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International news in brief – November/December 2014

| April 29, 2015
  • South Africa: Owls fight rat problem in townships

The Township Owl Project takes young birds rescued from perilous situations, such as when a building where they nested in is demolished and trains them in a new role of pest controller. More than 200 owls have been deployed like this over the past decade, according to Jonathan Haw, head of EcoSolutions, a private environmental planning company that has been steering the initiative on a pro bono basis.

Two species of owls have been used – the barn owl and the much larger spotted eagle owl. Barn owls are particularly suited to urban conditions as they have long been associated with human habitation. This also makes them ideal for the control of pests such as rats because where humans go, rats follow. The owls are released from sites where “owl houses” are erected for them to nest.

In recent months there have been horror stories in the South African media about children being attacked by the rodents which find ideal conditions in the overcrowded shantytowns that ring Johannesburg. Measuring success is not easy but one way is to examine owl pellets to see what the birds have been preying on. In addition, pest control results can be seen in other ways, such as at one school, where an owl release took place in early October, flocks of mess-making pigeons that used to foul his playgrounds were now giving the area a miss.
Original source: Reuters

  • USA: Cockroach disrupts pest control chief’s testimony

A cockroach embarrassed a Chicago official in charge of pest control when it appeared near him in full view of some aldermen. After the hearing in the City Council chambers, Fleet and Facilities Management Commissioner David Reynolds had his office call a private contractor to come down to City Hall and do some exterminating. The cockroach couldn’t have picked a worse time to show its antenna on the wall of the City Council chambers: just as Reynolds was testifying during a budget hearing. Alderman Brendan Reilly wondered aloud how much money in Reynolds’ department budget was devoted to pest control.
“I was mortified,” Reynolds told reporters after the laughter died down. Reynolds said he’s proud of the condition of the city’s facilities, before adding that there is no way a 103-year-old building with lots of places for bugs to hide is ever going to be pest free. It doesn’t help that City Hall attracts scores of visitors every day. Many workers bring lunches that they eat at their desks or in the hallways. The cockroaches are more than happy to dine on whatever people leave behind or drop on the floor.
Source: various US press and media reports

  •  USA: New pest in Hawaii

The Bagrada Bug, Bagrada hilaris, also known as the painted stink bug, was recently detected at the University of Hawaii Maui College campus. Surveys have found the infestation to be limited to the tatsoi and kai choi crops at UH Maui College. And a total of 19 adults and two nymphs had been found to date. Native to Africa, the Bagrada Bug is related to stinkbugs and was first detected in Los Angeles County in June 2008. It has since spread to Southern California, Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, Southern Utah and West Texas.

The bug damages plants using its needle-like mouthparts to suck the juices from the plant. This results in stippled or wilted areas on the leaves and in some cases causes stunting of the plant. It has a broad range of hosts, including cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, radish, turnips, watercress, kale, mustard, collard greens and various cabbages, with a preference for Asiatic varieties such as pak choy, tatsoi, and Chinese cabbage. Based on the experience in other states, impacts are most profound in home and community gardens and organic farms.

  • USA: LA discontinues SGARs in all of 439 Parks & Wilderness Areas

Los Angeles joins growing Californian trend to phase out rodent pesticide because of the danger it presents to wildlife in the region. The Department of Recreation and Parks integrated pest management policy change hopes to stem accidental poisoning and death of wildlife and pets; spurred by City Council, wildlife biologists and environmental advocates that focus on wildlife protection. This policy shift addresses concerns over the impact of rodenticides on mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes, hawks and owls that feed on rodents. “We have removed second generation rodenticides from all of our facilities as a policy decision in response to the motion brought forth and in review of our integrated pest management program,” said Laura Bauernfeind, principle ground maintenance supervisor for the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks.

In March the State of California banned second generation anticoagulant rodenticides for consumer use however, both generations of the pesticide are still available to licensed pest control companies and state agencies. Department of Recreation and Parks is compelled by LA County of Health to control ground squirrels at their facilities and will continue to use squirrel bait with an active ingredient that is first generation rodenticide but that they will continue to seek alternative non-toxic methods.

