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Tomato Ebola or Tuta absoluta; an insect plaguing tomato farms around the globe

Normally, we don’t care much about insects, and it makes sense. As a good friend of mine once said when I told him that I work in entomology, “Why on earth should I care about tiny insects when I have hundreds of other big issues I encounter daily?”

But insects are important to everyone. Take for example Tuta absoluta, also known as the South American tomato leafminer. A moth no bigger than an eye lash, this pest of tomatoes is making major headlines. When it invaded Nigeria first during early 2016, it was referred to as “Tomato Ebola” because it destroyed tomatoes so quickly and thoroughly – the country lost 80% of its total crop. The crisis resulted in a 400% price hike of tomatoes and a 200-million tomato processing factory was forced to shut down. Moreover, the situation was so serious that the government declared a state of emergency. I would like to say that this was a one-off example, but that is sadly not the case.

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Feeling like a Hokie at Bugfest

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IPM Innovation Lab Director Muni Muniappan shows one of the parents  spidermites through the microscope.

As an international program funded by USAID that works in countries as far away as Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nepal, Tanzania, and Vietnam, sometimes it can be hard for us at the Integrated Pest Management Innovation lab to feel as though we’re a part of Virginia Tech, the land grant university where we are located.

That’s why it’s important for us to participate in events like the Hokie Bugfest, a celebration of all things insect that took place at the Inn at Virginia Tech on October 15. With over 7,000 child and parent participants, Bugfest was a great opportunity for the Hokie community to come together over their fascination with, love for, or possibly fear of insects. Continue reading »

Returning to Penn State and the United States

This is how I was where I first lived in the United States in 2011 – lean and young.

After taking few years off, I am back at my alma mater– Penn State. I still have vivid memories of when I first landed in this country back in August of 2011 to get my master’s from Penn State. I had a great deal of anxiety and excitement as it was my first time abroad. Until then, I had never been away from my country and grew up with people who spoke my language and looked like me. Continue reading »

Desert in Bloom: The Incredible Story of Agriculture in Israel

A man holding tomatoes

Paudel in an Israeli research farm where scientists are working with various kinds of tomato cultivars.

Before I visited Israel, all I really knew about the country was its conflict with Palestine and what I had heard about their advanced agricultural practices. I traveled to the country with a group of two dozen international participants as part of an agricultural course. Like myself, when they thought about Israel, they mostly focused on its holy city of Jerusalem and the struggle with Palestine. But during our trip, we learned that the region is more than just a battleground. Continue reading »