October 22, 2009

I have another FREE BLOG WEEK! CARTOONS!!!

So since we had an exam our teacher extended the deadline for the discussion blog which as you may know I posted last week.

So I have another week where I could find a couple more cartoons (to be honest I had already planned them out) for my "godson" and hear what his mom and dad have to say about watching MORE insect cartoons.

So first up: Happy Halloween (Samhain for those of you pagan inclined)!

For all the growers out there- this is what the caterpillars are doing in the spring in your field, garden, flower pot, yard, etc.

And finally but most importantly, another "dragonfly" for Matthew! To be honest the insects are actually damsel flies but I'll save that discussion for another day.

I hope everyone enjoys their week & has a Happy & safe Samhain!!!

We did have the sunflower insect byte due this week & wheat (links below) is due the following week so I took care of both of them so I could free up some time for research writing (YEAH RIGHT!!!).

http://ent612.wetpaint.com/page/tumbling+flower+beetle Sunflower Pest

http://ent612.wetpaint.com/page/orange+wheat+blossom+midge Wheat Pest

Ah- so before I forget I rode me bike through City Park on my way home & another lace bug rode with me home. They are so pretty- at least I think they are pretty but I'm an entomologist what can I say? Lace bugs are pests on ornamental plants but I still like them maybe I would like them less if they wanted to munch on my "balcony garden."

Eggplant Lace Bug
Photo from organicgardeninfo.com

(On far Right) Sycamore Lace Bug Photo from marietta.edu

http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7428.html Follow this link to learn more about lace bugs as a pest.

October 15, 2009

WARNING- Angela on the “soap box” regarding intellectual property & research

This week we did not have a lab but we were asked to read a couple of brief articles and then we were to have a discussion regarding the papers.

Waltz, E., 2009. Under Wraps. Nature Biotechnology. 27 (10): 880-882. Link for the article below:


American Seed Trade Association's Executive Committee (2009), Biotechnology Industry Organization's Food & Agriculture Section Governing Board (2010). Research with Commercially Available Seed Products (Internal ASTA Draft). Unpublished Policy Recommendations pending approval(s). Link for general information regarding ASTA below:


To briefly explain the “problem” which is addressed in Waltz's article: there are several crop industry companies with seed products which have genetically modified traits; in order for farmers to use these seeds they must sign a “technology stewardship agreement” which states that they can't conduct research on the seed or give it away for research & if they do they risk a lawsuit; furthermore, scientists must get permission from the seed company to perform any research on the seeds & are frequently denied the request or told that they can not publish the results which essentially makes the research findings useless for the scientist, buyer (grower/farmer), and consumers; given this vicious circle when a grower asks for information regarding trials & efficacy he/she only has the word of the seed company & no information from an independent consultant & therefore can't make an intelligent & informed decision regarding his/her choice of seed.

The ASTA draft is the result of a meeting in July which attempts to address researchers concern over not being able to perform this necessary & perhaps critical research. The draft does suggest cooperation between researchers and seed companies in order for researchers to be able to perform the research but the seed companies are not required to follow these suggestions.

I, as a consumer, researcher, & entomologist, find the current operating procedure disturbing & makes me wonder what exactly the seed companies are trying to hide from their consumers. I realize that there are multiple companies that produce these genetically modified traits & they have specific processes that they want to protect. However, I'm not interested in gene technologies & it's my understanding that is WHY YOU HAVE A PATENT to protect the technology not prevent credible research from occurring. Furthermore, in the past researchers were allowed to test hybrids and companies (the same ones with stewardship agreements) were willing to provide the hybrid and publication of results was allowed. So what has changed? Is it the cost of creating the gene traits, the increased demand for more improved crops, the market demand (its hard to sell some of the crops with these traits in foreign markets), ????? I'm not sure but what I do know is that should I get a job working as a consultant I won't be able to do that job effectively & neither can any other consultant, researcher, or extension specialist. How can I answer any questions regarding the efficacy of these seeds, potential long-term effects, the validity of the companies claims, etc. The fact is that under current practices I can't because I don't know, I can't test it, an neither can you.

As some of you know, every other Wednesday I attend a “bitch n stitch” session with some friends. At this meeting, we work on various craft project (mending, knitting, crochet, etc.) and we talk about whatever is on our mind. So this week we discussed different jobs, the proposed government medical care plan, literature, and the above problem. I found it interesting that despite the groups diverse range of backgrounds & education we had the same opinions about the topic. First of all, we don't have a problem with genetically modified crops. However, we are curious about why many countries (European Union) do not allow most of these technologies to be imported into their countries so why are we using these technologies & decreasing our ability to be competitive in the overseas market. Secondly, we would like to see how exactly these traits are or are not affecting non-target organisms (including humans) in what would be considered valid experiments. Furthermore, are there any long-term effects on the environment when using these technologies. Thirdly, insecticide resistance was mentioned and NOT by me. It appears that the public is aware of insecticide resistance although they may not understand how it occurs they are easily educated & informed about the implications of resistance. So, the fact that there is concern about the possibility of insects developing resistance to these traits especially with the fact that there is Bt resistance is not a trivial concern. Finally, the discussion regarding insecticide resistance lead to a conversation about “Silent Spring. ” We discussed how it changed the public perception of insecticides, how insecticides are used, & then the resulting legislation due to public concern. This lead me to wonder if this is the direction that GMO's are headed for- more public awareness, legislation, restrictions, costs, etc.

