Should we stop irrigating the drylands ?

Photo credit: SciDevNet

Copyright: Robin Hammond / Panos

Irrigation risks spreading invasive pests across Africa

“Irrigation could trigger changing pest distributions by allowing a host plant to grow where it would not otherwise grow and by producing conditions for the pest or pathogen to grow.” -Dan Bebber, University of Exeter

by Ines Nastali

Speed read

  • Africa’s warm and wet future climate will support foreign crop pests
  • Irrigation will also increase habitat for insects such as tomato leaf miners
  • This moth destroyed thousands of hectares of fruit in Sudan

The use of irrigation across Sub-Saharan Africa creates conditions that attract devastating foreign plant pests, such as the tomato leaf miner, a Kenyan study has found.

East Africa is at particular risk of infestations from the moth, as temperatures and seasonal rainfall in the region increase due to climate change, the researchers warn. They discovered that the increasingly frequent watering of fields turns more areas into suitable habitats for the destructive insect.

As well as tomatoes, the tomato leaf miner attacks crops such as potatoes, peppers, eggplants (brinjal) and tobacco. Although native to South America, the pest reached Europe in 2006 and has since spread across the Middle East into Africa.

Read the full article: SciDevNet

New Weapon Against Crop Pests (Science Daily)

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Potential New Weapon Against Crop Pests Discovered

ScienceDaily (July 12, 2012) — A team of scientists from the University of Greenwich’s Natural Resources Institute (NRI), working with colleagues in the UK and Tanzania, has made a discovery that could provide a new means to control insect crop pests around the globe.

The research team discovered that some African armyworms carry a small bacterium called Wolbachia which makes them more vulnerable to a natural virus which can be used as a biopesticide.

The African armyworm is a devastating caterpillar pest which feeds on cereal crops, including maize, wheat, millet and rice. Up to 500,000 caterpillars can sometimes attack a single hectare and totally destroy a crop. They are a major threat to food security in Africa, where chemical pesticides are too expensive for most farmers.


To overcome Striga infestation overtaking maize fields in Kenya’s western province (IPS / allAfrica)

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Saving Kenya’s maize crop

Summary & Comment: Hybridization of a herbicide-resistant maize found in Kenya a decade ago will be used to overcome a weed infestion overtaking maize fields in Kenya’s western province. While care must be taken in the handling and planting of these maize seeds, farmers are looking forward to having a crop at the end of the growing season. CJW

Author: Isaiah Esipisu
Date Written: 18 March 2012
Primary Category: Food and Land
Document Origin: Inter Press Service
Secondary Category: Eastern Region
Source URL:

While some maize farmers in Kenya’s Western Province are stilling living off the produce from last season’s harvest, Robert Oduor is counting his losses after the deadly Striga weed infested his one-hectare maize field. “Previously, I harvested up to 14 90-kilogramme bags of maize per half hectare. But due to the infestation of the weed, which I was not able to control, I harvested a total of two and a half bags of maize from my field,” said Oduor, who is from the Sega area in Western Province. But he hopes that next season’s harvest will be better. That is if he can get his hands on a new variety of maize, which was developed by scientists to survive against a Striga weed infestation.

Striga weed, also known as witches weed, is a plant with either bright pink or red flowers, depending on the species. However, it is a parasite and also infests sorghum, millet and sugarcane fields. Once a maize plantation is infested by the weed, experts say the loss ranges from 70 to 100 percent of the harvest. And for the past 10 years, research scientists from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, the Weizmann Institute and BASF-Chemical Company have been developing a high- yielding maize variety resistant to the herbicide used to kill the Striga weed.

“This maize variety is not resistant to the Striga weed,” explained Dr. Gospel Omaya, the Seed System manager at the African Agriculture Technology Foundation, which facilitates public-private partnerships. “The variety is resistant to one of the most effective herbicides, Imazapyr, which kills other plants, including the Striga weed.” The maize seeds are coated with the herbicide before being packaged and this coating makes it resistant to weeds. The Imazapyr-resistant variety has been named as “UaKayongo”, which is Swahili for “kill the Striga weed.”


A new weapon may be on the horizon to eliminate superweeds (African Agriculture)

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New way to control ‘superweed’ developed

They pop up in farm fields across 22 states, and they’ve been called the single largest threat to production agriculture that farmers have ever seen. They are “superweeds” – undesirable plants that can tolerate multiple herbicides, including the popular gylphosate, also known as RoundUp – and they cost time and money because the only real solution is for farmers to plow them out of the field before they suffocate corn, soybeans or cotton.

