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Promoting biodiversity in grasslands of the Swiss Jura

Swiss landscapes would usually be rich in biodiversity. But due to highly concentrated agricultural practices, the number of regional insects and plants found is declining. The Federal Swiss government is taking action and has introduced a scheme to promote ecological compensation areas that will encourage naturally occurring species. As part of this, CABI is working on restoring regional biodiversity in the Swiss Jura through seed transfer methods.

Taxonomic dissimilarity in patterns of interception and establishment of alien arthropods, nematodes and pathogens affecting woody plants in Europe

Fighting the yellow-legged Asian hornet in Switzerland

The yellow-legged Asian hornet, Vespa velutina nigrithorax, was first detected in central Europe in 2004 and has since established in many countries on the continent. This hornet is a predator of honey bees and other insects, threatening honey production, pollination services and biodiversity. With Switzerland facing the imminent invasion by the hornet, CABI was commissioned by the Swiss government to help with the preparation for the threat and the control of the first arrivals. This project aims to establish a monitoring system for the early detection of the Asian hornet, determine control strategies and use climate modelling to predict where in Switzerland the insect might settle.

The UK Crop Microbiome CryoBank

lant microbiomes are the microbial communities essential to the whole ecological area of a plant’s ‘phytobiome’ – a term used to describe a plant’s specific ecological area. Having a healthy phytobiome is critical to crop health, improved crop yields and quality food. However, crop microbiomes are relatively under-researched. The UK Crop Microbiome Cryobank project will develop a unique, exploitable and integrated resource that will provide the biological and bioinformatic tools to enable the development of solutions to improve soil and crop health. Six of the UK’s key crops will be the focus and usable outputs will underpin UK research activity in line with the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) strategic priorities in agriculture and food security. The project will support three of the UN’s Sustainable-Development Goals: Zero Hunger, Responsible Consumption, and Production and Life on Land.

Evaluating the mycoherbicide potential of a leaf-spot pathogen against Japanese knotweed

Japanese knotweed is a highly invasive weed that impacts severely on native biodiversity and local infrastructure in its introduced range. Whilst chemicals are currently used to control the weed, this approach is costly and unsustainable. Biological control is an alternative method. The damaging leaf-spot fungus, Mycosphaerella polygoni-cuspidati, which attacks the plant in its native range was found not to be suitable as a classical biocontrol agent. However, the pathogen is considered to hold potential as a mycoherbicide. The aim of this project is to undertake proof-of-concept research into a potential mycoherbicide, in collaboration with the private industry.

Biological control against the invasive Comstock mealybug in the Swiss orchards

A new invasive pest of particular concern to Switzerland’s orchard industry is the Comstock mealybug, Pseudococcus comstocki. Originating from Asia, the Comstock mealybug was first detected in 2016 in fruit crops of the Swiss canton of Valais. Following its detection, the mealybug has caused significant local economic damage to apricot, pear and apple production, especially during 2018 and 2019. Chemical control is one way of helping to fight the pest but it has produced mixed, and often, insufficient results. Biological control is another method and this project, therefore, aims to develop a sustainable and environmentally friendly, biological control method for the Comstock mealybug.