I, then, decided to performed my own Internet research to find information regarding these “stewardship agreements.” Waltz's article is in fact is correct, these agreements do in fact restrict how the seeds can be used. In fact, I was horrified about some of the requirements these companies enforce with these stewardship agreements (products that can be used, farm transfers, etc.). In addition, the stewardship agreements require farmers to follow insect resistance management (IRM) and refuge requirements that are required by law (EPA- Environmental Protection Agency), which, in my opinion, is a good idea. However, I wonder how many people are actually checked by the seed companies to insure that they are following these legal requirements. Furthermore, I read the stewardship guide for Agrisure ® Traits which helped me understand what traits they offer and what exactly separate and common refuges are and how they can be handled. So if this is on the mid-term exam I'm GOOD! The below links are for the stewardship agreements and the stewardship guide if your interested.

Link for Syngenta seeds, Inc. Stewardship Agreement


Link for Syngenta Stewardship Guide


Link for 2009 Monsantao Technology/Stewardship Agreement (Limited Use License)


NOTE: I chose these companies because I had heard of them, I could not find one for Pioneer so that's why I don't have one from them, and one of the above companies was mentioned by my group of friend (they do not have a good reputation with the "common" public and NO I will not tell you which one it is).

We were given an additional week to post this discussion but I chose to go ahead & post mine since it was done BEFORE I found out that we had an additional week.

October 8, 2009

Lab 5: The benefits of “overachieving”

This weeks lab assignment was to compare the results from last weeks lab. However, I did this with the last blog so I get a “FREE” blog week.

We spent the lab time briefly discussing the results and how we could compare our results to the class at large. In addition, some of us stayed to see the greenbug alarm response. Unfortunately, I did not take any photos but with my camera they would not have really shown anything.

However, I did take a look for some videos and I found this cartoon discussing biocontrol in gardens. It's cute so good for the kids but it's a bit inaccurate regarding releasing lady bugs. My suggestion for lady bugs is to release them a few houses from yours and then pray that they migrate to your house.

Here is another video which talks about biological control and how you can use it for gardens.

This week we had to turn in another insect bug byte so the link for my insect is below:

And just for fun- I found another insect cartoon!

October 6, 2009

Lab 4: The JOY of estimating soybean damage

This weeks lab assignment was to look at two different ways of estimating plant damage in soybeans. Unfortunately, this did not mean that we were allowed out into the field but the “field” was brought to us.

We used two different types of qualitative methods:
The first one was to look at soybean plants and determine the types of damage to the plants and try to determine what type of insect caused that damage.

The early planted soybeans had already gone through senescence. So they were brown and dead looking. It was difficult to determine what kinds of damage the plant had sustained. It appeared like it had some root loss but this could have been caused by being ripped out of the ground. However, “real” root loss is caused by various grubs (beetle larvae). I would say that its too late to sample these plants again especially since its so difficult to see the damage.

On the other hand, the late planted soybeans were green and yellow and it was easier to find potential insect pest damage. Some of the leaves had “window paining” damage which is usually caused by caterpillars. There was chewing damage in the middle of the leafs which is indicative of bean leaf beetle feeding. Chewing damage in the leaf margins indicates the presence of grasshoppers and caterpillars.

Some of the soybean pods had round damage which indicates more caterpillar feeding. I think that the late planted plants coudl be sampled again and could benefit from a sampling of the pests that are in the field.

The second estimation method involved estimating soybean leaf damage. Sixty leafs were obtained from the KSU Ashland Research Farm and were placed in plastic sandwich bags. Each student was asked to estimate the percent of damage on the leaf and write it down in a grid. My leaf estimates ranges from 1-96%, the mean was 26.1, and the standard error was 25.4. The standard error is quite high but in this case where we are estimating damage it is quite possible that there would be that much variation in the estimates of leaf damage. The teacher and his students used a scanner and image analysis software to determine the actual leaf damage estimate. The then compared the students estimates to the actual leaf damage estimate.

The teacher posted the above graphs with the equations and R2 values at the below link if you are interested in the r2 values and linear equations.


The class r2 values range from 0.8447 to 0.6798. The r2 values indicate the fit between the observed (our estimates) and the model (the scanner). R2 values run from 0-1, where 1 indicates a "perfect" fit. So our estimates are fairly good to medium in range.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coefficient_of_determination link for more information on r2 values

I did not "win" the prize for having the best r2 value but my r2 of 0.7801 was good enough for second place so I can't complain. Additionally, this indicates that my mean and standard error were very good and there was that much variation.

Experience rating:

So-so, I would rather have been outside and not in a lab but I did learn that my leaf estimation is decent.

On a non-lab related note. One of my friends heard the below song and suggested that I listen because "its me." I agree, and it does have one of my favorite insects in the title so if you like music and can handle metal then check it out. The video is not theirs but is done by a fan and he/she includes dragonfly slides so it is "educational" to a small degree.

Note that I FINALLY figured out how to embed videos into the blog!!!!!

This week we also turned in another bug byte so to see mine click on the below link: