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Managing Moisture to Prevent Pests in Food Facilities

(Patricia Hottel is technical director at McCloud Services in South Elgin, IL, a leader in integrated pest management solutions serving the food supply chain of custody.)

The improper handling of water and organic debris in food facilities during food preparation and cleaning can contribute to pest problems such as cockroaches and small flies. The proper management of water in food facilities is crucial in reducing pest survival and contributes to the overall image of your brand.

Below are tips that can be helpful in reducing pest success in commercial kitchens due to moisture:

Beware of high-pressure hoses. High-pressure hoses are a more energy-efficient and less labor-intensive method for cleaning floors but have a tendency to push food debris into inaccessible areas. In addition, power washing can lead to more rapid deterioration of floor coatings and tile grout, increasing the attractiveness of floors for pest development. Mopping helps reduce these issues and is preferred. If mopping cannot be done, raising equipment off the floor can help reduce the organic debris collection points underneath the equipment. Where such design changes are not possible, place these hard-to-clean areas on a regular cleaning schedule to insure that food deposits are not available for pest development. In addition, placing equipment on wheels will help provide additional access for cleaning staff.

Use epoxy grouts instead of tile grout. Tile grout can deteriorate overtime allowing for organic material to accumulate between and underneath floor tiles. Epoxy grouts are now available, which are more resistant to high-pressure hoses than other grouting materials, and will last longer.

Clean floor mats daily. Floor mats are an area where moisture and organic debris can accumulate. Mats should be picked up each night to allow for proper floor cleaning and drying.

Clean ramps installed to move carts in and out of proofers, freezers and coolers. Areas sometimes neglected during the cleaning process are ramps. This can be another point where organic debris can be pushed during power washing of floors. Ramps either need to be tightly sealed or removed on a regular basis for proper cleaning.

Keep countertop cracks clean and sealed. Serving counters are designed with numerous cracks and crevices. It is hard to design them without some cracks and crevices and they are subject to lots of water and food spills. Place these countertops on a proper maintenance schedule to insure joints and edges are properly sealed. Sometimes what looks like sealant is caked food debris. Add a little moisture and we can have fruit fly or other small fly issues. Keep countertop cracks clean and sealed.

Avoid using partition walls. Partition walls, especially along cook lines, can be an area of cockroach harborage. A more open layout without partition walls is advised whenever possible.

Use flexible gas lines for cooking equipment. Flexible gas lines for cooking equipment are recommended so that the area behind the equipment can be accessed and cleaned. Due to the warmth of this area, it is an area common for cockroach activity.

Ensure that all floor drains can be easily accessed for cleaning. Unfortunately, floor drains used for water management can be located under equipment and cabinets. Hard-to-reach drains can be difficult to inspect and clean. If cabinets are located above a drain which staff cannot easily access for cleaning cut a hole in the cabinet so it can be accessed. Equipment on wheels can also help staff access floor drains. Special drain caps are now available to help seal drains to allow water flow into the drain while excluding pests.

Food Safety News

Charting the global invasion of crop pests

Many of the world’s most important crop-producing countries will be fully saturated with pests by the middle of the century if current trends continue, according to a new study led by the University of Exeter.

More than one-in-ten pest types can already be found in around half the countries that grow their host crops. If this spread advances at its current rate, scientists fear that a significant proportion of global crop-producing countries will be overwhelmed by pests within the next 30 years.

Crop pests include fungi, bacteria, viruses, insects, nematodes, viroids and oomycetes. The research, published in the journal Global Ecology and Biogeography, describes the patterns and trends in their spread, using global databases to investigate the factors that influence the number of countries reached by pests and the number of pests in each country.

Dr Dan Bebber of Biosciences at the University of Exeter said: “If crop pests continue to spread at current rates, many of the world’s biggest crop producing nations will be inundated by the middle of the Century, posing a grave threat to global food security.”

The study identifies the pests likely to be the most invasive in coming years, including: three species of tropical root knot nematode whose larvae infect the roots of thousands of different plant species; Blumeria graminis, a fungus that causes powdery mildew on wheat and other cereals; and the Citrus tristeza virus (given its name meaning ‘sadness’ in Portuguese and Spanish by farmers in the 1930s) which had reached 105 of 145 countries growing citrus by 2000.

Fungi lead the worldwide invasion of crops and are the most widely dispersed group, despite having the narrowest range of hosts.

