and biomass for biofuels or bioenergy – see Biofuels Information Exchange.

Land use and poverty alleviation issues in Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya, India, China and Brazil are discussed as well as research into using problematic invasive aquatic weeds (water hyacinth – pictured above – is a favourite) for bioenergy. The pros and cons of algal biofuels, and the latest technology for concentrating biomass energy into a more energy-dense form which makes transport to a processing plant more feasible are discussed, and more…

BIE is an impartial site for exchanging information on biofuels research – the exchange on pests of jatropha has generated the longest running discussion over the last 2 years – and the site provides open access to documents on biofuels, including the peer-reviewed Land Use Change: Science and Policy Review (copublished with Hart Energy Consulting) and abstracts of the latest research on biofuels from the CAB Abstracts database.

For a comprehensive resource of published information on research into man’s impact on the environment see CABI’s Environmental Impact which has a special section on biofuels research information – abstracts, books, book chapters, reports, reviews.