IPM Voice Newsletter                               November 2016
In This Issue: UN Food & Agriculture Report Calls for Broad Transformation of Global Agricultural Systems, Laser Fence Tested to Scare Away Rodent Crop Pests, Scientists Advise a Change in Weed Control Decision-Making
United Nation's 2016 State of Food & Agriculture Report Calls for Broad Transformation of Global Agricultural Systems

The State of Food and Agriculture Report from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is an annual examination of the global outlook for agriculture and food security in the face of climate change. The 2016 Report has predicted that climate change impacts on food-related livelihoods could impoverish an additional 35 to 122 million people by 2030 if policies are not adopted quickly. Anticipated impacts include migration of crop pests and pathogens towards the earth's poles.

The authors propose adoption of economic and social policies that support small-holder farmers to mitigate these impacts, and as a component of a broader long-term sustainable development policy. FAO director-general Josť Graziano da Silva indicates transitioning impacted farmers to sustainable agriculture "holds the key to solving the two greatest challenges facing humanity: eradicating poverty and maintaining the stable climatic corridor in which civilization can thrive."

Climate change has far-reaching, synergistic effects that will impact agriculture, livelihoods and infrastructure.  Agriculture is estimated to account for one fifth of the world's greenhouse gas emissions including energy expended to move water for irrigation and to produce fertilizers and pesticides.  Global food demand is projected to increase by 60 percent by 2050 according to current population, income and urbanization growth trends. Increased production to meet demand is expected to accelerate climate change and impacts.  Stressed resources and food systems can also lead to increased competition and civil unrest.

The report cites a recent study in Nature documenting pest and pathogen expansion to new latitudes in response to climate change.  Pest spread will demand improved monitoring, communication and cooperation between nations, as discussed in an earlier IPM Voice newsletter article.

The authors advocate for governments to encourage small farmers to adopt nitrogen-efficient and heat-tolerant crop varieties, zero-tillage and integrated soil fertility management practices.  They also recommend changes in development policies to improve small farmer access to markets and credit, improve risk management tools, and expand education and empowerment of women, who make up a large percentage of the worldwide agricultural workforce.

The study notes that a transition to sustainable methods is often hampered by social and cultural barriers and by input subsidy policies which encourage overreliance on purchased inputs and lead to debt accumulation by small farmers. The authors contend, "What is needed is a reorientation of agricultural and rural development policies that resets incentives and lowers the barriers to the transformation of food and agricultural systems."

To read the full report, please visit the FAO's site here or read an article about it at New Security Beat.
 
High-Powered Laser Employed to Scare Away Rodent Crop Pests

Research trials in Scotland, the Netherlands and Spain will test a laser light fence that researchers hope will scare away wild animals that damage agricultural crops.  Designed to reduce the use of rodenticides, the LIFE Laser Project aims to deter rats, badgers, foxes and rabbits from crops through use of a laser "fence" that the creatures perceive as a physical danger.

Scheduled to run through December 31, 2019, the LIFE Laser Project, based at Liverpool John Moores University, has received $1.8 million in support from the European Commission to begin testing.  An earlier version of the device for use against birds works quite well, according to the researchers. Dr. Alex Mason, project leader of LIFE Laser Project, is optimistic the fence can be used to reduce the amount of rodenticides entering the ecosystem. "There is a strong European desire to eliminate poisons entirely," he says in Photonics Media. "Coming up with a solution that fits both national and European policies means massive impact for the European economy and environment. Here we can experiment with new techniques and test on a larger scale for even more potential."

To read more about the LIFE Laser Project, please visit the study author's project page or the BBC.

Scientists Advise Integrating Insect, Resistance and Floral Resource Management in Weed Control Decision-Making

A team of agricultural scientists at Cornell University have rethought how weed control tactics impact field crop agroecosystems, and present a new framework for weed management.  The researchers advocate including weed costs and benefits into a holistic IPM approach that addresses weed resistance, impacts on nontarget plants and insects, and high costs for farmers.

The authors note that categorically labeling weeds as unwanted pests misses the benefits they offer.  They examine a case study involving milkweed in transgenic corn fields.  Milkweed is considered a weed to be controlled by herbicides, but also harbors aphids, insects that produce a nectar that feeds the beneficial parasitic wasp Trichogramma, a natural predator of the European corn borer.  Milkweed also serves as breeding place, food source and harborage for the monarch butterfly, an important and endangered pollinator.  They suggest that growers allow low levels of this "weed" in fields to support these beneficial organisms and reduce the need for herbicide applications, which in turn reduces costs.

Antonio DiTommaso, professor of soil and crop science at Cornell and lead author of the study, contends, "Production management rarely considers the benefits of weeds in agricultural ecosystems.  Let's look at the big picture. If we open our eyes - even if it's a weed growing in the cornfield - we show it could be beneficial. Integrating weed benefits will become increasingly important, as pest management is likely to move from total reliance on herbicides and transgenic crop traits for control, because of increasing resistance of weeds to these products."

To read the full study, please visit the journal Weed Science, or read the article at Phys.org.

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Upcoming IPM-Related Meetings and Conferences
 
January 20-22, 2017. 35th Annual NOFA Winter Organic Farming and Gardening Conference. Saratoga Springs, NY
January 25-28, 2017. 37th Annual EcoFarm Conference. Pacific Grove, CA 
February 6-7, 2017. Annual Conference, Association of Applied IPM Ecologists. Napa, CA

March 19-22, 2018.
Ninth International IPM Symposium. Baltimore, MD
 
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