PMN Crop News Homepage   

Posted 30 May 2013. PMN Crop News.

Pests Without Borders

Source: Syngenta Crop Protection-US Press Release.

Greensboro, North Carolina (May 22, 2013)--In addition to trading more goods and services between continents, a growing global marketplace is also importing and exporting more pests.


A study conducted by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University estimates that the economic damages associated with the effects and control of alien invasive species total almost $120 billion per year in the U.S. and its territories.

While the world’s pest complex has been shifting for centuries, the pace of new species entering the country by land, air and sea has increased dramatically during the past decade. The impact can be felt in the field as well as in the research lab, as agricultural companies like Syngenta look beyond conventional land borders for ways to control foreign pests.

“Because we are a global company, we have active ingredients all over the world that allow us to address new pest situations in those localities,” said Eric Tedford, Ph.D., technical product lead for fungicides at Syngenta. “So if and when these pests come to the U.S., we are prepared to control them.”

Soybean rust (SBR) is one example. This disease has existed since the early part of the 20th century; however, it was largely confined to Asia until recently, when it spread to Africa and then on to South America around 2000. It is believed to have crossed into North America when its wind-borne spores likely blew in with Hurricane Ivan, a Category 5 hurricane that tore through the Caribbean, South America and the U.S. in 2004. According to recent USDA data, SBR continues to threaten portions of the U.S. and was reported in 13 states in 2012, including more than 80 counties in both Georgia and Mississippi.

Monitoring and treating the pathogen in Brazil allowed Syngenta researchers to apply their knowledge of the disease from that geography and have fungicides like Alto® and Quadris Xtra® in the pipeline when it spread to the U.S., said Tedford.

Other foreign pests now on agriculture’s radar include:

• Ug99 wheat stem rust is a new strain of wheat stem rust discovered in Uganda in 1999. Named the Ug99 fungus, it has the ability to overcome the most widely used stem rust-resistant genes and has inflicted terrible yield losses on African wheat. Ug99 wheat stem rust has spread via wind through Africa, Asia and most recently into the Middle East. Today, the race is on to breed a strain of plants resistant to the Ug99 fungus before it reaches the U.S.

• Red leaf blotch has resulted in yield losses of up to 50 percent in soybeans grown in Africa. The pathogen that causes red leaf blotch latches onto soil, tools or clothing. Movement is presently confined to central and southern Africa. Researchers believe the pathogen could survive and over-season anywhere in the U.S. should it spread.

• Mad soybean disease is slowly spreading through Brazil and prohibits soybeans from producing seed, causing crop losses of up to 60 percent. The disease is spread by physical contact from infected plants. If it continues to move northward, it could reach the U.S. and devastate soybean crops.

Wendell Calhoun