Lepidopteran Tecia solanivora, an insect pest, is currently devastating potato crops in Latin and Central America. Equador is particularly badly hit. Known as the “Guatemala moth”, it spreads quickly. Indeed in 2000 the moth was found to have reached the Canary Islands. Since then it has been on the red list of the European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organization (EPPO). The pest, if uncontrolled, is considered to be a major threat to potato crops throughout southern Europe. A research team from the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD) and the Catholic Pontifical University of Equador (PUCE, Quito) has been working on the problem since 1999. Its major objective is to define biological control strategies and procedures against populations of this pest. At the same time it intends to contribute to improving knowledge about the mechanisms involved in invasions by pest organisms.
The recent history of this moth begins in Guatemala, from where in 1970 it crossed over into Costa Rica. It then swept into several Latin American countries. It was reported in northern Equador in 1996 and since then it has spread to every potato producing region of that country. Colombia and Venezuela also suffer from such infestations. Equador had a severe attack in 2001, when 500 000 sack of potatoes had to be discarded and tens of thousands of hectares of the crop were rendered unfit to harvest. Even this year, 2002, the plague persists. Surveys conducted recently in all production areas indicate a situation even worse than last year.
Potatoes are the staple diet of most Andean populations. In Equador their production concerns about 1 million people. The use of pesticides, however, is costly. Moreover, insecticide sprays, if used without special precautions, carry tangible risks to public health and to the environment. And most of the farmers have neither the technology nor the facilities and equipment necessary for obtaining good results.
Helene Deval | alphagalileo
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Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
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