The study looked at the current distributions of 1,901 crop pests and pathogens and historical observations of a further 424 species. Significant use was made of historical CABI records, which document crop pests and diseases around the world from 1822 to the present day.

Dr Timothy Holmes, Head of Technical Solutions at CABI’s Plantwise knowledge bank, said: “By unlocking the potential to understand the distribution of crop pests and diseases, we’re moving one step closer to protecting our ability to feed a growing global population. The hope is to turn data into positive action.”

It supports the view of previous studies that climate change is likely to significantly affect pest pressure on agriculture, with the warming Earth having a clear influence on the distribution of crop pests.

The authors also describe the global game of cat-and-mouse as crops are introduced to pest free regions and briefly thrive, before their pursuers catch up with them.

Professor Sarah Gurr of Biosciences the University of Exeter added: “New, virulent variants of pests are constantly evolving. Their emergence is favoured by increased pest population sizes and their rapid life-cycles, which force diversified selection and heralds the appearance of new aggressive genotypes. There is hope if robust plant protection strategies and biosecurity measures are implemented, particularly in the developing world where knowledge is scant. Whether such precautions can slow or stop this process remains to be seen.”

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The above story is based on materials provided by University of Exeter. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

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 (http://idtools.org/).

‘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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The above story is based on materials provided by Pensoft Publishers. The original story is licensed under a Creative Commons License. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Plant defends itself from pests with mustard bomb

Almost all herbivorous insects are specialized to feed on specific host plants and have adapted to their chemical defenses. Flea beetles are important pests of cabbage and other cruciferous plants, such as mustard, horseradish and rapeseed. These plants use a sophisticated defense system, known as the mustard oil bomb, to get rid of their enemies : If plant tissues are wounded, glucosinolates and an enzyme known as myrosinase come into contact, and, as a result, toxic metabolites are formed which deter most insects. This defensive mechanism, however, has no negative effect on flea beetles, according to scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, Germany. Flea beetles are even able to sequester glucosinolates without the mustard oil bomb being set off by the plant’s enzyme. Moreover, the insects use their own myrosinase and can utilize the plants’ defensive chemicals for their own purposes. The beetles’ mustard oil bomb is likely to fend off predators.

Plants defend themselves against herbivores by employing a large arsenal of chemical substances, so-called secondary metabolites. In return, many insects have counter-adapted to plant defenses and can feed on their host plants without any problems. The “arms race” between plants and insects is behind the amazing variety of different species; variations emerged in the course of co-evolution of those two major groups of organisms. Some insects − leaf beetles or tobacco hornworms, for example − even utilize plant metabolites for their own defenses.

Franziska Beran, head of the research group “Sequestration and Detoxification in Insects” at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, Germany, and her colleagues study flea beetles (Phyllotreta). The small pest insects, whose name refers to their impressive jumping ability, prefer to feed on the young leaves of all cabbage species and their method of feeding causes a characteristic pitting damage. They are despised by gardeners and farmers. Before she started working on her PhD project at the Berlin Humboldt University, the young scientist completed an internship at the AVRDC-The World Vegetable Center in Taiwan, where she first learned about the devastating damage this beetle species causes on cabbage cultures in Southeast Asia. Her PhD thesis focused on how the insects aggregate and she asked if they use pheromones and plant odors as olfactory cues. She found out that male flea beetles emit a pheromone that attracts conspecifics; however, the attraction occurs only in conjunction with plant volatiles. At the core of her analyses were the degradation products of glucosinolates, plant metabolites that are responsible for the all-too-familiar smell of cabbage.

For their current project, the scientists compared glucosinolates in the host plants to the volatile degradation products that are formed when beetles feed on the plants, damaging plant tissues. The plant defense mechanism − called the mustard oil bomb because the degradation products that are formed are toxic − consists of two components: the glucosinolate and the activating enzyme myrosinase. Usually, the glucosinolate-myrosinase system is a highly efficient defense strategy cabbage plants deploy to deter herbivores. However, it does not repel the flea beetles, which readily infest the plants. Analyses showed that volatile degradation products were present when plants were infested with flea beetles, but the substances were not emitted by the plants. It appeared that the flea beetles themselves were emitting the volatile glucosinolate metabolites. Further experiments revealed that flea beetles can take up and store an amount of glucosinolates equivalent to almost 2% of their own body weight. Although cabbage plants contain a large variety of different glucosinolates, the beetles sequester only some of them. Franziska Beran made a surprising conclusion: “The beetles have evolved their own activating myrosinase which specifically hydrolyzes the glucosinolates which they have sequestered from the plants.”

