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Website to help safeguard the United States borders against alien scale insect pests

Scales are small insects that feed by sucking plant juices. They can attack nearly any plant and cause serious damage to many agricultural and ornamental plants. While native scales have natural enemies that generally keep their populations in check, invasive species often do not, and for this reason many commercially important scale pests in the United States are species that were accidentally introduced.

In order to facilitate the identification of alien species at U.S. ports-of-entry, scientists of the United States Department of Agriculture and California Department of Food and Agriculture joined efforts and built an online tool for the identification of 194 potentially invasive species from all over the world.

The new website is a comprehensive resource to assist federal and state identifiers to make authoritative identifications of intercepted scale insects. This resource includes, for each species, information on diagnostic characters, distribution, hosts, and important references with line drawings, photos of slide-mounted specimens and of specimens in the field. It also has identification keys, which were built in Lucid, a powerful expert system specifically designed for making identifications of organisms. Information on each species is maintained through links to ScaleNet, a rich relational database on scales that is updated regularly. Details about this tool have been published in the open access journal ZooKeys.

A number of other online tools, including Mobile apps, have been developed by various groups of scientists in cooperation with the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Identification Technology Program (ITP), to help identify invasive species. These tools are available at no cost via the ID Tools website (

‘Protecting the borders of large countries such as the United States from invasive scales often requires a very broad knowledge of the taxonomy a group, and detailed knowledge of the literature and collections from the last 250+years ‘, said Dr. Douglass Miller, the senior author of the paper and a retired scale insect systematist. ‘Currently only a few specialists in the world can identify scale insects based on morphology, and of these, many are retired or approaching retirement. We hope that our tool will facilitate scale insect pest identifications at the borders and will inspire taxonomists to build similar tools for their groups.’

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Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

“If Russia borders close, minimal options left for top fruit”

The situation in Ukraine has great influence on the European trade with Russia.

Kris Wouters from Fruit Trade Wouters explains that they don’t notice much of this in the field of top fruit. 

To him Russia is the most important consuming market. “For now we do not notice much of the situation, but it all depends on what Europe will do. If they are openly going to support Ukraine against Russia then we can expect something. But so far there are no real sanctions”.

He explains that they have sold a lot of pears to Russia in the last two weeks. “The biggest part of the battle has already been fought. It is not done yet but normally the current numbers should not become a problem if we keep sorting gradual. Unless of course something unexpected happens”. At first there was no shortage of large pears. “The larger sizes are still the same in terms of price. Thankfully the smaller sizes have gotten more expensive, until a month ago these were still sold under cost price, but this has now somewhat improved. It has increased by between 5 to 10 cents”.

According to Kris the story is the same when it comes to apples. “The Primo and Jonagored are running very well but the larger sizes Jonagold are becoming almost unsellable to Russia. It is really limited to Primo and Jonagored but only the ones of high quality”.

When it comes to pears, Russia is the most important market for Belgium. What will happen if the borders of Russia actually close? “One thing that’s a fact at the moment is the development of fruit is getting more expensive for the Russians. Even if our prices remain stable but the Rouble decreased in comparison with the Euro the import product will become more expensive. An other fact is: we don’t see much of what is going on in the Ukraine but if Europe shows too much support to Ukraine or hands out sanctions against Russia then you can expect them to do the same. Potatoes and pork are no longer allowed into the country and we are afraid that the rest will follow soon”.

He explains that they just have to wait it out and no concrete plan is formed yet. “With the EHEC-crisis three years ago we also knew it was hanging over our heads but you just have to continue with your sales and hope nothing will happen. We will see how we will resolve things if the borders indeed close. You just don’t have an influence on things. The Belgian market has some options to export to other markets. Everyone is looking left and right for new business connections. Of course some of it is going to China but these amounts could not save us if things go bad in Russia. Hopefully it will all end well”.  

Voor meer informatie:
Wouters Fruithandel
Kris Wouters
Tel: +32 11586190  
Fax: +32 11581041
[email protected]