Now, thanks to the work of researchers at Dow AgroSciences, who have been collaborating with a University of Missouri researcher, a new weapon may be on the horizon to eliminate superweeds. Continue reading “A new weapon may be on the horizon to eliminate superweeds (African Agriculture)”

FARMER FIELD SCHOOLS, ‘good agricultural practices’ for smallholders through learning-by-doing (FAO)

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Integrated Production and Pest Management Programme in West Africa makes important progress

West African farmers have succeeded in cutting the use of toxic pesticides, increasing yields and incomes and diversifying farming systems as a result of an international project promoting sustainable farming practices.

Around 100 000 farmers in Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali and Senegal are participating in a community-driven training programme (West African Regional Integrated Production and Pest Management (IPPM) Programme) executed by FAO.

Working in small groups, called Farmer Field Schools, smallholders are developing and adopting ‘good agricultural practices’ through learning-by-doing and hands-on field experiments. Continue reading “FARMER FIELD SCHOOLS, ‘good agricultural practices’ for smallholders through learning-by-doing (FAO)”

Farming techniques must adapt to mitigate the effects of climate change and ensure global food security (GlobalHealth / Kaiser Foundation)

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Shift In Agriculture Techniques Required To Ensure Future Food Security, U.N. Special Rapporteur On Right To Food Says On World Food Day

Farming techniques must adapt to mitigate the effects of climate change and ensure global food security, Olivier De Schutter, the U.N. special rapporteur on the right to food, said in a statement to mark Saturday’s World Food Day, Agence France-Presse reports.

“As a result of climate change, the yields in certain regions of sub-Saharan Africa are expected to fall by 50 percent by 2020 in comparison to 2000 levels. And growing frequency and intensity of floods and droughts contribute to volatility in agricultural markets,” according to the statement. “Current agricultural developments are … threatening the ability for our children’s children to feed themselves,” De Schutter said. “A fundamental shift is urgently required if we want to celebrate World Food Day next year,” he added, calling for the development of longer-term, “democratically developed plan” (10/17).

“Current farming methods focus on the provision of chemical fertilizers and a greater mechanization of production. ‘Such efforts are far distant from the professed commitment to fight climate change and to support small-scale, family agriculture,’ he said,” the U.N. News Centre writes. Agro-forestry, better water harvesting techniques and other low-carbon methods would be a better strategy, he said (10/15). Continue reading “Farming techniques must adapt to mitigate the effects of climate change and ensure global food security (GlobalHealth / Kaiser Foundation)”

The truth about organic gardening (Google / Chicago Tribune / Willem)

Read at : Google Alert – gardening,1,2932019.story

The truth about organic gardening

The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth

Jeff Gillman believes in the bedrock idea of organic gardening: that maintaining healthy soil, full of organic matter and beneficial microorganisms that release nutrients to plants, is the way to make plants thrive. But he’s bothered by what organic gardening has become. Over the last 40 years or so, the concept has evolved to demonize the use of all synthetic chemicals. Meanwhile, Internet message boards crackle with recipes for supposedly “natural” home-brewed pesticides and plastic spray bottles labeled “organic” shoulder their way onto the insecticide shelf at the garden center. Continue reading “The truth about organic gardening (Google / Chicago Tribune / Willem)”

Pests Control Basics (Plant Care Tips)

Wherever you find plants – eventually you’ll find pests. Knowing what you”re going to battle can reduce the time it takes to get them under control.

Pests Control Basics

You may access Pests Control Basics anytime at…

If you have any questions at all, please let me know.

Happy Growing,
Gary Antosh
Gary Antosh <>

Gary Antosh is a commercial nurseryman and acclaimed author with
over 25 years of plant growing experience.

Learn to Grow Like the Pros

– Indoor House Plant Secrets

– How to Care for Your Ficus

– How to Care for Your Dracaena

GHA-Publishing, 138 Palm Coast Parkway, NE, Suite #153, Palm Coast, FL 32137, USA

Vegetables in flower beds (Google / Dave’s Garden)

Read at : Dave’s Garden Weekly Newsletter

Grow Veggies Without a Veggie Garden

By Lee Anne Stark (threegardeners)
March 9, 2008

Contrary to popular opinion, vegetables do not need their very own garden. If you have gardens, you have room for veggies!!