The research results indicate that flea beetles not only survive the cabbage plants’ mustard oil bomb unscathed, the insects even utilize selectively sequestered glucosinolates for their own purposes. Aphids are known to deploy a similar strategy. However, unlike aphids, which suck the phloem by tapping individual plant cells, flea beetles are chewing insects that wound leaf tissues. Such wounding should activate the mustard oil bomb but does not. Why this is the case and why flea beetles are able to sequester intact glucosinolates is still a mystery. Somehow the insects manage to inactivate the plant’s myrosinase. The researchers want to find out where the beetles store the glucosinolates, how they control their own mustard oil bomb, and why they can hydrolyze glucosinolates without being poisoned by the resulting degradation products. Particularly interesting is the question: Why do the insects sequester glucosinolates and how do they control glucosinolate hydrolysis with their own enzyme? “On the one hand, either the glucosinolates or their degradation products may play an important role in the beetles’ communication with conspecifics. On the other hand, they may have a specific function in the insects’ defense against their own enemies,” Franziska Beran hypothesizes. She also wonders about the beetle larvae which live underground and feed on roots. They are exposed to many predators and pathogens and a good chemical defense is definitely advantageous.

Behavioral studies will now also be used in order to elucidate the ecological function of glucosinolate sequestration in flea beetles. Better understanding of insect adaptation to plant chemical defenses will likely contribute to better control of mass occurrences of agricultural pests that are a major problem worldwide.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

FDA Warning Letters: Pests, Thermal Processing, Misbranding

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued six warning letters between April 16-22, 2014, for food safety-related violations inspectors indicated they had observed at various establishments.

Hahn’s Old Fashioned Cake Company Inc. of Farmingdale, NY, was cited April 17, 2014, for “serious violations of FDA’s Current Good Manufacturing Practice requirements.”

In addition to alleged “[f]ailure to maintain equipment, utensils, and finished food containers in an acceptable condition through appropriate cleaning and sanitizing,” Hahn’s was also cited for evidence of birds and mice in the manufacturing facility, for “lubricants from the cake slicer … observed dripping into a finished crumb cake,” and for workers with “open cuts on their hands” handling product without wearing gloves.

Biondillo’s Bakery LLC of Chicago, IL, was sent a warning letter dated April 17, 2014, for several violations of Current Good Manufacturing Process, inadequate cleaning and sanitizing, and for misbranding. Specifically, FDA inspectors stated that an open bag of lard was stored in a dirty basement area and uncovered dough was stored in a walk-in refrigerator. The misbranding violations related to incomplete ingredients and lack of nutritional information, as well as lack of information on product origin, FDA stated.

Pancrazio S.P.A. of Cava Dei Tirreni, Italy, was cited April 18, 2014, for “serious violations” regarding the “thermal processing of low-acid foods” (specifically canned “Chick Beans in Water & Salt”) and for inadequate record-checking involving “autoclave sterilization control, fill weight, temperature data tables, production control records and container closure records” before products were shipped.

In a letter dated April 18, 2014, to Iowa Select Herbs LLC of Cedar Rapids, IA, FDA stated that inspectors had “found serious violations of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.” Specifically, FDA’s letter continued, the company’s “Flax Seed, Holy Basil, Papaya Leaf Extract, and Ginkgo Leaf Extract products are promoted for conditions that cause them to be drugs” and for which “therapeutic claims” were allegedly being made on the company’s website.

FDA cited River Hills Harvest (dba, Elderberrylife) of Hartsburg, MO, in a letter dated April 22, 2014, for misbranding of the firm’s “100% Pure Premium Elderberry Juice” and, in effect, using language which “promotes the product for conditions that cause the product to be a drug.” Further, the product’s juice percentage and nutritional information were not provided and/or were inadequate, FDA stated.

Misbranding violations were also cited in an April 22, 2014, warning letter from FDA to Charlemagne’s Tree Farm Ltd. (dba, Hudson Valley Homestead) of Craryville, NY. Agency officials stated that the company’s “Bushwhacker’s Hot & Spicy Savory Sauce” and “Bushwhacker’s Mild Sauce” contained allergens (specifically fish) and were misbranded because not all ingredients were listed on the labels, including trans-fat.

Recipients of these warning letters have 15 working days from receipt to outline specific steps they have taken to come into compliance with the law.

