Plants protect plants and triple yields in East Africa

More than 30,000 East African farmers are using plants to protect their corn (maize) crops from insect and weed attack. The crop protection strategy was developed by Kenyan and UK scientists.

Termed “Push-Pull’, it relies on strategically deploying attractive and repellent plants in alternating rows to control the growth of African witchweed and stemborer insects. These are the biggest threat to cereal crops in Sub-Saharan Africa. Stem borers often destroy 80% of a crop.

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Can we feed nine billion people by 2050?

IUPAC Plenary Six and Seven, Wednesday 9:45am

Chris Leaver, University of Oxford

The world’s population has more than doubled in the past 50 years and the relative abundance of food has kept pace, with the poorest benefiting most. Yet one billion people are malnourished and live below the poverty line.

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Vegetable oil to lubricate your car, tractor and truck

IUPAC Symposium 6B – Crop Biofactories: Plants as Sustainable Bio-Production Systems for Industrial Raw Materials, Wednesday 3:30pm

Sten Stymne, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

Vegetable oil is the agricultural product that chemically most resembles fossil oils and has therefore great potential to replace it, says Sweden’s Sten Stymne.

He’s part of an 11-million-Euro global project to engineer seed oils for bio-lubricant uses.

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Greening agricultural sprays

IUPAC Symposium 1A – Formulation: Efficacy and the Environment

Ingo Fleute-Schlachter, Cognis, Germany

Friendlier pesticides are on the way. Every pesticide contains an active ingredient. But there is more in the can. The formulation may need additives and adjuvants which boost performance: working as emuslifiers, wetters, dispersants, or sticking agents to deliver the pesticide to where it’s needed – the surfaces of leaves for example.

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What difference is GM making to Australian cotton crops?

IUPAC Symposium 3B – Changing Pesticide use and Risk Scenarios with the Introduction of GM Crops Monday 3:30pm

Gary Fitt, CSIRO Entomology

GM cotton was released in 1996, as part of the fight back against Helicoverpa – arguably the most destructive agricultural pest in the world.  Bollgard II varieties now make up 90% of the Australian cotton industry. What difference have they made?

Gary Fitt from CSIRO Entomology in Queensland will report that farmers have reduced pesticide use by up to 90% providing on-farm benefits and greatly reducing environmental disruption.

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Use your spray smarter: save money and the environment

IUPAC Symposium 4B – Formulation, Efficacy and the Environment

Monday 4:30pm

Heping Zhu, United States Department of Agriculture

“Current label-recommended levels of pesticides for spray application technology, pest pressure and crop growth structure are vague, frequently resulting in excessive use of pesticide,” says Heping Zhu from the USDA in Ohio.

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A new chick magnet – if you’re a moth

IUPAC Symposium 3A – Chemical Ecology and Crop Protection, Thursday 9:30am

Peter Gregg, Cotton CRC

A plant perfume that attracts female moths—a world-first attractant invented by the Cotton Catchment Communities CRC and its partner Ag Biotech Australia—is already reducing pesticide use by Queensland and NSW cotton growers.

Peter Gregg and his colleagues have developed a ‘moth magnet’ that attracts Helicoverpa, the cotton boll worm moth which causes billions of dollars of damage to agriculture world-wide.

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Add fertiliser to fight weeds

Feeding weeds fertiliser sounds like exactly the wrong thing, if you want to get rid of them, but Jennifer Firn of CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems has been doing just that—to control African lovegrass, an invasive species of rangelands in every Australian state.

Her method works by making the weed tastier to grazing animals. It illustrates that we need to be smarter in dealing with weeds, not just reaching for the Round Up, Jennifer says. Her work was published in the Journal of Applied Ecology earlier this year and is being presented for the first time in public through Fresh Science, a communication boot camp for early career scientists held at the Melbourne Museum last week. She was one of 16 winners from across Australia.

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Waste is a waste: Pigs reduce the burden on the oceans

A biotechnologist from the South Australian Research and Development Institute has taken using “everything but the pig’s squeal” to new lengths. Through clever recycling of pig waste, Andrew Ward has been able to produce feed for aquaculture, water for irrigation, and methane for energy. His ‘waste food chain’ can be applied to breweries, wineries and any system producing organic waste.

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