My vegetable garden has slowly been converted into a fruit garden. This didn’t happen overnight. It is surrounded by a lovely little picket fence, about 2 feet high. Mom built it one spring when she was bored, to provide a little protection from, well, rabbits anyways. We painted it redwood, to match the garage. Everytime we bought a new fruit and were looking for a place to put it, the veggie garden seemed appropriate. Since I buy most everything in the fall, reduced, the veggie bed would be the only empty place in the yard. Fruits would be parked there “temporarily”, until we could find a suitable spot for them. The temporary spot became permanent. The veggies gradually got moved aside. Now I have a lovely little garden filled with Apple Trees that we started from seed, Grapes, Raspberries and Blueberries. The question was, where am I gonna put the veggies? Continue reading “Vegetables in flower beds (Google / Dave’s Garden)”

Pest control without pesticides (Plant Care Tips)

Read at : Plant Care Tips

Pest control is part of having plants indoors or outdoors. Some nurseries use beneficial insects (IPM or integrated pest management) to control mealy bugs, mites and scale.

Homeowners also have a safe, natural, organic solution.

Learn about Pest Control without Pesticides anytime at…

If you have any questions at all, please let me know.

Happy Growing,
Gary Antosh

Neem Oil – Safe Natural Pest Control without Pesticides

One of my least favorite subjects to discuss is plant pest. It’s not from the fact that pest bother me it’s a part of growing…everyone just handles it different.

In application…”chemical” used… and timing. It’s really a matter of preference. My preference…after spraying crops for years is to use the best product for the job with the least amount of damage… to the environment and people. Basically safe chemicals or natural solutions either chemical or beneficial insects.

Indoors there are few choices. Many plantscapers and nurseries are beginning to use beneficial insects to help control mealy bugs – mites and scale. This is called IPM or integrated pest management.

Homeowners just don’t have that choice yet.

Are there any alternatives? Well I’ve found one.

While doing some research on pest and their control for our Dracaena eBook (shameful plug there). I checked out a product that has been out for a while and has slowly be gaining a following and usage.

What is it? Neem Oil

Neem oil comes from the pressed seed of the neem tree – Azadiracta indica Juss – to be exact. It’s native to eastern India and Burma and has been used for medicinal purposes and pest control in India for thousands of years. Claims are that the bark and leaves have quite a few anti’s covered.

  • antispectic
  • antiviral
  • anti-inflammatory
  • antiulcer
  • antifungal

…to name a few.

Is It Safe? Continue reading “Pest control without pesticides (Plant Care Tips)”

Kenya : intercropping for weed control and soil fertility enhancement (African Agriculture)

Read at : African Agriculture

Kenya project uses intercropping for weed control, soil fertility enhancement

So close physically, yet so far apart in output; is an accurate description of maize fields in a section of western Kenya. Despite having the same ecological characteristics and being only a metre apart, the same-sized plots yield varying amounts of maize—sometimes with a difference of more than six bags. The yield difference is influenced by soil quality and a weed called Striga has depleted the once fertile plots. The farmers have tried everything to control the weed – which affects maize, sorghum and millet, among other crops – and many of them have lost hope of ever getting rid of the deadly plant. But the few who have embraced the Tropical Soil Biology and Fertility programme (TSBF) have a reason to smile, as their harvests have doubled in the past two years. TSBF is a programme that encourages farmers to intercrop legumes with cereals in order to replenish their soil; use phosphates, manure and also apply other interventions aimed at weed control. The new breed is coated with herbicide that kills germinating Striga as it attempts to invade the maize and has the capability of controlling the weed in two years time. According to the farmers who adopted the maize variety, the future is now bright. However, they maintain that they have to use fertilisers that enrich the soil and also practice inter-cropping so as to reap the benefits. Continue reading “Kenya : intercropping for weed control and soil fertility enhancement (African Agriculture)”

Container gardening on a balcony (Google Alert / Chicago Tribune)

Read at : Google Alert / desertification

Adventures of a balcony gardener

Gardening editor and high-rise dweller Marjorie David chimes in today, with a different perspective from Beth’s ground-level view.

Somehow I thought gardening on a balcony would be different than gardening in the soil. You know, easier. No digging, spraying, weeding. But nature happens, even 16 floors up. In early November, I brought two prized containers of herbs indoors for the winter. One pot contained a handsome sage, the other a large thriving rosemary. Everything appeared to be OK for a couple of weeks. Then one day I noticed that my sage plant had gone from beautiful and bushy to furry and stunted. Leaves were drooping and I found a powdery substance on some of them. Powdery mildew had found its way to my balcony garden. I tried washing the leaves. But soon, the mildew was so pervasive that it coated the stems of the plant. I harvested what clean leaves I could find and disposed of the plant. But I wasn’t quick enough. A few days ago I found telltale signs of mildew on the rosemary, a plant I had started from a cutting last year. Now even some of the stems are coated with mildew. Continue reading “Container gardening on a balcony (Google Alert / Chicago Tribune)”

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