Food Safety News

East African honeybees safe from invasive pests … for now

Several parasites and pathogens that devastate honeybees in Europe, Asia and the United States are spreading across East Africa, but do not appear to be impacting native honeybee populations at this time, according to an international team of researchers.

The invasive pests include including Nosema microsporidia and Varroa mites.

“Our East African honeybees appear to be resilient to these invasive pests, which suggests to us that the chemicals used to control pests in Europe, Asia and the United States currently are not necessary in East Africa,” said Elliud Muli, senior lecturer in the Department of Biological Sciences, South Eastern Kenya University, and researcher at the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology, Kenya.

The team first discovered Varroa mites in Kenya in 2009. This new study also provides baseline data for future analyses of possible threats to African honeybee populations.

“Kenyan beekeepers believe that bee populations have been experiencing declines in recent years, but our results suggest that the common causes for colony losses in the United States and Europe — parasites, pathogens and pesticides — do not seem to be affecting Kenyan bees, at least not yet,” said Christina Grozinger, professor of entomology and director of the Center for Pollinator Research, Penn State. “Some of our preliminary data suggest that the loss of habitat and drought impacting flowering plants, from which the bees get all their food, may be the more important factor driving these declines.”

According to Harland Patch, research scientist in entomology, Penn State, not only are flowering plants important for honeybees, but the insects are important for plants as well.

“Honeybees are pollinators of untold numbers of plants in every ecosystem on the African continent,” Patch said. “They pollinate many food crops as well as those important for economic development, and their products, like honey and wax, are vital to the livelihood of many families. People say the greatest animal in Africa is the lion or the elephant, but honeybees are more essential, and their decline would have profound impacts across the continent.”

In 2010, the researchers conducted a nationwide survey of 24 locations across Kenya to evaluate the numbers and sizes of honeybee colonies, assess the presence or absence of Varroa and Nosema parasites and viruses, identify and measure pesticide contaminants in hives and determine the genetic composition of the colonies.

“This is the first comprehensive survey of bee health in East Africa, where we have examined diseases, genetics and the environment to better understand what factors are most important in bee health in this region,” said Grozinger. The results appeared today in PLOS ONE.

The researchers found that Varroa mites were present throughout Kenya, except in the remote north. In addition, Varroa numbers increased with elevation, suggesting that environmental factors may play a role in honeybee host-parasite interactions. Most importantly, the team found that while Varroa infestation dramatically reduces honeybee colony survival in the United States and Europe, in Kenya, its presence alone does not appear to impact colony size.

The scientists found Nosema at three sites along the coast and one interior site. At all of the sites, they found only a small number of pesticides at low concentrations. Of the seven common honeybee viruses in the United States and Europe, the team only identified three species, but, like Varroa, these species were absent from northern Kenya. The number of viruses present was positively correlated with Varroa levels, but was not related to colony size.

“The Africanized bees — the so-called ‘killer bees’ — in the Americas seem to be having no problem with Varroa or diseases, so I would not be surprised to find they have some innate genetic tolerance to these pests,” Patch said. “We suspect the seemingly greater tolerance of African bees to these pests over the western bees is a combination of genes and environment.”

Given their findings that African honeybees currently appear to be resilient to the effects of parasites and viruses, the researchers recommend that beekeepers in East Africa maintain healthy bee populations by protecting vital nesting habitat and the native flowering plant diversity that the bees depend on for food. In addition, the researchers suggest that beekeepers use pesticides sparingly.

“This research is important because it confirms the resilience of African bees despite the heavy presence of recently introduced Varroa mites, and it suggests that the approach to manage these pests should not follow the application of pesticides as has been done in the western world,” said Muli. These newly introduced pests to Africa might have long-term implications for the honeybee populations.

“As these new parasites and pathogens become more widespread, as pesticide use increases and as landscape degradation increases due to increased urbanization, farming and climate change, we expect to see the combination of all these factors negatively impact the bees in the future,” Grozinger said.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Penn State. The original article was written by Sara LaJeunesse. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Receptors discovered that help plants manage environmental change, pests, wounds

Jan. 16, 2014 — ATP (adenosine triphosphate) is the main energy source inside a cell and is considered to be the high energy molecule that drives all life processes in animals and humans. Outside the cell, membrane receptors that attract ATP drive muscle control, neurotransmission, inflammation and development. Now, researchers at the University of Missouri have found the same receptor in plants and believe it to be a vital component in the way plants respond to dangers, including pests, environmental changes and plant wounds. This discovery could lead to herbicides, fertilizers and insect repellants that naturally work with plants to make them stronger.

