A team of international scientists are collaborating to fight the noxious weed yellow toadflax (Linaria vulgaris) in Montana’s world-famous Rocky Mountains with the help of a tiny insect – the shoot-galling weevil Rhinusa pilosa.
Yellow toadflax, first introduced from Wales in the late 1600s as an ornamental and medicinal plant and to make textile dyes, is an aggressive invader listed as a noxious weed in more than 10 US states (including North and South Dakota, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon and Idaho) – which suppresses desirable vegetation through intense competition for limited soil moisture.
In eastern North America a species of weed has become an aggressive invader. Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is one of the most rapidly increasing woodland invasive plant species, spreading across northeastern and midwestern USA and southeastern Canada ata rate of nearly 2,500 square miles per year.
The plant was most likely introduced to North America in the 19th century, taken from its native habitat of Eurasia by settlers for medicinal and culinary use. Although the crushed leaves and seeds of garlic mustard smell like cultivated garlic and have been used as flavouring in cooking for centuries, the plant actually belongs to the cabbage family.
Aflatoxins are a group of toxins produced by certain fungi found in crops such as maize, peanuts, cottonseed and tree nuts. The fungi responsible, Aspergillus flavus, can contaminate crops before and after harvest as well as contaminate animal products if infected feeds are given to livestock.
Consumption of these toxins in high concentrations can contribute to stunting growth in children and cause liver illness with fatal consequences. Estimates of deaths due to aflatoxin ingestion range up to 100,000 or more per year worldwide.
By Dr Umair Safdar, Development Communication Executive, CABI Pakistan
A Phytosanitary Risk Management Program (PRMP) in Pakistan is implementing a biological control program for pests of concerns in the Sindh, Gilgit and Skardu regions – with the aim of helping farmers grow more and lose less to invasive species.
In Balochistan, PRMP has established a Biological Control Laboratory at the Agriculture Research Institute Quetta to implement a biological control program for pests of apple crop (codling moth and spider mites). PRMP interventions are already achieving some successes with the identification of indigenous biocontrol agents (BCAs) of apple codling moth (Dibrachys microgastri and Elasmus sp. nr. johnstoni) and of predatory mites for apple spider mites (Mesostigmata mites).
One 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.
Balochistan province is famous for producing apples, contributing more than 80% to the total apple production in Pakistan, and therefore has a significant impact on the household income of farmers in the region. However, apples are also prone to infestation by a number of different pests, of which the apple codling moth (Cydia pomonella) is of major concern.