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Sunday, July 21, 2013
Beauveria bassiana. Liriomyza. Trichoderma. Anagyrus lopezi.
My sleep-deprived brain hears these words as intriguing nonsense syllables.
I’m in Manado, North Sulawesi, in Indonesia, attending a planning meeting of the Southeast Asia regional program of the Integrated Pest Management Innovation Lab. It has taken two days to get here, and my body clock is 180 degrees in opposition to the local time. It may be 3 p.m. in Manado, but back in Blacksburg, it’s 3 a.m. Hence my groggy state.
I am an English major, not a science‑y type, so my mind naturally goes to the musicality of the words I’m hearing. I play a game that my family often plays when we get together: Dictionary. One player picks a word in the dictionary that no one knows, and everyone writes a made-up definition for it. The word-selecting player writes down the real meaning of the word, and mixes up that definition with the others, then reads them all aloud, including the real one. Players then vote on which definition they believe is legit. My brother Mark always goes for laughs over plausibility, even if it means he won’t get any points. “The mental state that male kangaroos go through during mating season.”
Beauveria bassiana — I imagine a baby’s bassinet decorated with flowery fabric. “That’s the most beautiful Beauveria bassiana I’ve ever seen!” Liriomyza — these would be the lyrics that lead up to the grand finale of an operatic production. “I thought she performed that Liriomyza exceptionally well.” Trichoderma — this would be an unfortunate skin scrape that occurs when a child falls off her tricycle. “Honey, you didn’t go get Trichoderma again?!” And anagyrus lopezi? This is an insect with a painful bite that eludes capture by moving along with an erratic loping gait. “That dang anagyrus lopezi got away from me again!”
But no. None of those definitions are correct. The scientists who have gathered in Manado are reviewing methods they use to deal with the very real problems that threaten the livelihood of farmers in the developing world.
Beauveria bassiana is a beneficial fungus. It acts as a parasite on destructive pests such as termites, thrips, whiteflies, aphids, bedbugs and malaria-transmitting mosquitoes.
Liriomyza are leaf-mining flies. They lay eggs on the surfaces of leaves, and when the larvae hatch, they “mine” the leaves by eating the leaf tissue, interfering with the plant’s ability to perform photosynthesis.
Trichoderma is another beneficial fungus and one of the star performers in our scientists’ toolbox. It can be found in almost all soils and is easily cultivatable. It’s used to protect seeds against soil-borne diseases such as bacterial wilt, which has destroyed crops and wiped out farmers’ livelihoods.
And anagyrus lopezi is a species of parasitic wasp that is used as a biological control agent against the cassava mealybug.
Ah. We’ve come to the last presentation of the day. “The effect of pod sleeving on Trichoderma application on pod rot disease incidence.” The presenter is from the Indonesian Cocoa and Coffee Research Institute. We’re talking chocolate and coffee, folks. She’s got my full attention. Pod sleeving? No, it’s not a dance move that was wildly popular in the 1950s. It’s the practice of covering cocoa pods with biodegradable sleeves that protect the valuable pods from insects. Now that’s a definition I can get behind.
Weather JournalStorm track isn't very snowy for us