“Plants don’t have ears to hear, fingers to feel or eyes to see,” said Gary Stacey an investigator in the MU Bond Life Sciences Center and professor of plant sciences in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. “Plants use these chemical signals to determine if they are being preyed upon or if an environmental change is occurring that could be detrimental to the plant. We have evidence that when ATP is outside of the cell it is probably a central signal that controls the plant’s ability to respond to a whole variety of stresses.”

Stacey and fellow researchers, graduate student Jeongmin Choi and postdoctoral fellow Kiwamu Tanaka, screened 50,000 plants over two years to identify the ATP receptors. By isolating a key gene in the remaining plants, scientists found the receptor that aids in plant development and helps repair a plant during major events.

“We believe that when a plant is wounded, ATP is released into the wound and triggers the gene expressions necessary for repair,” Stacey said. “We think ATP is central to this kind of wound response and probably plays a role in development and a whole host of other plant responses to environmental changes and pests. We believe that with further study, researchers may be able to identify ways to naturally work with a plant’s own processes to protect it from major environmental events, plant wounds and insects.”

Future research will focus on how this receptor works with ATP, its protein structure, how it reacts to pests and how it may signal growth.

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The above story is based on materials provided by University of Missouri-Columbia, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.


Journal Reference:

  1. Gary Stacey, Jeongmin Choi, Kiwamu Tanaka et al. Extracellular ATP signaling in plants. Science, January 2014

Note: If no author is given, the source is cited instead.

ScienceDaily: Agriculture and Food News

Australian tarantula venom contains novel insecticide against agricultural pests

Sep. 11, 2013 — Spider venoms are usually toxic when injected into prey, but a new protein discovered in the venom of Australian tarantulas can also kill prey insects that consume the venom orally. The protein is strongly insecticidal to the cotton bollworm, an important agricultural pest, according to research published September 11 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Glenn King and Maggie Hardy from the Institute of Molecular Bioscience at the University of Queensland, Australia, and colleagues from other institutions.

The small protein, named orally active insecticidal peptide-1 (OAIP-1), was found to be highly toxic to insects that consumed it, with potency similar to that of the synthetic insecticide imidacloprid. Cotton bollworm, a pest that attacks crop plants, was more sensitive to OAIP-1 than termites and mealworms, which attack stored grains.

These and other insect pests reduce global crop yields by 10-14% annually and damage 9-20% of stored food crops, and several species are resistant to available insecticides. Isolated peptides from the venom of spiders or other venomous insectivorous animals, such as centipedes and scorpions, may have the potential to serve as bioinsecticides. Alternately, the authors suggest the genes encoding these peptides could be used to engineer insect-resistant plants or enhance the efficacy of microbes that attack insect pests. King elaborates, “The breakthrough discovery that spider toxins can have oral activity has implications not only for their use as bioinsecticides, but also for spider-venom peptides that are being considered for therapeutic use.”

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The above story is based on materials provided by Public Library of Science.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.


Journal Reference:

  1. Margaret C. Hardy, Norelle L. Daly, Mehdi Mobli, Rodrigo A. V. Morales, Glenn F. King. Isolation of an Orally Active Insecticidal Toxin from the Venom of an Australian Tarantula. PLoS ONE, 2013; 8 (9): e73136 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0073136

Note: If no author is given, the source is cited instead.

ScienceDaily: Agriculture and Food News

Substance that gives grapefruit its flavor and aroma could give insect pests the boot

Sep. 11, 2013 — The citrus flavor and aroma of grapefruit — already used in fruit juices, citrus-flavored beverages, and prestige perfumes and colognes — may be heading for a new use in battling mosquitoes, ticks, head lice and bedbugs thanks to a less expensive way of making large amounts of the once rare and pricey ingredient, scientists say.

“A new product based on nootkatone would have multiple advantages over existing mosquito repellants based on DEET,” said Richard Burlingame, Ph.D., who presented the report. “Nootkatone is a broad-spectrum ingredient that has been shown to be effective as a control agent for mosquitoes, ticks and bedbugs. Nootkatone has been used for years to give beverages a grapefruit flavor. It is safe to eat, has a pleasant citrus flavor, is not greasy, both repels and kills insects, and should not have the toxicity concerns that exist for DEET.”