  • USA: NIFA Announces Award of Integrated Pest Management Grants

USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has announced more than $16 million in grants to support research and extension activities addressing critical integrated pest management (IPM) needs. NIFA made the awards through the Crop Protection and Pest Management program (CPPM), which supports projects that address high priority IPM challenges with coordinated state, regional, and national research and extension efforts. In fiscal year 2014, the CPPM program awarded grants to 83 projects in three program areas. The Applied Research and Development program area focuses on the development of new IPM tactics, technologies, practices, and strategies. It also funds IPM adoption and implementation projects. The Extension Implementation program area funds projects intended to increase the implementation of new IPM strategies among extension clientele served. The Regional Coordination program area increases the coordination and improves the efficiency of IPM research and extension efforts; facilitates collaboration across states, disciplines, and purposes; and promotes further development and adoption of IPM through regional pest management information networks, team building, and broad-based stakeholder participation. A list of grant awards is available online.
For more information visit:

  • UK: HGCA and the future of integrated pest management

The Home Grown Cereals Authority (HGCA) is organizing an event called Agronomist’s Conference, to be held at Peterborough Arena on 9 December. The full-day technical conference will see leading experts focus on three integrated pest management (IPM) areas: performance of plant protection products, rethinking rotations and using monitoring techniques to best effect. Susannah Bolton, HGCA Head of Research and Knowledge Transfer, said: “Under the EU Sustainable Use Directive, all users of professional pesticides are required to demonstrate they are using IPM solutions ‘to help prevent and/or suppress harmful organisms. IPM solutions come in many forms and most are already practiced to some degree by arable farmers but it is essential that we continue to develop our thinking in this area. The conference has two main aims – firstly, to help ensure practitioners base IPM decisions on scientific evidence and secondly, to present the latest advances to allow practitioners to take IPM techniques to the next level.” The conference will conclude with a look at the ‘golden years of aphid monitoring’. Richard Harrington, Head of Rothamsted Insect Survey at Rothamsted Research, will provide a comprehensive overview of the suctiontrap network, which began operating 50 years ago in 1964.
For more information visit:

  • Greenpeace: ‘Smart Breeding: the next generation’

Marker Assisted Selection (MAS), or Smart Breeding, is a way to develop plant traits required to face the different challenges of today’s agriculture: from diseaseresistance
to climate adaptation. It is biotechnology for conventional plant breeding, producing new varieties of crops which are being used by farmers worldwide.

Dr. Janet Cotter of the Greenpeace International Science Unit, said: “MAS is an innovative biotechnology that looks to the future but is already making a positive impact on farmers’ lives today, helping them to manage a number of different challenges. This is the kind of technology that can bridge the gap between the farmer’s knowledge and scientist’s approach and make the best out of both perspectives.”

The report ‘Smart Breeding: the next generation’ reviews the growing and diverse traits MAS is bringing to different
crops across continents. The case studies include:

  • dealing with biological stresses – such as viruses, fungi, bacteria, weeds and insects;
  • dealing with physical and chemical stresses – such as drought, salinity, or flooding;
  • enhancing concentration of micronutrients in crops;
  • obtaining higher quality grains.

Currently, MAS is being used for farmers in China, India and Indonesia to deal with rice bacterial leaf blight, in Nigeria and Tanzania to provide cassava the needed resistance to African mosaic virus; and North American farmers to get fungal resistance to wheat.
Source: The report ‘Smart Breeding: the next generation’ is available at

  • Australia & Africa: Working together on plant biosecurity

At a workshop in October in Nairobi, the Australia-Africa Plant Biosecurity Partnership pinpointed key areas where Australian expertise can strengthen African biosecurity. East and Southern African countries that are included at this stage are Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. “Individuals from the ten targeted countries will be initially trained through placements in Australia and other activities. They will also be tasked to manage training and outreach in their own countries and become ‘change champions’ to encourage their governments and agencies to take up the challenge of improving their country’s biosecurity systems, policies and resources,” said Dr Michael Robinson, CEO of Australia’s Plant Biosecurity Cooperative Research Centre (PBCRC).

The main areas identified by workshop participants as needing biosecurity capacity development are:

  • Diagnostic skills for identification of key pests and diseases of concern
  • Risk analysis and risk management with a focus on seed and live planting material
  • Emergency response and eradication
  • Surveillance and management of key pests and diseases affecting production and trade
  • Early warning and biosecurity planning
  • Listing and prioritisation of key pests and diseases on traded commodities, to reduce biosecurity constraints to imports and exports.

More information at:

  • Australia: Worst weed poses threat to Coast farmers

Untitled1_page3_image1Madagascan Fireweed, Senecio madagascariensis, is a Weed of National Significance (WONS) in Australia. It is regarded as one of the worst weeds in Australia because of its invasiveness, potential for spread, and economic and environmental impacts. A class 2 declared pest plant, toxic to livestock when ingested, it is a small short-lived perennial herb with bright yellow, daisy like flowers. These have 13 petals and are around the size of a 10 cent coin.
The North-eastern, Sunshine Coast Councillor Jenny McKay sits on the Rural Futures Taskforce and said rapid spread of Fireweed is a real problem to our farmers—an average Fireweed plant can produce over 10,000 seeds each year. “We are advising property owners to be vigilant and treat infestations while they are small to prevent them establishing,” Cr McKay said.
“A fact sheet, detailing identification, control and removal methods is available on Council’s website and officers are available to help with identification and advice on control.

