Loved and loathed: the bitter-sweet attraction of the world’s cacti in sharp focus

Cochineal on cactus
A biotype of the cochineal, Dactylopius opuntiae, feeds solely on Opuntia stricta

Depending on which side of the fence you sit, cacti, in all its various forms, are either loved or loathed as ornamental delights or prickly pests that can devastate ecosystems, wildlife, and livelihoods.

The issue was in the spotlight recently when an article published on the BBC News Science & Environment website ‘Prickly cactus species ‘under threat’ brought the issue of the cacti’s plight in sharp focus.

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Wasps – the good, the bad and the downright irritating

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A wasp taking a break from foraging to have a drink. Flensshot via Pixabay

Whether trying to cajole one out of your office or running for cover after it seems a little too interested in your food we have likely all encountered the common wasp (Vespula vulgaris) more than once during this particularly wasp-heavy summer.  But did you know that this is just one of 9000 species of wasp found in the UK and without a microscope you’re unlikely to ever see the vast majority of them. You might also not know that they provide us with great ecological services including pollination of both our crops and wildflowers as well as controlling insect populations which spread human and agricultural diseases.

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Exciting imaginations: New media formats to reach women and young people with agricultural extension messages

Malawi women listening to radio
Women keep in touch through the power of radio

Campaigns create greater equality of access to information across farming households, but formats are as important as channels, argue Duncan Sones of the Africa Soil Health Consortium (ASHC) delivery team…

The ASHC campaign-based approach explored the use of a variety of channels to build multiple media campaigns. ASHC has been testing the hypothesis that the more varied the channels of information reaching a farming household – the more likely they’re to trial or adopt new technologies. For example, evidence collected from the outcome evaluation of the Scaling-up Improved Legumes Technologies (SILT) in Tanzania suggested this is the case.

What we’re doing is increasing the equality of access to information. Over the next 18 months we’ll be looking for evidence that greater access to information, especially by women and young people, changes the conversations in farming households.

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Breathe easy with biocontrol

The Invasives Blog

SneezeOne in four people in Europe suffer from hay fever, affecting the quality of life of millions. The average cost of hay fever related diseases amounts to around €600 per patient per year from treatment costs and lost time working.

One of the worst offending invasive plants for hay fever sufferers is the North American common ragweed Ambrosia artemisiifolia.

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Developing a sustainable bamboo industry

By Zhu Zhaohua, formerly Chinese Academy of Forestry, China and Jin Wei, International Bamboo and Rattan Organization

Beautiful natural background with bamboo troncs on sunny day
Bamboo is a fast-growing, renewable, non-timber and non-herbal plant

Bamboo is a fast-growing, renewable, non-timber and non-herbal plant. It has high biomass productivity, CO2 absorption and sequestration capacities, and high soil and water conservation capacity. In the lengthy history of its utilisation, its contributions to human beings are far beyond imagination.

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The impact of invasive species on human health

By Giuseppe Mazza and Elena Tricarico, Università degli Studi di Firenze, Italy

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Mosquitoes are often the first species we think of when it comes to human health

Invasive species are becoming a popular topic in newspapers: when articles appear, they mainly report the damages invasive species can cause to our ecosystems (e.g. reduction or disappearance of native species as well as habitat modification) or to our economic activities: fishing or boating can be halted by mats of the South American water hyacinth, several insects can affect our agricultural production or new diseases can be transmitted to reared species. However, these species can also heavily affect human health and wellbeing.

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Boosting cocoa production through improved pest management

Reblogged from ACIAR

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PNG is benefiting from integrated pest and disease management strategies that are reducing incidences of cocoa pod borer and ensuring profitable cocoa crops.

More than 150,000 households in PNG depend on cocoa for their livelihoods. Families and communities rely on the income generated from their cocoa crops to buy food, making it an important industry for the nation’s food security.

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