Category Archives: Facts


By: CropLife International

More than 80 percent of the world’s almonds come from California and they rely entirely on pollination from honey bees to deliver a successful crop; roughly 1.6 million colonies are required every bloom period to pollinate the crop. Unfortunately, honey bees are being threatened there and other geographies by several factors – perhaps the most dangerous of which is a parasitic mite called the Varroa destructor. CropLife International “Food Hero” Dick Rogers, manager of the Bayer Bee Health Research Program in Raleigh, N.C., USA, discusses his efforts to fight the mite and protect pollinators in almonds.

Dick Rogers, the manager of the Bee Care Center Bee Health Research Program in Raleigh,
North Carolina, opening bee hives to check for mites, Shafter, California.

Why does the California almond industry need so many honey bees?

The sheer size of the crop means there can’t be enough local honey bees to pollinate it. Farmers need to supplement with managed [commercial] pollinators like honey bees, which are easy to increase in number to meet that demand. In a scenario where there are no bees for pollinating almonds, there probably would not be any commercial crop.

How many bee colonies per acre are needed to pollinate almonds?

The general recommendation is to use two colonies of honey bees [roughly 40,000-100,000] for each acre of almonds. That’s true for most crops, one to two colonies per acre, but some crops like blueberries can go up to 10 colonies per acre.

Why are Varroa mites such a threat and what is being done to combat them?

If you have a Varroa mite infestation [usually after three or four years], you are 100 percent guaranteed to lose your colony. We are working on mite management tactics, including treatments. We’re developing new varroacide compounds to control mites because beekeepers need more tools.

What is a varroacide and how are you developing it?

A varroacide is a class or group of chemicals used to control Varroa mites. There are already products on the market; some work better than others and some don’t work as well as they once did, so we are trying to find new compounds to circumvent insect resistance. We’re looking at both natural and synthetic compounds. We have nine candidate compounds that may have enough potential to develop as new products.

How is the varroacide distributed?

Plastic strips with the varroacide are placed in the hives. The varroacide is transferred to mites by bees walking over the strips, picking up molecules of the active ingredient and then passing it around the hive. The strips do not break down in the hives and are effective for 42 days.

Is there concern about the mites becoming resistant to the varroacide?

The mite can become resistant if a compound is used too frequently. Some formerly effective products now show resistance in certain instances, so they are used less and less. If we’re going to find new products, we need to know which compounds the mites can tolerate and which they can’t.

A bee hive frame with the queen in the centre in an almond grove in Shafter, California.

Is it difficult to develop a varroacide that doesn’t affect honey bees?

To develop a treatment for mites is quite a tricky undertaking because you want it to be effective on the mites, but not against the bees. We have to come up with a dose that targets the mite only.

How would a new varroacide help almond farmers?

It would make bees more readily available. It would also help beekeepers expand their operations and increase colonies without having to deal with damage caused by the mites. If they had healthy bees because of an effective treatment, they could do a lot more, allowing for larger numbers of better quality bees with longer lives. That would indirectly help almond growers because there would be a more guaranteed supply of bees.

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This article and the images included were published and created by CropLife International. See original post here


By: CropLife International

Investing in agriculture is two to four times more effective at reducing hunger and poverty than any other sector.  However getting these innovative new traits from lab to field requires a tremendous level of investment:

To bring a new crop protection product to market, it takes roughly $286 million USD and 11 years of research and development.

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To develop a new biotech crop, it takes an estimated $136 million USD and 13 years of research.

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This images were published and created by CropLife International. See original post here


By: CropLife International

Thanks to plant science and other innovations, agriculture has progressed tremendously over the past 150 years, becoming more and more efficient over time. If the world’s farmers would have continued to grow crops at 1961 productivity levels, they would need almost a billion hectares of new farmland to maintain today’s food supply – which is more than the total land area of the United States!

Below are a few snapshots of U.S. and global agriculture over several decades, which highlight how far we’ve come in terms of increased crop production. Doing the math, in 1860, each U.S. farm fed an average of 15 people. In 2010, each farm could feed over 140 people! During that same time, the population increased 882 percent, but the total acreage dedicated to farmland did not increase as drastically. Farmers became more efficient, using improved seeds, crop protection products, machinery and more that resulted in more yields on cultivated land. All of this occurred while reducing the workforce involved in agriculture from nearly half of the population in 1860 to less than 1 percent now.

To keep up with the growing population, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) predicts that agricultural production will need to increase by 70 percent (nearly 100 percent in developing countries) by 2050. The FAO says that 80-90 percent of this increase will come from higher yields and increased cropping intensity – the number of crop growing seasons that can occur in one year – with only the small remainder coming from converting land not currently used for farming.

