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Trichoderma, the fighting fungus

women making Trichoderma

These women in Bangladesh are making the beneficial fungus Trichoderma for sale. The added income they obtain from their efforts can help raise their standard of living. Maria Elisa Christie, director of the Women and Gender in International Development program, stands behind the women.

In the world of life that happens below our ability to see it, there lives a tiny hero. Trichoderma, a fungus, helps humans in many ways. It is used to give denim a stone-washed look. It is used to increase the digestibility of barley that is mixed into chicken feed. But it is also, scientists have found, especially good at eating “bad” fungi. And in developing countries, fungal diseases that attack and destroy crops are a major problem. This makes Trichoderma, if not a panacea, a welcome tool in the agriculturalist’s toolbox. Continue reading »

Combating a cacao pest in Ecuador

Rachel Melnick in cacao tree

Grad student Rachel Melnick sprays bacteria onto cacao leaves to combat the pest known as “witches’ broom.”

In this blog post, I write about a grad student from Penn State, and the work she did for our USAID-funded Integrated Pest Management Innovation Lab program. The IPM Innovation Lab is privileged to support work done by scientists from across the United States and from institutions around the world.

Rachel Melnick learned one thing about spending long days in Ecuadoran cacao orchards: Do not work past 4:00 pm. “Once, we made the mistake of working past 4:00 pm in the field. We quickly realized why no one did this—that is when all of the mosquitoes come out!” Continue reading »

Supporting dreams

Sylvia Kuria

Sylvia Kuria is a research scientist at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute.

Invasive pests. Biocontrol agents. Smallholder farmers. All of these are things we think of when we consider integrated pest management in the developing world. But what about life-changing financial support that can help a person realize their career dreams? Not so much.

And yet, the IPM Innovation Lab provides just this kind of support for many young scientists around the world.

Take Sylvia Kuria and Michael Osei. Continue reading »

Addition to my travel bucket list: “Land of Thunder Dragon”

Hiking at Tiger's Nest Monastery.

Here I am hiking and taking in the views at Tiger’s Nest Monastery.

Today’s post comes to us from a guest blogger who has written for us before: Sulav Paudel. Paudel is the Integrated Pest Management Innovation Lab program coordinator at iDE-Nepal, an NGO in Nepal and a partner organization with our Integrated Pest Management Innovation Lab. Paudel has a Master’s degree in entomology and international agriculture from Penn State. He has worked and studied in Brazil, Bangladesh, and Russia. He currently lives and works in Kathmandu.

Long ago, I caught the travel bug and have since spent years compiling a bucket list of dream destinations. Surprisingly, Bhutan never made the list. Perhaps my perception had been colored by stories of refugees. Maybe I had never learned enough about the area to cultivate an interest.

But when my career presented the opportunity to make the trip, I took some time to learn about Bhutanese culture. That’s when my interest was ignited. Eventually, I was so curious that I couldn’t wait to venture into the “Land of Thunder Dragon,” a name honoring local mythology, patriotism and leadership. I was more excited for this trip than I had been for any trip in recent memory. Bhutan did not disappoint. Although the recall of my memories may not do the trip justice, I will try to break down for you the most noteworthy aspects of this rich culture.

Continue reading »