“Small amounts of Fireweed are easily removed by hand but larger infestations may require chemical control, which can be expensive.

“Council controls Fireweed on roadsides and government land and over the next few months officers will be conducting property inspections as a part of the pest survey program.

“And it’s not just rural property owners that need to keep a look-out—we’ve also been finding Fireweed in residential areas, including some ‘hotspots’ at Little Mountain and Meridan Plains: especially in newly turfed areas. “Our turf farms on the Coast are clear from Fireweed so it’s likely being brought in from outside the region.”

  • India: Greenpeace releases its report on tea

On the occasion of World Food Day on 26th October, Greenpeace released its report “Hope Brewing-Kotagiri to Kachibari’, showcasing successfully running tea plantations using ecological approaches across India.
These are stories of success, restored biodiversity and prosperity from West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya and Tamil Nadu, where pests and chemical usage have impoverished thousands of farmers.

There are case studies in tea cultivation from West Bengal that showcase how a large estate, the Bamandanga and Tondoo Estate of Jalpaiguri district, measuring 450 ha, has parts of the estate that produce higher yield of 3000kg/ha than the average of a conventional tea garden in the region 1800-2000 kg/ha. The estate also does not spend as much on alternatives like cow dung and fish waste, like they would have on chemical pesticide equivalents.

The case studies also shows that small tea growers from Meghalaya and Assam practicing ecological tea cultivation are seeing yields at par with conventional tea gardens. While another small tea grower from the Nilgiris, Ramesh Babu has proved that maintaining a natural system of balance in the ecosystem and not using any chemicals has resulted in higher yields which is 1500 kg/ ha for his tea garden while the conventional gardens it is 800kg/ ha.

  • US: Scotts buys Indiana pest-control firm

Scotts Miracle-Gro has agreed to buy Action Pest Control Inc., based in Evansville, Indiana and will add the pest-control service to its lawn business. The acquisition will be complete in January and will add $15 million in annual revenue, Scotts said in a statement. CEO James Hagedorn bemoaned the lagging financial performance of the company’s Ortho brand last quarter and said he wanted to find ways to boost the brand’s return.

Scotts tested an Ortho pest-control service in Florida for more than a year. Hagedorn continued “The demographics and economics of the service industry are strong strategic fits for our business. We are excited to complete the acquisition of Action Pest and see it as an important step forward in executing our long-term growth strategy.”

Such a rebranding would make sense as Scotts also rebranded the lawn service, Emerald Green, which it bought in 1997. The U.S. pestcontrol industry is dominated by Rollins, which operates under the Orkin brand, and ServiceMaster, which has the Terminix brand. The industry had revenue of $11.1 billion, according to IBISWorld, an industry market-research firm.

  • Singapore: Pest infestations lead to food license suspensions

The proportion of food operators having their licences suspended because of pest infestations, fell in the first half of this year, compared with the same period last year. Twenty-five food operators had their licences temporarily suspended in the first half of this year. Of these, 56 per cent were due to pest infestations. This is compared with 64 per cent last year.

The Singapore Pest Management Association says pest infestations are difficult to eliminate as kitchens are often crowded and messy, and food that is improperly stored lures pests such as cockroaches and mice. Food operators whose stalls are infested with pests can be fined up to S$2,000 and incur six demerit points. Failure to maintain a clean area can also lead to licence suspension. The National Environment Agency recently said it would take action against a chicken rice stall at a Marina Bay Sands foodcourt, after a photograph of several cockroaches at the stall went viral on social media.

  • USA: Proceedings of Herbicide Resistance Summit

Participants from approximately 100 cities across the U.S., Australia, Canada and Germany attended the event in person or via webinar. Speakers at the summit said herbicide resistance meets the classic definition of a “wicked” problem due to its complexity and the lack of a single, optimal solution. Effective responses to control these weed populations must be complex, varied, community based and holistic, they said. Harold Coble, Ph.D., a farmer and retired agronomist with the USDA Office of Pest Management Policy, pointed out that the alarm bells sounded in recent years have so far prompted little change; there continue to be annual increases in the acreage of herbicide-resistant weeds reported. “The summit isn’t about assigning blame, but instead about understanding
the socioeconomic dimensions of the problem and moving towards systems-based solutions,” he said. “Resistance will only be managed through the combined efforts of all parties involved: growers, industry, universities, retailers, consultants, commodity groups, government, landowners, lending institutions, professional societies, non-governmental organizations and the press,” he aid. “Each of us has a role to play.”
Slides and webcast are now available from Weed Science Society of America’s September summit on herbicide resistant weeds.

Published in International Pest Control – November/December 2014 issue





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Category: International Pest News, news in brief

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