The chart below shows that the total “arable land,” or land used for farming, peaked in the late 1960s and has declined or maintained until now, thanks to agricultural innovations. As countries continue to produce higher yields and use the land more efficiently, this trend is expected to continue in the future.


This article and the image included was published and created by CropLife International. See original post here


By: CropLife International

Like all agricultural innovations, crop protection products have evolved tremendously since their inception. From natural chemical elements to plant- and metal-based insecticides to synthetic products, formulations have drastically changed and for the better: today’s products are more sustainable, targeted, efficient and environmentally friendly than their predecessors. In honor of Earth Day on April 22, here’s a brief history of the evolution of crop protection products.

The first recorded use of an insecticide was about 4,500 years ago by the Sumarians, who used sulfur compounds to control insects and mites attacking their food sources. Then, in the first century B.C., Romans used a few techniques – a compound made from crushed olives, burnt sulfur and salt – to control ants and weeds in their crops. In 800 A.D., the Chinese used arsenic mixed with water to control insects in their field crops and citrus orchards. Other pesticides, derived from natural sources such as pyrethrum from dried Chrysanthemum flowers and nicotine extract from tobacco plants, evolved over time.

From 1750 to about 1880, farmers began using crop protection products more widely and international trade promoted the use of plant- and metal-based insecticides. Until the early 1900s, Europe and the U.S. used compounds made with sulfur, iron, copper, arsenic and sodium to control weeds in cereal crops and fungus in grapes. In the 1930s and 40s, effective and widely used fungicides were developed along with the first synthetic insecticides.

By the 1960s and 70s, farmers began to utilize Integrated Pest Management(IPM) to control pests. IPM is based on the idea that farmers can manage insect pests, using crop protection products only when needed. This practice paved the way for the development of more targeted and environmentally friendly products, such as pyrethrum-based formulations. In addition, with improved research, the plant science industry began developing more efficient products that were effective at lower rates, such as 1 ounce of active ingredient per acre rather than 2 pounds used previously. Herbicides like glyphosate, which are still commonly used today, were developed in the 1970s and have continued to improve and become more efficient over time.

In the 1990s, crop protection product development concentrated on finding active ingredients that better target pests. Through biotechnology, plant scientists also improved the IPM concept – using naturally occurring materials such as insect hormone or venom, microbes or plant material extracts like Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) – to more accurately and selectively target pests. Finally, weed treatments, such as neonicotinoids, were developed during this time to protect emerging seedlings from pests while not impacting beneficial species like pollinators.

The plant science industry invests heavily in research to develop new products, ensuring that they do not pose unacceptable risks to humans or the environment. In fact, it now takes about $286 million USD and 11 years of research and development to bring a new crop protection product to market.

Today, crop protection products are more environmentally friendly, targeted and efficient, allowing farmers to better control target pests while allowing beneficial flora and fauna to prosper.

This article and the image included was published and created by CropLife International. See original post here


RNAi is Code for Crop Improvement

Plant scientists are saving food crops from near extinction by using a naturally occurring process called RNA Interference (RNAi) to combat pests and diseases, improve nutritional value, and reduce food waste. For example, RNAi was used to develop ringspot virus-resistant papayas, which saved Hawaii’s papaya industry. Orange trees that resist citrus greening, a devastating citrus disease, and maize resistant to corn rootworm are RNA-based products in the pipeline.


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RNAi occurs in the cells of living things in which RNA molecules inhibit gene expression, thereby preventing protein production. Proteins are the building blocks of tissues and they carry out many essential biological functions. In some cases, decreasing the production of specific proteins can be beneficial. RNAi works like a “dimmer switch” to dial down the level of a protein, which can be used to modify food crops in useful ways. For example, RNAi can reduce the production of proteins responsible for the development of a disease or essential for a pest’s survival, thus protecting plants.

RNA-based technologies can also benefit crops in other ways – from the reduction of undesirable traits, to improved quality and nutrition. Already commercialized RNA-based products include non-browning apples, nicotine-free tobacco, decaffeinated coffee, and soybeans with less saturated fat. Research using RNAi methods include crops with lower levels of natural toxins, such as gossypol in cotton seeds and linamarin in cassava plants, as well as nutrient-fortified and hypo-allergenic crops.

RNA-based technologies can improve crop performance by increasing stress tolerance, inducing early flowering or delaying ripening or deterioration. These attributes help farmers increase yields or harvest crops at optimal times.

They may also be used to develop crop protection products that only affect targeted pests. For example, an insecticide could only impact corn rootworm in maize but not other insects, animals or workers. The possibilities are endless with RNAi for improving plant genetics!

This article and the image included was published and created by CropLife International. See original post here