Burlingame, who is with Allylix, Inc., a renewable-chemical firm in Lexington, Ky., spoke at a symposium entitled “Biopesticides: State of the Art and Future Opportunities.” It includes presentations (abstracts appear below) on progress in developing new pesticides isolated from natural sources, or patterned closely after natural products that are effective in pest control.

“The goal of the symposium is to discuss the science behind these products, many of which are effective at lower doses and are less toxic to humans than conventional pesticides,” said James N. Seiber, Ph.D., of the University of California, Davis. He co-organized the symposium with Aaron Gross and Joel Coats, Ph.D., both of Iowa State University, and Stephen Duke, Ph.D., of the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service.

Burlingame cited nootkatone as an excellent example of the potential for developing new pesticides based on natural sources. Nootkatone is a component of the oil in grapefruit, and has been on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s list of substances generally recognized as safe for use in food. It has been in commercial use for years as a flavoring for foods and beverages and as a fragrance ingredient in perfumes. Those applications require only tiny amounts of nootkatone, and price — $ 25 per ounce when extracted from grapefruit — was not a major concern. It was slightly less expensive when produced from a substance called valencene, extracted from oranges.

The need for a more economical source of nootkatone intensified after scientists at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) discovered nootkatone’s effectiveness in controlling ticks, mosquitoes and other insects. Nootkatone extracted from grapefruit, however, would be too expensive for development of a consumer product. That use would require larger amounts of nootkatone. Allylix is now working with scientists at CDC to develop nootkatone for commercial use as an insect-control agent.

Burlingame described how Allylix used proprietary technology to develop a way of producing valencene from yeast growing in industrial fermentation vats. Technicians harvest the valencene and use a chemical process to convert it into nootkatone. Allylix said the process made it possible to market nootkatone at a competitive price.

“The effects of nootkatone last much longer than those of repellents currently on the market,” he said. “And nootkatone shows promise for being the most effective agent for the ticks that cause Lyme disease.”

Nookatone also works in a new way, so it can be used against insects that develop resistance and shrug off conventional pesticides, and yet would be very unlikely to harm people or pets.

Allylix currently sells nootkatone only for use in flavor and fragrance applications. The next step involves getting approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to sell nootkatone for insect control. “They haven’t approved it yet, so no products currently on the market in the U.S. include nootkatone as an active ingredient to control pests,” noted Burlingame. “But in the future, it could be a key ingredient in repellents for use on clothing or on skin as a spray, or even as a soap or shampoo.”

ScienceDaily: Agriculture and Food News

Spread of crop pests threatens global food security as Earth warms

Sep. 1, 2013 — A new study has revealed that global warming is resulting in the spread of crop pests towards the North and South Poles at a rate of nearly 3 km a year.

The study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change and carried out by researchers at the University of Exeter and the University of Oxford, shows a strong relationship between increased global temperatures over the past 50 years and expansion in the range of crop pests.

Currently 10-16% of global crop production is lost to pests. Crop pests include fungi, bacteria, viruses, insects, nematodes, viroids and oomycetes. The diversity of crop pests continues to expand and new strains are continually evolving. Losses of major crops to fungi, and fungi-like microorganisms, amount to enough to feed nearly nine percent of today’s global population. The study suggests that these figures will increase further if global temperatures continue to rise as predicted.

The spread of pests is caused by both human activities and natural processes but is thought to be primarily the result of international freight transportation. The study suggests that the warming climate is allowing pests to become established in previously unsuitable regions. For example, warming generally stimulates insect herbivory at higher latitudes as seen in outbreaks of the Mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae) that has destroyed large areas of pine forest in the US Pacific Northwest. In addition, the rice blast fungus which is present in over 80 countries, and has a dramatic effect both on the agricultural economy and ecosystem health, has now moved to wheat. Considered a new disease, wheat blast is sharply reducing wheat yields in Brazil.

Dr Dan Bebber from the University of Exeter said: “If crop pests continue to march polewards as Earth warms the combined effects of a growing world population and the increased loss of crops to pests will pose a serious threat to global food security.”

Professor Sarah Gurr from the University of Exeter (previously at the University of Oxford) said: “Renewed efforts are required to monitor the spread of crop pests and to control their movement from region to region if we are to halt the relentless destruction of crops across the world in the face of climate change.”

The study used published observations of the distribution of 612 crop pests collected over the past 50 years. It revealed that the movement of pests north and south towards the poles, and into new previously un-colonised regions, corresponds to increased temperatures during that period.

ScienceDaily: Agriculture and Food News